Karnataka, known as the priceless gift of indulgent nature”, is a unique blend of a glorious past and a rich present. Karnataka is the sixth largest state in India, it is the only state in India where gold is found. It is the land of silk and sandal, of coffee and cardamom, of the 17m statue of Jain Saint Gomateshwara and of the enchaining sculptural wealth of Belur and Halebid of the historical ruins of Hampi and monuments of Bijapur. To the composite culture of India, the contribution of Karnataka,. is in no way inferior to that of any other region of India. In fact, in many fields, Karnataka’s contribution far exceeds that of the other regions individually. This is specially so in the fields of are, music, religion, and philosophy.
Karnataka possesses a rich cultural heritage. The folk theatre has an ancient and rich tradition, the two principal forms being Yakshagana and the puppet theatre. ‘Yakshagana’ is akin to Kathakali of Kerala in the choice of its elaborate costumes and vigorous dancing. ‘Bhootada Kunita’ (Dance of the Divine Cult), Nagarnandala’ and the demon dance are some quaint rituals prevalent only in Dakshina Kannada coastal area.
Hampi was the capital city of the powerful South Indian Vijayanagar Empire. Founded by Harihara and Bukka in 1336, it fell to the Muslim rulers of North India in 1565 after the disastrous battle of Talikota and subsequently lapsed into decline and abandonment. The ruins of the historical monuments have stood the ravages of man and time and still evoke memories of the grandeur of a bygone era. The main attraction of Karnataka are:
Hampi – Set amidst an awesome boulder-strewn landscape along the banks of the Tungabhadra river, 12 km away from the sleepy town of Hospet in Bellary district, Hampi was the magnificent capital of the mighty Vijayanagar kingdom. “The city is such that the pupil of the eye has never seen a place like it, and the ear of intelligence has never been informed that there existed anything to equal it in the world,” marvelled a 15th century. A visit to Hampi is a sojourn into the past. The best way to experience this World Heritage Site is to take a leisurely stroll through the eloquent ruins. Most of the important structures and ruins are located in two areas, which are generally referred to as the Royal Centre and the Sacred Centre. The Royal Centre in the southwest part of the site contains structures that seem to have been palaces, baths, pavilions, royal stables, and temples for ceremonial use. The Sacred Centre is situated on the northern edge of the city along the banks of the holy Tungabhadra River. The ruins of Hampi are extensive and fascinating enough to absorb your attention for several days. There is always something new to discover in Hampi, If you are in a hurry, a day or two will suffice to see all the important structures. Photography and archaeology buffs should plan on staying a little longer.
Badami : Picturesquely situated at the mouth of a ravine between two rocky hills, the exquisite sculptures and the rust red sandstone cliffs of Badami tell many a tale of yore. Climb a flight of steps to reach the four ancient rock-cut caves replete with carved pillars and bracket figures, all hewn out of red sandstone on the precipice of a hill. The largest of them is the third cave, dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The first sculptural embellishment to dazzle the eye is the 18-armed Nataraja, striking 81 dance poses, in the first cave. Overlooking the caves is the Agastya Theertha Tank, its banks dotted with a cluster of Bhoothanatha temples.
Pattadakal : With its beautifully chiselled temples, this World Heritage Site on the banks of the Malaprabha river bears testimony to the richness of Chalukyan architecture. Pattadakal reached its pinnacle of glory under the Chalukya kings and was once used as a ceremonial centre where kings were crowned and commemorated. It has a cluster of 10 major temples, each displaying interesting architectural features. At the entrance-of the site, you can see the 8th century temples of Jambulinga, Kadasiddeshvara, and Galaganatha with their curvilinear shikaras or spires. The biggest temple, dedicated to Virupaksha, has a huge gateway, several inscriptions, and a profusion of friezes from the epics. Facing the temple is a pavilion containing a massive Nandi. The Mallikarjuna Temple is similar in design to Virupaksha Temple, but smaller in size. The ornate Papanatha Temple is yet another impressive piece of architecture, with delicately chiselled ceilings and a 16-pillared main hall, The Sangameshwara Temple dating from the reign of King Vijayaditya (696-733 AD) is the earliest temple in this complex.
Mysore Palace – All roads in Mysore lead to the Mysore Palace. Built in Indo-Saracenic style with domes, turrets, arches, and colonnades, the palace is a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world. Intricately carved doors open into luxuriously furnished rooms. The majestic Durbar Hall has an ornate ceiling and many sculpted pillars. The Marriage Pavilion is adorned with glazed tile flooring, stained glass windows and domed ceilings. The walled palace complex houses the Residential Museum, temples and shrines, including the Shwetha Varahaswamy Temple. See the magnificently jewel-studded golden throne, the pride of the Wodeyars and the symbol of their sovereignty, displayed here during the Dasara festival in October. The palace, illuminated on Sundays and public holidays, presents a spectacle of breathtaking beauty.
Bijapur – The one-time capital of the Adil Shahi kings (1489-1686), Bijapur is dotted with mosques, mausoleums, palaces, fortifications, watchtowers and strong gateways, with the massive Gol Gumbaz dominating the landscape for miles around.
Chitradurga Fort – Chitradurga, on the highway linking Bangalore with Hospet, is famed for its massive Kallina Kote (Palace of Stone) fort, a marvel of military architecture made impregnable by the Kayak Palegars. It has 19 ways, 38 posterior entrances, dace, a mosque, granaries, oil, pits, four secret entrances, and water tanks. Amidst rocky surroundings inside the fort complex on the hill are many .pies. Ekanatha Temple and ndravalli Caves are worth ting. The Hidimbeshwara temple is the oldest temple on the site. Other places of tourist rest in Chitradurga district are hmagiri, Vanivalas Sagar, akanakatte, Jogimatti, and jattinga, Rameswara.
Bider : Bidar is the northern most district of Karnataka. Medieval Bidar was widely renowned for its splendor, as a seat of learning, cultural marvels and as a capital Bidar is situated almost in the centre of geographical ‘Deccan’ l on the eastern border of the historical ‘Deccan’. It was a meeting place of several shades of culture from the very beginning.
The history of Bidar had a lot of ups and downs and stories of treachery and bloodbath, but was also marked by good administration and ‘elopement of art, architecture and nature. The historical monuments and s, in and around Bidar city, belong to different periods of history- pre-Kakatiya, Tughluq, Bahamani, Band Shahi, Adil thi, Mughal and Nizami. As far the architecture is concerned, there is an intermixture of Hindu, Turkish and Persian artisanship. Some of the designs decorative patterns seen in the monuments of Bidar are unique in India.
Gulbarga – Gulbarga, the largest district in Karnataka, is a land where the past melds with the present. This historically rich region of the Deccan has been part of a number of kingdoms, prominent among which are the Rashtrakutas and the Bahamanis. A treasure home of architectural delights, Gulbarga is justly famous for the grandeur of the many Indo-Saracenic monuments that dot the landscape. Making it a destination that takes one back through the pages of history.
Somnathpur – Situated in the unobtrusive village of Somnathpur, 35km from Mysore, the exquisitely carved, star-shaped Kesava temple with triple towers is a perfect example of Hoysala architecture. The friezes on its outer walls with their intricately carved rows of caparisoned elephants, charging horsemen, and mythological birds and beasts will leave you spellbound. Beautifully sculpted images of gods, goddesses, and scenes from the epics, as well as the remarkably ornate ceilings in the pillared hall will take your breath away.
Halebeedu – Just 17km away from Belur is Halebeedu, the ancient capital of the Hoysalas. The temple, perched on a star-shaped base amidst lawns is a sculptural extravaganza. Its walls are richly carved with an endless variety of Hindu deities, sages, stylised animals, birds, and friezes depicting the life of the Hoysala kings. The temple complex has a museum which houses the idols, statues, busts, and sculptures excavated by the Archaeological Department from the ruins.
Tipu’s Fort & Palace – A visit to Tipu’s Fort is an enriching experience. Built in 1791, this summer retreat of Tipu Sultan in Bangalore is a two-storied ornate wooden structure with fluted pillars, cusped arches and balconies. It now houses a museum, which contains artefacts relating to the Hyder-Tipu regime.