The Sahyadri Hill range and the astonishing waves of the Arabian Sea are always representing the life style of the coastal belt of Karnataka state. In the safe hands of the Sahyadri hills Honnavar is shining in the fields of education, literature, philosophy and socio-cultural activities with its traditional history.
Honnavar is one of the coastal talukas of Uttar Kannada District. It has a total area of 754.8 sq. Kms. Honnavar was a port and fortified town with a lot of Historical antiquities. The name Honnavar might have originated from the word ‘Honnavari’ or ‘Honnavare’ which was a very popular plant in the region. Several inscriptions have mentioned Honnavar as ‘Honnavaru’ or ‘Honninavara’ which means the land of prosperity or the land of gold.
Between the 11th and 14th century AD Honnavar was under the rule of the Kadambas of Chandavar. Honnavar became a trading centre during the time of Vijayanagar Empire. Horses from Portugal were imported through this port. The well-known Vijayanagar King Krishnadevaraya gave permission to the Portugese to construct forts at Honnavar and Bhatkal.
During the 15th and 16th centuries the Saluvas of Gersoppa were the prominent rulers of Honnavar. By the end of the 16thcentury Gersoppa Queen Chennabairadevi had become very popular as the ‘queen of pepper’ (Kalumenasinarani). She had a very good contact with the west. Thus, Honnavar became a flourishing centre of overseas trade.
By the middle of the 17th century the army of Hyder Ali took possession of the coastal town Honnavar and Basavarajdurga. By the end of the 18th century, the entire North Kanara district came under the control of Tippu, the son of Hyder Ali. Honnavar was the district Headquarters between 1800 and 1817. In 1862 the entire Kanara district was divided into South Kanara and North Kanara districts, and the North Kanara district was transferred to Bombay Presidency. Until then it was under Madras Presidency. After independence, in 1947 Honnavar became the Taluka headquarters.
The ‘Sharavathi’ is one of the main attractions of Honnavar. The river joins the Arabian Sea in Honnavar. While joining the sea, the river has created some islands. Among them Mavinkurva is the largest and the most beautiful. The two bridges-the old and the new railway bridge – constructed across the Sharavati are beautiful to watch.
The Colonel Hill is another place of interest in Honnavar. It is a 30 meter tall column situated on the top of a hillock by the side of N.H-17. This column was installed in memory of Colonel Hill on 20th January 1845. It was set up by the 14th Madras Native Infantry at the instance of the East India Company in honour of Colonel Hill who died at Gersoppa while commanding the Mysore Division.
Ramathirtha is another beautiful location in Honnavar. It is situated on the Honnavar-Chandavar road at a distance of about 3 kms. This pushkarini or water tank which is 50 steps below the ground level is very spacious. The water from a height falls into the tank from two different points called Ramathirtha and Laxmanthirtha. According to local traditions, Sri Rama, Sita and Laxman had a holy dip in the tank during their vanavasa.
Kasarkod beach is a tourist attraction of Honnavar. It is about 2 kms from Honnavar. This beautiful sandy beach is about 5 kms in length. The waves, golden sand top and the enchanting scenic beauty attract thousands of tourists everyday.
Basavaraja Durga, a fortified spot is an island in the Arbian sea. It is 3 kms away from the Sharavathi Sea Mouth. We can reach it by boat or launch. This island has a total area of 19 hectares. The fort was constructed during the Vijayanagara rule. In 1690, Keladi ruler Shivappa Nayaka captured it and named it Basavarajadurga in memory of Keladi Prince Basavaraja.
Apsarakonda, a small attractive waterfall is about 5 kms from Honnavar. Apsarakonda means the pond of an Apsara or a nymph. Here the water falling from a height of 10 meters has formed a small waterfall. A high hill, a fine view of the sea and the sunset from the hill and a huge natural cave are the attractions of the place.
Gundabala, a village 15 kms away from Honnavar, was a medieval trading centre. It was the centre for storing pepper for export during the time of Gersoppa rulers. There are deep well-like pits in the village in which pepper was stored. Today Gundabala has emerged as a cultural centre. There is a Hanuman temple in the village. Here is the practice of the devotees praying for the boon of Lord Hanuman and on the fulfillment of the boon they would offer the performance of a Yakshagana Play. More than 100 such yakshagana performances take place every year. Each is a whole night performance.
Idagunji, a holy place, is about 16 kms. from Honnavar. There is an ancient Ganapati temple here. According to tradition, this Dwibhuja Ganapati was installed by Narada in Tretayuga. Thousands of devotees visit this temple everyday.
Former capital city Gersoppa is 24 kms from Honnavar. It is a place of rich antiquity. The Jaina Chaturmukha Basti, constructed in Vijayanagar style by Saluva rulers, is the most famous monument here. It has four entrances from four directions. Four separate Tirthankara images are facing the four entrances. Journey to Gersoppa through the Sharavathi in boats and launches is an enchanting journey.
The National Highway No. 17 provides a convenient road-link and Konkan Railway provides interstate connectivity. Honnavar is well known for tile-manufacturing units and cashew factories. Agriculture and fishing are the main occupations of the people of Honnavar. The Sharavathi River divides the taluk into two halves providing irrigation and navigation facilities. The Honnavar taluk is shared by two legislative constituencies. A part of it belongs to the Kumta legislative constituency and another to the Bhatkal legislative constituency.