The dam was built by the Mysore Maharajas pre-independence across the river Vedavathi. The dam is an exquisite piece of architecture, an engineering marvel for that time, and provides water to lots of surrounding cities, towns and villages, which are largely dry lands of the Deccan area of Central Karnataka.
This dam is the source of domestic water for Hiriyur and Chitradurga. It irrigates more than 100 km² of land in Hiriyur and Challakere taluks through right and left bank canals. This place is 160 km from Bangalore on the NH-4 highway and 40 km from Chitradurga. The dam was initiated by the regent queen who was a widow of Maharaja Chamaraaja Wodeyar. She is known for her social works which were exemplary. For the construction of this dam royals of Mysore had to pledge royal jewellery due to shortage of money, that is why it was named as "Vani Vilasa Sagara". Vani Vilasa was the name of youngest daughter of the then Maharaja of Mysore. Mari kanive is the oldest and biggest man made reservoir in Asia. This dam is higher than KRS dam of Mysore.
The dam has been a tourist attraction for many years, but has been apparently neglected as a prime tourist destination. Recently, though, the development work undertaken by the forest department to restore the nearby forest cover, and the 'panchavati' gardens - a garden of medicinal plants with the old Indian cultural theme has improved the tourist figures, making it a popular weekend picnic spot. The 'panchavati' garden has medicinal plants lined up representing cultural themes - the 'Rashis', 'Sapta swaras', 'Nava grahas' and many more. The tourists who visit Chitradurga and Hosdurga often visit Mari kanive on the way. The historic maarikaamba temple here also attracts many tourists. The place is around 20 km drive from Hiriyur on a deviation from NH4 (Bangalore - Mumbai National Highway).
Vanivilas dam is about 200km from Banglore. So it is highly advisable to tag Chitradurga fort with this beautiful place. No clear sign boards are available on the highway, so once you reach Hiryur, slow down for the next 5km and ask the locals for the correct deviation. Once the deviation is taken clear sign boards are available and the place is about 20km from the deviation from the highway.