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The recorded history of Karnataka goes back more than two millennia. Several great empires and dynasties have ruled over Karnataka and have contributed greatly to the history, culture and development of Karnataka.

The impact of kingdoms of Karnataka origin have been felt over other parts of India also. The Chindaka Nagas of central India, Gangas of Kalinga (Odisha), Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta, Chalukyas of Vengi,  Yadava Dynasty of Devagiri were all of Kannada origin who later took to encouraging local languages.

The political history of medieval Karnataka spans the 4th to the 16th centuries, when the empires that evolved in the Karnataka region of India made a lasting impact on the subcontinent. Before this, alien empires held sway over the region, and the nucleus of power was outside modern Karnataka. The medieval era can be broadly divided into several periods: The earliest native kingdoms and imperialism; the successful domination of the Gangetic plains in northern India and rivalry with the empires of Tamilakam over the Vengi region; and the domination of the southern Deccan and consolidation against Muslim invasion. The origins of the rise of the Karnataka region as an independent power date back to the fourth-century birth of the Kadamba Dynasty of Banavasi, the earliest of the native rulers to conduct administration in the native language of Kannada in addition to the official Sanskrit. This is the historical starting point in studying the development of the region as an enduring geopolitical entity and of Kannada as an important regional language.

In the southern regions of Karnataka, the Western Gangas of Talakad were contemporaries of the Kadambas. The Kadambas and Gangas were followed by the imperial dynasties of the Badami Chalukya Empire, the Rashtrakuta Empire, the Western Chalukya Empire, the Hoysala Empire and the Vijayanagara Empire, all patronising the ancient Indic religions while showing tolerance to the new cultures arriving from the west of the subcontinent. The Muslim invasion of the Deccan resulted in the breaking away of the feudatory Sultanates in the 14th century. The rule of the Bahamani Sultanate of Bidar and the Bijapur Sultanate from the northern Deccan region caused a mingling of the ancient Hindu traditions with the nascent Islamic culture in the region. The hereditary ruling families and clans ably served the large empires and upheld the local culture and traditions. The fall of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1565 brought about a slow disintegration of Kannada-speaking regions into minor kingdoms that struggled to maintain autonomy in an age dominated by foreigners until unification and independence in 1947.

Kadambas and Gangas

Kadamba Empire, 500 CE.

Prior to and during the early centuries of the first millennium, large areas of the Karnataka region was ruled by such imperial powers as the Mauryas of Maghada and later the Satavahanas, empires whose centres of power were in the Gangetic plains and Central India respectively. With the weakening of the Satavahanas, the Pallavas of Kanchi took control for a brief duration. In the 4th century, the rise to power of the Kadamba Dynasty of Banavasi identified the Karnataka region as an independent political entity and Kannada as an administrative language from the middle of 5th century. The Kadambas were natives of the Talagunda region (in modern Shivamogga district) as proven by inscriptions. Mayurasharma, a Brahmin native of Talagunda who was humiliated by a Pallava guard, rose in rage against the Pallava control of the Banavasi region and declared his independence in 345. After many wars, the Pallava king had to accept the sovereignty of the Kadambas and Mayurasharma, the founding king, crowned himself at Banavasi (in the present day Uttara Kannada district).

Western Ganga Territories, 800 CE.

The fact that the Kadambas cultivated marital ties with the imperial Vakatakas and Gupta dynasties attests to their power. Kakusthavarma, the most powerful ruler of the dynasty whom inscriptions describe as "ornament of the Kadamba family" and "Sun among the kings of wide spread flame", gave one daughter in marriage to Vakataka Narendrasena and another to Skandagupta, grandson of Chandragupta II of the Gupta dynasty. Historians trace their rise to political power through the examination of the contemporaneous Sanskrit writing, Aichitya Vichara Charcha by Kshemendra, which quotes portions of a writing Kunthalesvara Dautya by the famous poet Kalidasa. Here Kalidasa describes his visit to the Kadamba kingdom as an ambassador where he was not offered a seat in the court of the Kadamba king and had to sit on the ground. Historians view this act as one of assertion by the Kadambas who considered themselves equal to the imperial Gupta dynasty.

Roof relief sculpture, Jain Panchakuta basadi at Kambadahalli.

Family feuds and conflicts ended the Kadamba rule in the middle of 6th century when the last Kadamba ruler Krishna Varma II was subdued by Pulakeshin I of the Chalukya feudatory, ending their sovereign rule. The Kadambas would continue to rule parts of Karnataka and Goa for many centuries to come but never again as an independent kingdom. Some historians view the Kadambas as the originators of the Karnataka architectural tradition although there were elements in common with the structures built by the contemporaneous Pallavas of Kanchi. The oldest surviving Kadamba structure is one dating to late 5th century in Halsi in modern Belgaum district. The most prominent feature of their architectural style, one that remained popular centuries later and was used by the Hoysalas and the Vijayanagar kings, is the Kadamba Shikara (Kadamba tower) with a Kalasa (pot) on top.

The Western Ganga Dynasty, contemporaries of the Kadambas, came to power from Kolar but in the late 4th century - early 5th century moved their capital to Talakad in modern Mysore district. They ruled the region historically known as Gangavadi comprising most of the modern southern districts of Karnataka. Acting as a buffer state between the Kannada kingdoms of Karnataka region and the Tamil kingdoms of Tamilakam, the Western Ganga architectural innovations show mixed influences. Their sovereign rule ended around the same time as the Kadambas when they came under the Badami Chalukya control. The Western Gangas continued to rule as a feudatory till the beginning of the eleventh century when they were defeated by the Cholas of Tanjavur. Important figures among the Gangas were King Durvinita and Shivamara II, admired as able warriors and scholars, and minister Chavundaraya who was a builder, a warrior and a writer in Kannada and Sanskrit. The most important architectural contributions of these Gangas are the monuments and basadis of Shravanabelagola, the monolith of Gomateshwara termed as the mightiest achievement in the field of sculpture in ancient Karnataka and the Panchakuta basadi ( five towers) at Kambadahalli. Their free standing pillars (called Mahasthambhas and Brahmasthambhas) and Hero stones (virgal) with sculptural detail are also considered a unique contribution.

Badami Chalukyas.

Badami Chalukya Empire during the reign of Pulakeshin II, 640 CE.

The Chalukya dynasty, natives of the Aihole and Badami region in Karnataka, were at first a feudatory of the Kadambas. They encouraged the use of Kannada in addition to the Sanskrit language in their administration. In the middle of the 6th century the Chalukyas came into their own when Pulakeshin I made the hill fortress in Badami his center of power. During the rule of Pulakeshin II a south Indian empire sent expeditions to the north past the Tapti River and Narmada River for the first time and successfully defied Harshavardhana, the King of Northern India (Uttarapatheswara). The Aihole inscription of Pulakeshin II, written in classical Sanskrit language and old Kannada script dated 634, proclaims his victories against the Kingdoms of Kadambas, Western Gangas, Alupas of South Canara, Mauryas of Puri, Kingdom of Kosala, Malwa, Lata and Gurjaras of southern Rajasthan. The inscription describes how King Harsha of Kannauj lost his Harsha (joyful disposition) on seeing a large number of his war elephants die in battle against Pulakeshin II.

Badami Cave Temples No 3.(Vishnu)

These victories earned him the title Dakshinapatha Prithviswamy (lord of the south). Pulakeshin II continued his conquests in the east where he conquered all kingdoms in his way and reached the Bay of Bengal in present-day Orissa. A Chalukya viceroyalty was set up in Gujarat and Vengi (coastal Andhra) and princes from the Badami family were dispatched to rule them. Having subdued the Pallavas of Kanchipuram, he accepted tributes from the Pandyas of Madurai, Chola dynasty and Cheras of the Kerala region. Pulakeshin II thus became the master of India, south of the Narmada River.

Pulakeshin II is widely regarded as one of the great kings in Indian history. Hiuen-Tsiang, a Chinese traveller visited the court of Pulakeshin II at this time and Persian emperor Khosrau II exchanged ambassadors. However, the continuous wars with Pallavas took a turn for the worse in 642 when the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I avenged his father's defeat, conquered and plundered the capital of Pulakeshin II who may have died in battle. A century later, Chalukya Vikramaditya II marched victoriously into Kanchipuram, the Pallava capital and occupied it on three occasions, the third time under the leadership of his son and crown prince Kirtivarman II. He thus avenged the earlier humiliation of the Chalukyas by the Pallavas and engraved a Kannada inscription on the victory pillar at the Kailasanatha Temple. He later overran the other traditional kingdoms of Tamil country, the Pandyas, Cholas and Keralas in addition to subduing a Kalabhra ruler.

The Kappe Arabhatta record from this period (700) in tripadi (three line) metre is considered the earliest available record in Kannada poetics. The most enduring legacy of the Chalukya dynasty is the architecture and art that they left behind. More than one hundred and fifty monuments attributed to the them, built between 450 and 700, have survived in the Malaprabha basin in Karnataka. The constructions are centred in a relatively small area within the Chalukyan heartland. The structural temples at Pattadakal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cave temples of Badami, the temples at Mahakuta and early experiments in temple building at Aihole are their most celebrated monuments. Two of the famous paintings at Ajanta cave no. 1, "The Temptation of the Buddha" and "The Persian Embassy" are also credited to them. Further, they influenced the architecture in far off places like Gujarat and Vengi as evidenced in the Nava Brahma temples at Alampur.


Rashtrakuta Empire in 800 CE, 915 CE.

In the middle of 8th century the Chalukya rule was ended by their feudatory, the Rashtrakuta family rulers of Berar (in present-day Amravati district of Maharashtra). Sensing an opportunity during a weak period in the Chalukya rule, Dantidurga trounced the great Chalukyan "Karnatabala" (power of Karnata). Having overthrown the Chalukyas, the Rashtrakutas made Manyakheta their capital (modern Malkhed in Gulbarga district). Although the origins of the early Rashtrakuta ruling families in central India and the Deccan in the 6th and 7th centuries is controversial, during the eighth through the tenth centuries they emphasised the importance of the Kannada language in conjunction with Sanskrit in their administration. Rashtrakuta inscriptions are in Kannada and Sanskrit only. They encouraged literature in both languages and thus literature flowered under their rule.

Kailash Temple in Ellora Caves

The Rashtrakutas quickly became the most powerful Deccan empire, making their initial successful forays into the doab region of Ganges River and Jamuna River during the rule of Dhruva Dharavarsha. The rule of his son Govinda III signaled a new era with Rashtrakuta victories against the Pala Dynasty of Bengal and Gurjara Pratihara of north western India resulting in the capture of Kannauj. The Rashtrakutas held Kannauj intermittently during a period of a tripartite struggle for the resources of the rich Gangetic plains. Because of Govinda III's victories, historians have compared him to Alexander the Great and Pandava Arjuna of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Sanjan inscription states the horses of Govinda III drank the icy water of the Himalayan stream and his war elephants tasted the sacred waters of the Ganges River. Amoghavarsha I, eulogised by contemporary Arab traveller Sulaiman as one among the four great emperors of the world, succeeded Govinda III to the throne and ruled during an important cultural period that produced landmark writings in Kannada and Sanskrit. The benevolent development of Jain religion was a hallmark of his rule. Because of his religious temperament, his interest in the arts and literature and his peace-loving nature, he has been compared to emperor Ashoka. The rule of Indra III in the tenth century enhanced the Rashtrakuta position as an imperial power as they conquered and held Kannauj again. Krishna III followed Indra III to the throne in 939. A patron of Kannada literature and a powerful warrior, his reign marked the submission of the Paramara of Ujjain in the north and Cholas in the south.

An Arabic writing Silsilatuttavarikh (851) called the Rashtrakutas one among the four principle empires of the world. Kitab-ul-Masalik-ul-Mumalik (912) called them the "greatest kings of India" and there were many other contemporaneous books written in their praise. The Rashtrakuta empire at its peak spread from Cape Comorin in the south to Kannauj in the north and from Banaras in the east to Broach (Bharuch) in the west. While the Rashtrakutas built many fine monuments in the Deccan, the most extensive and sumptuous of their work is the monolithic Kailasanatha temple at Ellora, the temple being a splendid achievement. In Karnataka their most famous temples are the Kashivishvanatha temple and the Jain Narayana temple at Pattadakal. All of the monuments are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Western Chalukyas.

Western Chalukya Empire in 1121 CE.

In the late 10th century, the Western Chalukyas, also known as the Kalyani Chalukyas or 'Later' Chalukyas rose to power by overthrowing the Rashtrakutas under whom they had been serving as feudatories. Manyakheta was their capital early on before they moved it to Kalyani (modern Basavakalyan). Whether the kings of this empire belonged to the same family line as their namesakes, the Badami Chalukyas is still debated. Whatever the Western Chalukya origins, Kannada remained their language of administration and the Kannada and Sanskrit literature of their time was prolific. Tailapa II, a feudatory ruler from Tardavadi (modern Bijapur district), re-established the Chalukya rule by defeating the Rashtrakutas during the reign of Karka II. He timed his rebellion to coincide with the confusion caused by the invading Paramara of Central India to the Rashtrakutas capital in 973. This era produced prolonged warfare with the Chola dynasty of Tamilakam for control of the resources of the Godavari River-Krishna River doab region in Vengi. Someshvara I, a brave Chalukyan king, successfully curtailed the growth of the Chola Empire to the south of the Tungabhadra River region despite suffering some defeats while maintaining control over his feudatories in the Konkan, Gujarat, Malwa and Kalinga regions. For approximately 100 years, beginning in the early 11th century, the Cholas occupied large areas of South Karnataka region (Gangavadi).

Gadag style pillars, Western Chalukya art.

In 1076, the ascent of the most famous king of this Chalukya family, Vikramaditya VI, changed the balance of power in favour of the Chalukyas. His fifty-year reign was an important period in Karnataka's history and is referred to as the "Chalukya Vikrama era". His victories over the Cholas in the late 11th and early 12th centuries put an end to the Chola influence in the Vengi region permanently. Some of the well-known contemporaneous feudatory families of the Deccan under Chalukya control were the Hoysalas, the Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri, the Kakatiya dynasty and the Southern Kalachuri. At their peak, the Western Chalukyas ruled a vast empire stretching from the Narmada River in the north to the Kaveri River in the south. Vikramaditya VI is considered one of the most influential kings of Indian history. Important architectural works were created by these Chalukyas, especially in the Tungabhadra river valley, that served as a conceptual link between the building idioms of the early Badami Chalukyas and the later Hoysalas. With the weakening of the Chalukyas in the decades following the death of Vikramaditya VI in 1126, the feudatories of the Chalukyas gained their independence.

The Kalachuris of Karnataka, whose ancestors were immigrants into the southern deccan from central India, had ruled as a feudatory from Mangalavada (modern Mangalavedhe in Maharashtra). Bijjala II, the most powerful ruler of this dynasty, was a commander (mahamandaleswar) during the reign of Chalukya Vikramaditya VI. Seizing an opportune moment in the waning power of the Chalukyas, Bijjala II declared independence in 1157 and annexed their capital Kalyani. His rule was cut short by his assassination in 1167 and the ensuing civil war caused by his sons fighting over the throne ended the dynasty as the last Chalukya scion regained control of Kalyani. This victory however, was short-lived as the Chalukyas were eventually driven out by the Seuna Yadavas.


Hoysala Empire in 1200 CE.

The Hoysalas had become a powerful force even during their rule from Belur in the 11th century as a feudatory of the Chalukyas (in the south Karnataka region). In the early 12th century they successfully fought the Cholas in the south, convincingly defeating them in the battle of Talakad and moved their capital to nearby Halebidu. Historians refer to the founders of the dynasty as natives of Malnad Karnataka, based on the numerous inscriptions calling them Maleparolganda or "Lord of the Male (hills) chiefs" (Malepas). With the waning of the Western Chalukya power, the Hoysalas declared their independence in the late twelfth century.

Shilabalika, Chennakeshava temple, Belur.

During this period of Hoysala control, distinctive Kannada literary metres such as Ragale (blank verse), Sangatya (meant to be sung to the accompaniment of a musical instrument), Shatpadi (seven line) etc. became widely accepted. The Hoysalas expanded the Vesara architecture stemming from the Chalukyas, culminating in the Hoysala architectural articulation and style as exemplified in the construction of the Chennakesava Temple at Belur and the Hoysaleswara temple at Halebidu. Both these temples were built in commemoration of the victories of the Hoysala Vishnuvardhana against the Cholas in 1116. Veera Ballala II, the most effective of the Hoysala rulers, defeated the aggressive Pandya when they invaded the Chola kingdom and assumed the titles "Establisher of the Chola Kingdom" (Cholarajyapratishtacharya), "Emperor of the south" (Dakshina Chakravarthi) and "Hoysala emperor" (Hoysala Chakravarthi). The Hoysalas extended their foothold in areas known today as Tamil Nadu around 1225, making the city of Kannanur Kuppam near Srirangam a provincial capital.[105] This gave them control over South Indian politics that began a period of Hoysala hegemony in the southern Deccan.

In the early 13th century, with the Hoysala power remaining unchallenged, the first of the Muslim incursions into South India began. After over two decades of waging war against a foreign power, the Hoysala ruler at the time, Veera Ballala III, died in the battle of Madurai in 1343. This resulted in the merger of the sovereign territories of the Hoysala empire with the areas administered by Harihara I, founder of the Vijayanagara Empire, located in the Tungabhadra region in present-day Karnataka. The new kingdom thrived for another two centuries with Vijayanagara as its capital.

Vijayanagara Empire in 1446 CE, 1520 CE.

The Vijayanagara Empire quickly rose to imperial status as early as the late 14th century. During the reign of Bukka Raya I, the island of Lanka paid tributes and ambassadors were exchanged with the Ming Dynasty of China. The empire's most famous rulers were Deva Raya II and the Tuluva king Krishnadevaraya. Deva Raya II (known as Gajabetekara or hunter of elephants) ascended the throne in 1424 and was the most effective of the Sangama dynasty rulers. He quelled rebelling feudal lords, the Zamorin of Calicut and the Quilon in the south, and invaded the island of Lanka while becoming overlord of the kings of Burma at Pegu and Tanasserim. After a brief decline, the empire reached its peak in early 16th century during the rule of Krishnadevaraya when the Vijayanagara armies were consistently victorious. The empire annexed areas formerly under the Sultanates in the northern Deccan and the territories in the eastern Deccan, including Kalinga, while simultaneously maintaining control over all its subordinates in the south.

Stone Chariot Hampi

Many important monuments at Hampi were either completed or commissioned during the reign of Krishnadevaraya. The enduring legacy of this empire is the vast open-air theatre of monuments at the regal capital, Vijayanagara, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Vijayanagara architecture is a vibrant blend of the preceding Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya and Chola styles. Literature in Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Sanskrit languages found royal patronage. Telugu attained its height in popularity and reached its peak under Krishnadevaraya. The Kannada Haridasa movement contributed greatly to Carnatic music and fostered a strong Hindu sentiment across South India. With the defeat of the Vijayanagara Empire in the Battle of Talikota in 1565 by the Deccan sultanates, the Karnataka region and South India in general became fragmented and subsumed under the rule of various former feudatories of the empire. A diminished Vijayanagara Empire moved its capital to Penukonda in modern Andhra Pradesh and later to Chandragiri and Vellore before disintegrating. In the south and coastal Karnataka region, the Kingdom of Mysore and the Keladi Nayaka of Shimoga held sway while the northern regions were under the control of the Bijapur Sultanate. The Nayaka kingdom lasted into the 18th century before merging with the Kingdom of Mysore which remained a princely state until Indian independence in 1947, though they came under the British Raj (rule) in 1799 following the defeat and death of the last independent Mysore king, Tipu Sultan.

Bahmani Sultanate territories, 1470.

The Bahmani Sultanate, a contemporary of the Vijayanagara Empire, was founded in 1347 by Alla-ud-din-Hasan, a breakaway commander of the armies of the northern invaders led by Mohammed-bin-Tughlaq. The capital was Gulbarga but was later moved further north to Bidar in 1430. The first of the Muslim invasions of the Deccan came in the early decades of the 14th century. At its peak, the Bahamani kingdom extended from the Krishna River in the south to Penganga River in the north, thus covering the regions of northern parts of modern Karnataka, parts of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The most famous of the Bahamani Kings was Firuz Shah (also known as Taj Ud Din Firuz), who ruled from 1397 to 1422. Militarily, the rule of Firuz Shah had uneven success against the Vijayanagara kings while he was more convincingly successful against the Kherla rulers of Madhya Pradesh and the Vema Reddies of Rajamundry, areas that he annexed in 1417. His last encounter with the Vijayanagara armies in 1417 was disastrous and led to his defeat, ill health and ultimate death in 1422.

Contemporary writers such as Tabataba, in his writings have heaped praise on Firuz Shah. Tabataba wrote of the king as, "[a]n impetuous, mighty monarch who patronised learned men, Sheiks and hermits", while Shirazi described him as "a just, pious and generous king and one without equal". He has earned the honorific Sultan-i-ghazian for his bravery, tolerant nature and patronage of the fine arts. In the opinion of one historian, Firuz Shah was one of the most notable Sultans to rule in India. Another well-known figure from this kingdom was Kwaja Mahamud Gavan, the prime minister, who served under several kings and regents. He rose above the kings and princess of the dynasty by virtue of his ministerial, administrative, martial, literary and philanthropic abilities. A Persian by descent and a visitor to Bidar in 1445, he impressed the ruling Sultan Alla-ud-din II and was chosen to become a minister in his court. As a commander he was able to extend the kingdom from Hubli in the south to Goa in the west and Kondavidu and Rajamahendri in the east. He soon rose to the position of prime minister (Vakil-Us-Sultanat).

The Bahamanis introduced the large-scale use of paper in administration and began the Indo-Sarasenic architectural style, designed and constructed by Persian architects and artisans, (also known as Deccani architecture) with its local influences in Karnataka. The Sultanate monuments of Bidar and Gulbarga are testimony to their interest in architecture. The Bande Nawaz tombs and a Jama Masjid in Gulbarga which exhibits a Spanish influence are well known. In Bidar, their buildings have Persian, Turkish, Arabic and Roman influences (the Solah Khamba mosque being an example). Rangin Mahal, Gangan Mahal, Tarkash Mahal, Chini Mahal, Nagina Mahal and the Taqk Mahal are some of the palaces built by them that have retained their beauty. The Ahmad Shah Wali tombs are noted for their decor, and the school of learning (madrasa) built by Gavan in Bidar (1472), with its lecture halls, library, mosque and residential houses are also famous. In the later part of 15th century, with a growing rift between the local Deccani Muslims and the Pardeshi Muslims (foreign) who occupied influential positions in the kingdom, the execution of Gavan under dubious circumstances in 1481, and constant wars with the Vijayanagara kings weakened the Bahamani Kingdom eventually bringing about its end in 1527.

Bijapur Sultanate territories under Ibrahim II, 1620 CE.

The Bijapur Sultanate (or Adilshahi Kingdom) emerged towards the end of the 15th century with the weakening of the Bahmani Sultanate . The main sources of information about this kingdom comes from contemporaneous inscriptions and writings in Persian and Kannada, travelogues of European visitors to the Deccan and inscriptions of neighboring kingdoms. In 1489, Yusuf Adil Khan, a Turkic general in the Bahmani army, broke away to found the kingdom from modern Bijapur . Throughout his rule, the Sultanate was at war with the Vijayanagara Empire over the strategic Raichur doab, with the Portuguese over Goa, with the Barid Shahis of Bidar and later with the erstwhile feudatories of the Vijayanagara Empire who had gained independence after 1565. The Italian writer Varathema wrote about the founder Adilkhan and Bijapur, "A powerful and prosperous king", "the city was encircled by many fortifications and contained beautiful and majestic buildings".

Inter-Sultanate marriages normalised relations and Ali I (1557–1580) joined a confederacy of Sultanates who eventually inflicted a crushing defeat on the Vijayanagara Empire in 1565. The most notable ruler of the dynasty was Ibrahim II (1580–1626) who ascended the throne as a nine-year-old with Chandbibi, the king's aunt acting as the regent. Later when Ibrahim II was defeated by the first of the Moghul incursions into the Deccan, he gave his daughter in marriage to Daniyal, a son of Emperor Akbar, but managed to collect tributes from the former feudatories of the Vijayanagara Empire. According to a historian, the rule of Ibrahim II was the high point of the Bijapur Sultanate. A tolerant king inclined to the fine arts, the earliest book on music in Urdu language called Kitab-e-Nauras is ascribed to him. The opening song in the book is an invocation of the Hindu Goddess Saraswati. During the rule of his son Muhammad, Shahji Bhosle from Ahmadnagar joined the Bijapur army and along with commander Ranadullah Khan conducted many successful campaigns in the southern Deccan collecting tribute from local rulers there. The final end of the diminished Vijayanagara Empire ruling from Vellore came during these campaigns.

Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur, has the second largest pre-modern dome in the world after the Byzantine Hagia Sophia.

However, the rise of Maratha Shivaji and constant invasions by the Mughals from the north took its toll on the kingdom, eventually bringing it to an end in the later part of 17th century. The contributions of the Bijapur Sultanate in the Indo-Saracenic idiom to the architectural landscape of Karnataka is noteworthy. Their most famous monuments are the mausoleums called Ibrahim Rauza and the Gol Gumbaz apart from many other palaces and mosques. The elegance, finish and beauty of Mehtar Mahal is claimed by a historian to be equal to anything in Cairo. Their Kali Masjid at Lakshmeshwar is a synthesis of Hindu and Muslim styles. The Ibrahim Rauza built by Ibrahim II is a combination of a mausoleum and a mosque and is called the "Taj Mahal of the Deccan". The Gol Gumbaz built by Muhammad is the largest dome in India and the second largest pre-modern dome in the world after the Byzantine Hagia Sophia with an impressive "whispering gallery". Some historians consider this one of the architectural marvels of the world. Persian language was given state patronage while the use of the local languages, Kannada and Marathi was popularized in local affairs.

Modern era.

Kingdom of Mysore under Tipu Sultan.

Mysore Palace at dusk (Indo-Saracenic style).

The fall of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1565 at the Battle of Talikota started a slow disintegration of the Kannada speaking region into many short-lived palegar chiefdoms, and the better known Kingdom of Mysore and the kingdom of Keladi Nayakas, which were to later become important centres of Kannada literary production. These kingdoms and the Nayakas ("Chiefs") of Tamil country continued to owe nominal support to a diminished Vijayanagara Empire ruling from Penukonda (1570) and later from Chandragiri (1586) in modern Andhra Pradesh, followed by a brief period of independence. By mid-17th century, large areas in north Karnataka came under the control of the Bijapur Sultanate who waged several wars in a bid to establish hegemony over the southern Deccan. The defeat of the Bijapur Sultanate at the hands of the Mughals in late 17th century added a new dimension to the prevailing confusion. The constant wars of the local kingdoms with the two new rivals, the Mughals and the Marathas, and among themselves, caused further instability in the region. Major areas of Karnataka came under the rule of the Mughals and the Marathas. Under Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan, the Mysore Kingdom reached its zenith of power but had to face the growing English might who by now had a firm foothold in the subcontinent. After the death of Tipu Sultan in 1799 in the fourth Anglo-Mysore war, the Mysore Kingdom came under the British umbrella. More than a century later, with the dawn of India as an independent nation in 1947, the unification of Kannada speaking regions as modern Karnataka state brought four centuries of political uncertainty (and centuries of foreign rule) to an end.

Places to visit in Karnataka

Karnataka, the eighth largest state in India has been ranked as the fifth most popular state in the country for tourism. It is home to 507 of the 3600 centrally protected monuments in India, the largest number after Uttar Pradesh. The State Directorate of Archaeology and Museums protects an additional 752 monuments and another 25,000 monuments are yet to receive protection. Tourism centers on the ancient sculptured temples, modern cities, the hill ranges, forests and beaches. Broadly, tourism in Karnataka can be divided into four geographical regions: North Karnataka, the Hill Stations, Coastal Karnataka and South Karnataka.

The Karnataka Government has recently introduced The Golden Chariot – a train which connects popular tourist destinations in the state and Goa.

North Karnataka Region Tourism

Gol Gumbaz Bijapur

North Karnataka has monuments that date back to the 5th century. Kannada empires that ruled the Deccan had their capitals here. Badami Chalukyas monuments are located at Pattadakal, Aihole and Badami. Aihole has been called the cradle of Indian architecture and has over 125 temples and monuments built between 450 and 1100 BC. Rashtrakuta monuments at Lokapura, Bilgi and Kuknur and Kalyani Chalukyas monuments built in Gadag style of architecture at Lakkundi, Gadag, Itagi (in Koppal District) and the Vijayanagar empire temples at Vijayanagara are some examples. Hampi in Bellary District has ruins spread over an area of 125 km². With some fifty four world heritage monuments and six hundred and fifty national monuments (ASI). An additional three hundred monuments await protection. The Deccan sultanate monuments at Bijapur and Gulbarga show unique and discreet Hindu influences and rival the Muslim monuments of North India. Archeologically important locations like Sannati, Kanaganahalli in Gulbarga district have thrown more light on Buddhist centres of the 1st century BCE to 3rd century CE. The first ever statue of emperor Ashoka with his queens and a Prakrit inscription Rayo Ashoka (ASI) has been found.

Badami surroundings important locations are Kudalasangama, Aihole, Pattadakal, Mahakuta and Banashankari.

Hampi surroundings region, they can be visited from Hampi/Hosapete, or from Hubli. There are Kuknur, Itagi, Gadag, Lakkundi, Dambal, Haveri, Kaginele, Bankapura.

World heritage Centers

Mallikarjuna and Kasivisvanatha temples at Pattadakal

Hampi, Bellary District: The site of the capital of Vijayanagara (1336) and formerly the seat of the Vijayanagar Empire. Foreign visitors in the 15th and 16th centuries described Hampi as being bigger than Rome. The city was destroyed and deserted in 1565 by marauding Moghul invaders and its ruins now lie scattered over a 26 sq. km area south of the river Tungabhadra. The rocky area near Anegundi to the north of the river has been identified as Kishkindha of Ramayana times.[citation needed] Hampi is home to a 29-foot-tall (8.8 m) monolithic Narasimha, which was installed by Krishnadevaraya in 1529. The remains of palaces and gateways can be seen.

Group of 8th-century CE monuments, Pattadakal:[10] Located on the banks of the river Malaprabha, Pattadakal was the second capital of the Chalukyas and contains examples of 7th- and 8th-century temple architecture. Four temples are in the south Indian Dravidian style, four in the North Indian Nagara style and the last one, the Papanatha temple represents a hybrid of the two styles. The oldest temples are the Sangameshwara, Mallikarjuna and Virupaksha Temples.

Historical locations, Western Chalukya

Ravana Phadi cave at Aihole near Pattadakal

Aihole: A former Chalukya trading city. There are around 140 temples including examples of early Chalukya, Rashtrakuta and later Chalukya dynasties from the 6th to 12th centuries. It has a Jain and Vedic rock-cut shrine, both of about the 6th century. It has Tirthankara images and a Durga temple. The meguti on a hill is a jaina basti which has an Aihole inscription of Pulakeshin 2 and also a Buddhist two-storied rock -cut shrine below it. All the other Jain and Buddhist temples are built of stone and resemble Hindu temples. The temples were built during the Middle Ages before any style was established and hence there is a mixture of styles.

Cave temple 3 Badami

Badami: The capital of the early Chalukyas in the 6th century, is at the mouth of a ravine between two rocky hills. The town is known for its cave temples (all carved out of sandstone hills). Badami have four caves, the cave temple dedicated to Vishnu is the largest. In front of the cave temple, there is a reservoir called Aghastya Teertha dotted with temples on its bank. Among them, two are dedicated to Vishnu, one to Shiva and the fourth is a Jain Temple. Carvings in the cave temples display the Hindu gods, Narashima and Hari Hara. The temples also have paintings on the ceiling and bracket figures on the piers.

Basavana Bagewadi: It is 43 east of Bijapur. In the 12th century, Saint Basaveshwara was born here. It was an agrahara. The main temple here is in the Chalukya style and it was called as Sangamantha in records. The Samadhis of Siddharameshwara and Gurupadeshwara of the Inchageri School of spiritual pursuit are seen here.

Basavakalyana, Bidar District: former capital of the Later Chalukyas. It has an old fort renovated by the Bahamani containing an Archaeological Museum. Few Chalukya or Kalachuri remains exist except the Chalukya Narayanapur temple in the outskirts of the town. There is a modern Basaveshwara temple, Prabhudevara Gadduge, Jurist of the Kalyani Chalukyas period. Vijnaneshwara's Cave, Madivala Machiah's Pond, Akka Nagamma's Cave, fully renovated Siddheshwara temple and a new structure called Anubhava Mantapa, the Qaji's mosque and Raja Bagh Sawar Dargah.

Annigeri (30 km from Hubli): It has an Amriteshwara temple of the time of the Kalyani Chalukyas. It was the birthplace of great Kannada Poet Pampa and there is a Jain basadi of Parshwanatha. It was once a headquarters of Belvola-300. It was the capital of Chalukya Someshwara 4. In addition to Veerashaiva Mathas; there is a ruined Banashankari Temple and seven mosques and also an ancient Veerabhadra temple.

Bankapura (80 km from Dharwad): Under Chalukya many temples were raised in the city including the Nagareshwara temple in the fort and another chalukya temple called Siddheshwara. Ali Adilshahi destroyed many temples in about 1567. There is a mosque in the fort.

Doddabasappa Temple at Dambal, Gadag district

Dambal (21 km from Gadag): It was a Buddhist centre. There are two notable chalukya temples called Doddabasappa Temple and Somewshwara Temple. Doddabassapa as polygonal star shaped temple garbhagriha and fine sculptural representations and huge nandi Temple. Someshwara could have been an old basati. The temple has a 400-year-old vast tank. There is an old Ganapathi image in old ruined fort. And we can also find a huge Ganapathi image in a small shrine.

Haveri: This town has Siddheshvara Temple that was built in the 12th century. Siddeshvara Temple situated in the heart of the city of Haveri, in side the well maintained garden.

Trikuteshwara Temple complex at Gadag

Gadag: It is a twin city municipality and it is 55 km from Hubli-Dharward. It is a great centre of Kalyani Chalukyas art with the large Trikuteshwara temple. It was latter expanded by Kalyani Chalukyas into a vast complex. The complex has triple shrines once housing Shiva, Brahma and Surya. The Saraswathi temple has the shining decorative pillars, and the Saraswathi image, and it is one of the largest examples of Chalukya art. The place has Someshwara and Rameshwara temples of Chalukya style. It has Veeranarayana temple of Chalukya times.

Lakkundi Monuments

Lakkundi, 10 km from Gadag, Gadag District: There were 100 temples and 100 wells but now few can be visited. These include Bhramhajeenalaya, Kasivisvesvara and Kalyani.

Someshwara temple complex Lakshmeshwar

Someshwara temple complex is in Lakshmeshwar in the Shirahatti Taluk, Gadag District, North Karnataka. The temple complex has the Someshwara temple of Shiva along with so many Shiva temples inside the fort like compound.

Galaganatha Galageshwara temple.

It is located in the Haveri District. The temple has big open hall and pyramidal shaped Garbhagudi. The temple is situated along the Tungabhadra river.

Galaganatha Galageshwara temple, Haveri District, North Karnataka, Chaudayyadanapura Mukteshwara temple, near Ranebennur in Haveri District, North Karnataka

Mahadeva Temple

Mahadeva Temple at Itagi in the Koppal district, North Karnataka, built during 1112 CE. This temple is an example of dravida articulation with a nagara superstructure. This Temple is also called Devalayagala Chakravarti in Kannada (Emperor among Temples).

Shambulinga Temple Kundgol

Kundgol is about 15 km from Hubli-Dharwad. This place is famous[citation needed] for Hindustani music and Huge Shambulinga Temple.

Hooli Panchalingeshwara Temple

Lakshmeshwar has Someshwara temple complex, Jinalaya.

Someshwara temple at Lakshmeshwar, North Karnataka


Kudalasangama has Sangamanatha temple which belongs to Chalukya. It is a Karma Bhumi of Basavanna. Kudalasangama development authority has developed this place as one of the International tourism place. From Kudalasangama Almatti Dam is about 12 km, it has got North Karnataka's biggest Rock Garden.

Rashtrakuta dynasty

Malkhed, Gulbarga District

Naregal, Gadag District

Kadamba dynasty

Large domical ceiling in the main hall at Tarateshwara temple Hangal


The place is in Background of Western Ghats in lush green atmosphere. It was the second capital of the Kadambas of Banavasi. The huge Bhuvaraha Narasimha temple has tall images of Varaha, Narasimha, Narayana and Surya. Halasi has a fort and temples of Gokarneshswara, Kapileshwara, Swarneshwara and Hatakeshwara.


Hanagal was the capital of Hangal Kadambas, feudatories of Kalyani Chalukyas. It was mentioned as Panungal in records and identified by tradition with Viratanagara of Mahabharatha days. It is on the left bank of the Dharma River. The Tarakeshwara temple here is a huge structure with series of images and polished tall Chalukya pillars. The other temples are Virabhadra, Billeshwara and Ramalinga etc. There is a Veerashaiva Kumaraswamy Matha here.


Banavasi was the capital of Kadambas. The place is on the bank of the Varada river and its laterite fort is surrounded by the river at its three sides. Ashoka is said to have sent his missionaries to 'Vanavasa'.Banavasi also containsBuddhist brick monuments. Chutu prince Nagashri built a Buddhist Vihara, a tank and installed a Naga image at the place according to a Parkrit record at the place. There is also a monument at Banavasi, Mudhukeshvara temple and also Kadamba Nagara Shikhara is seen on the garbhagriha of this temple. Records here indicate that Buddhism and Jainism were popular.

Deccan Sultanates

Jumma Masjid at Lakshmeshwar, North Karnataka

Bijapur: The former capital of the Adil Shahi Kings (1489–1686). Gol Gumbaz is the mausoleum of Muhammed Adil Shah and was built in 1659. It houses the world's second largest dome, unsupported by pillars. Malik-e-Maidan is a 55 ton cannon perched on a platform. The head of the cannon is fashioned into the shape of a lion whose jaws are trying to devour an elephant.

Bidar: a centre for Bidriware. It is the location of the tombs of 30 rulers including the Chaukhandi of Hazrat Khalil-Ullah Shah and Sultan Ahmed Shah Al Wali Bahamani from the Bahamani dynasty.



Lakshmeshwar: The Jumma Masjid, built during the rule of Adilshahi, has a large crowning onion dome and Koranic scripture written in gold.


Saundatti: The town proper has a fort on the hill built during the 17th century, by Sirasangi Desai, with eight bastions. It was the capital of Rattas who latter shifted their headquarters to Belgaum. There are two temples of Ankeshwara, Puradeshwara, Mallikarjuna, Venkateshwara and the Veerabhadra. The Renukasagar waters touch the outskirts of Saundatti. Tourist atrractions of this region are Hooli Panchalingeshwara temple, Renuka (Yallamma) temple, Saundatti Fort, Parasgad Fort, Navilateertha.


  • Bangalore Palace
  • Mysore Palace, Also known as Ambavilas Palace
  • Nalknad Palace
  • Rajendra Vilas
  • Jaganmohan Palace
  • Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion
  • Lalitha Mahal
  • Rajendra Vilas
  • Cheluvamba Mansion, Mysore
  • Shivappa Nayaka Palace, Shivappa Nayaka
  • Daria Daulat Bagh



In Karnataka there are thousands of Forts, in Kannada called as Kote or Gad or Durga.

Mirjan Fort in Uttara Kannada District in North Karnataka

The Forts in Karnataka are belongs to various dynasties, some of them are more than thousand years old.

  • Malliabad Fort
  • Jaladurga
  • Bahaddur Bandi Fort
  • Kyadigera Fort
  • Bidar Fort
  • Basavakalyana Fort
  • Bhalki Fort
  • Manyakheta Fort
  • Kittur Fort
  • Parasgad Fort
  • Belgaum Fort
  • Saundatti Fort
  • Ramdurg Fort
  • Bailhongal Fort
  • Hooli Fort
  • Gokak Fort
  • Shirasangi Fort
  • Bijapur Fort
  • Gajendrgad Fort
  • Korlahalli Fort
  • Hammigi Fort
  • Hemagudda Fort
  • Mundargi Fort
  • Singatalur Fort
  • Tippapura Fort
  • Nargund Fort
  • Magadi Fort
  • Jamalabad Fort
  • Barkur Fort
  • Daria-Bahadurgad Fort
  • Kapu Fort
  • Havanur Fort
  • Mirjan Fort
  • Sadashivgad Fort
  • Asnoti
  • Sanduru Fort
  • Bellary Fort
  • Adoni Fort
  • Koppal Fort
  • Anegundi Fort
  • Kampli Fort
  • Irakalgada
  • Gulbarga Fort
  • Sedam Fort
  • Shahpur Fort
  • Aihole Fort
  • Badami Fort
  • Bankapura Fort
  • Savanur Fort
  • Chitradurga Fort[20]
  • Devanahalli Fort
  • Vanadurga Fort
  • Channagiri Fort
  • Kavaledurga Fort
  • Basavaraj durga fort
  • Uchangidurga Fort
  • Budikote|
  • Fort Anjediva
  • Gudibanda
  • Wagingera Fort
  • Bangalore Fort
  • Bhimgad Fort
  • Kammatadurga
  • Pavagada
  • Madikeri Fort
  • Savandurga
  • Makalidurga|
  • Vanadurga
  • Sanmudageri
  • Vishalgad
  • Nagara Fort
  • Basavaraja Fort
  • Rayadurg
  • Huthridurga
  • Ambajidurga|
  • Manjarabad Fort
  • Skandagiri
  • Hosadurga
  • Nagara Fort
  • Sathyamangalam Fort
  • Tekkalakote Fort
  • Thirthahalli Fort

Places of worship

Devala Ganagapura, It is the second incarnation of Lord Dattatreya away from Afzalpur taluk around 25 km, Gulbarga District: It is 651 km from Bangalore. Sri Narasimha Saraswati stayed here for a long time and was granted a jahgir by the Bahmani Sultan. The sultan believed that the saint had cured him of a large boil. The saint is treated by his followers as an incarnation of Dattatreya. The Saint has cured the Sultan of a serious boil. The Saint is treated as an incarnation of Dattatreya and devotees from Maharashtra and Karnataka. It is a very holy place.

Jain Basadis

Jainism has a long history in Karnataka. Belgaum District has the Kamala basadi in Chalukya style in the Belgaum Fort. The ancient centre Tavanidi near Nippani and newly created centre at Shedbal, where 24 Tirthankaras in white marble have been installed in a cluster. Lakkundi in Gadag District has a large Brahma Jinalaya of Chalukya style, built by a noble lady, Attimabbe.

Buddhist temples

Tara Bhagavati temples, Balligavi, Shiralkoppa

Koliwada and Dambal, Gadag district Sannati and Kanaganahalli, Gulbarga District: remains of the razed stupas and a Buddhist plaques of Satavahana period were unearthed recently

Aihole: Viharas Badami: Buddhist remains from the Badami Chalukyas period were found between caves two and three Mundgod, Uttara Kannada: Tibetan settlements with multi-coloured stupas and painted prayer halls

Gulbarga: Two new viharas

Shiva temples

Kudalasangama in Bagalkot district

Gokarn is a great all-India centre where the Atmalinga (Mahabaleshwara) of Shiva, brought by Ravana is believed to have been installed. Nearby is Murudeshwar where a huge modern Shiva temple in Dravidian Style has been raised, renovating an ancient shrine. Both the places are on the sea-shore in Uttara Kannada. At Hampi is the Virupaksha Temple, venerated by generations of poets, scholars, kings and commoners.

The Shiva temple at Kudalasangama in Bagalkot District is associated with Saint Basaveshwara. Equally remarkable pieces of art are the Virupaksha and the Mallikarjuna at Pattadakal in Bagalkote dt.

The Veerashaivas have many venerated places, either associated with Basaveshwara or his contemporaries. Basavana Bagewadi was his place of birth and Kudala Sangama the place of his spiritual practices, are in Bijapur and Bagalkot dts. The latter is at the confluence of the river Krishna and the Malaprabha. Basava Kalyana (Kalyani), the ancient Chalukya capital in Bidar District was the place where he conducted his socio-religious movement. Ulavi in Uttara Kannada, a quiet place amidst forests, has the samadhi of Chennabasavanna, Basaveshwara's nephew. Belgami (Balligavi), the Chalukya art centre in Shimoga dt. is identified as the birthplace of Allama Prabhu and Uduthadi near it, is the native place of Akka Mahadevi. Later Veerashaiva saints are associated with many places. Kodekal (Gulbarga dt.) Basavanna temple, Kadakola Madivallajja Matha, Sharana Basaveshwara temple and Dasoha Math at Gulbarga are few more places of worship.

Athani has the samadhi of the Veerashaiva Saint Shivayogi. Some of the outstanding Veerashaiva Mathas are seen at Naganur near Bailhongal and Kalmatha in Belgaum, Durudundeshwara Matha at Arabhavi and Mahantaswamy Matha at Murgod are in Belgaum dt. Murugha Matha (Dharwad), Annadaneshwara Matha (Mundargi), Tontadarya Matha at Gadag and Dambal, Moorusavira Matha at Hubli, Murugha Matha and Hukkeri Matha (Haveri), Taralabalu Matha at Sirigere, Murugharajendra Matha at Chitradurga, Banthanala Shivajogi Matha at Chadachan and Mahantaswamy Matha (Ilkal) are equally notable. The samadhi of Sharanabasappa Appa at Gulbarga.

Shakti Sthala.

The following places are visited by devotees of Shakti

  • Chandralamba,
  • Sannati,
  • Gulbarga
  • Bagavanti,
  • Ghattaraki
  • Mayavva,
  • Chinchli
  • Yellamma,
  • Saundatti
  • Banashankari,
  • Badami,
  • Bagalkote district
  • Bhuvaneshwari,
  • Hampi
  • Varadahalli,
  • Sagara,
  • Karnataka Sigandur,
  • Sagara,
  • Karnataka Marikamba,
  • Sagara,
  • Marikamba,
  • Sirsi,
  • Uttara Kannada
  • Durga Parameshwari Kateel,
  • Dakshina Kannada
  • Mookambika Kollur,
  • Udupi District
  • Mysore Karnataka,
  • Mysore District
  • Botanical and Rock gardens
  • Lalbagh

Brindavan Gardens

Cubbon Park

The Botanical Garden, University of Agricultural Sciences

Karnataka University Botany Garden, Karnataka University

Pampavana Garden, Munirabad

University of Mysore Botanic Garden, University of Mysore

Curzon Park, Mysore

Nishat Baugh, Mysore

Forest Research Centre Botanic Garden

Utsav Rock Garden, Shiggaon: Sculptural Garden located near NH-4 Pune-Bangalore road,Gotagodi Village,Shiggaon Taluk, Haveri District, Karnataka. Utsav Rock Garden is an sculptural garden representing contemporary art and rural culture. A typical village is created where men and women are involved in their daily household activities.A unique picnic spot which delights common people, educated and intellectuals. There are more than 1000 sculptures in the garden of different sizes. It is an anthropological museum. It represents traditional farming, crafts, folklore, cattle herding and sheep rearing.

Coastal Karnataka

Coastal Karnataka is the stronghold of Hindu and Jain pilgrimage spots with Udupi and its many temples being the centre of Dvaita philosophy, Gokarna is known for Vedic studies, Sringeri has the first of the Shankaracharya mathas and is important for its Advaita philosophy, Karkala and Mudabidri are well known places of Jain worship and Vaishnava rituals. Exquisite Vijayanagar temples built in Chalukya – Malabar region combinational style are seen in Bhatkal, Kumta, Shirali etc. The warm beaches of Karnataka are mostly unspoiled.

Jamboti, 20 km south-west of Belgaum, has popular evergreen hilltop forests.

Karnataka is blessed with over 300 km of pristine coastal stretch. Netrani Island of Uttara Kannada is known for coral reefs. St. Mary's Island, a few kilometres from Udupi has basalt rock formations. Sunny beaches at places like Malpe, Murdeshwara, Maravanthe, Gokarna, Kumta have spectacular mountains to the east. Agumbe, Kodachadri hills, Kemmangundi, are just a few of many hill stations that straddle the coast providing tourists sun and greenery. Unlike many crowded hill stations in South India, the hill stations of Karnataka are still mostly undiscovered and pristine.

Om beach, near Gokarna, North Karnataka

Gokarna: The Coastal town of Gokarna is a pilgrimage centre as well as a centre of Sanskrit learning, 56 km from Karwar. It has the Mahabaleswar Temple with the 'Atmalinga' dedicated to Shiva. There is an enormous chariot, which is taken out in a procession on Shiva's birthday in February. The Tambraparni Teertha here is considered sacred to perform obsequies of the dead. There is a beach called Om Beach.

Udupi: One of the holy place and it is 58 km from Mangalore. The Krishna temple here is founded by Acharya Madhwa during the 14th century. He founded eight mathas to conduct the services of Lord Krishna in turns. Paryaya festival is held once in two years in January. The place has Kadiyali Durga temple, Ambalapadi Shakti temple, Raghavendra Matha and the Venkataraman swamy temple. Malpe is the port near here. It has a beach and the Vadabhandeshwara temple of Balarama.

Thantrady : One of the holy place and it is 22 km from Udupi. The brammasthana temple here founded by sri Ramanna bairy. It was an astabanda bramha. The main archaka of this temple is Nagaraj bairy.

Karkala: 50 km from Mangalore and 20 km from North of Moodabidire, is Karkala, an important centre of Jainism. There are several temples and a 17 metres high statue of Bahubali (Gomateshwara), situated on a small hill. The statue is a naked figure reached by a flight of rock-cut steps. Some of the temples are Chaturmukha Basti (1587), Neminatha Basti, Ananthapadmanabha Temple (1567) dedicated to Vishnu, and Venkataramana temple (Padutirupathi).

Venur: Situated 50 km NE of Mangalore, has eight Bastis and ruins of a Mahadeva temple. The largest of them is the 17C Kalli Basti, dedicated to Shantinatha. There is a Gommanteswara Monolith, 11metres high dating back to 1604 in Venur.

Malpe Beach: Situated 66 km north of Mangalore, near Manipal. It has a tourist beach. The uninhibited St. Mary's Island, accessible by boat, has a beach and an impressive geological formation of basalt rock pillars into the sea.

Dharmastala: Situated 75 km from Mangalore, Dharmastala is an attractive site surrounded by forested hills, rice fields and by the river Netravati on all sides. The Manjunatha temple here is a pilgrim centre. A Monolithic statue of Bahubali 14metres high was erected here in 1973. Visitors are provided with free boarding and lodging by the temple authorities. There is a small museum, Manjusha Museum located opposite to the temple. There are two temple chariots covered in wooden figures and all types of religious objects including carved and painted panels, bronze sculptures and bells.

Kollur, 147 km from Mangalore: The temple of goddess Mookambika is located here on top of Kodachadri hill, at the foot of the Western Ghats. The goddess takes the form of a 'Jyotirlinga' incorporating aspects of Shiva and Shakti. It is a pilgrimage centre attracting lot of devotees.

Moodabidre: Situated 35 km from Mangalore, Moodabidire has Jain temples known as Basti's. There are 18 Bastis, the oldest and the largest is the Chandranatha Basti (1429) with its 1000 pillared hall. 'The Jain Matha' near the entrance has an important collection of manuscripts. Other shrines worthy of mention are Shantinatha, Settara, Derama Setti Basti, Guru Basti, Kote and Vikrama Setti Basti.

Bhatkal: located 135 km from Karwar was the main port of Vijayanagar empire in the 16th century. The ancient town has temples of Vijayanagar style and many interesting Jain monuments. The 17th-century Hindu temple here in Vijayanagar style has animal carvings. 16 km away is the shore temple of Shri Murdeshwar. The temple attracts a lot of devotees and tourists.

Honnavar: situated 90 km from Karwar, has a Portuguese fort. There is also a fort in Basavaraja Durga Island, amidst the sea which can be reached by a sail upstream on river Sharavathi.

Ankola: Located 37 km south of Karwar, is a small town with 15th-century ruined walls of King Sarpamalika's fort and the ancient Shri Venketaraman Temple. Near the temple there are two giant wooden chariots carved with scenes from the Ramayana.

Giant Shiva statue at Murdeshwara

Murudeshwar: The Murudeshwar Temple in Uttara Kannada District of Karnataka now possesses at 249-feet Raja Gopura. The Murudeswar temple complex is renowned for the tallest idol of Lord Shiva in the world, which is 123 feet. The latest addition to the temple, thanks to Mr. RN Shetty an entrepreneur and philanthropist, is the Rajagopuram, which was opened on 12 April 2008. And is it the tallest Hindu Temple Gopuram in the World. If Gopuram can be considered as a unique ornate structure associated with Hindu Temples, then the Gopura of Murudeshwar Temple in Karnataka should be the tallest in the world.

The Rajagopuram of Murudeswar Temple has 21 floors, including the ground floor. The base measures 105 feet in length and 51 feet breadth. The gopura also possess a lift and visitors can go to the top and have an aerial view of the Arabian Sea and the statue of Lord Shiva. Another highlight is the life-size statues of two elephants at the base of the gopura.

World's tallest Siva idol: The highlights of Murudeshwar lie beyond its nice beach and rural flair. A breathtaking view awaits you when moving towards the little headland dividing the beach into north and south. There, on a little green hill, a 37 m (or 123 feet) Lord Shiva idol sits enthroned, surrounded by smaller, but not less impressive, statues illustrating moments of the Hindu mythology


Karwar has a number of beaches like Blue Lagoon Beach, Ladies Beach around it and Rabindranath Tagore described his experiences at Karwar beach in his poetry. Om beach, Murdeshwara are other beaches of Uttara Kannada Dist. The Nethrani Island near Murdeshwara. Basavaraja Durga near Honavar is an island fort raised by the Keladi Rulers during 16th and 17th centuries. It is surrounded by a strong fortification raised by gigantic laterite blocks and the hill has a flat top. Devagad and Kurmagad are two islands near Karwar. {Nirvana beach} at Kagal village of Kumta is a 5 km long beach in one stretch with white sand and transparent water in the month of December till March. The entire beach coast line is covered by Casuarina and coconut trees, unparallel to any beach of India, and has the big potential to develop beach tourism like the Baga-Calangute-Candolim beach of Goa. Government of Karnataka and tourism department has failed in tapping this potential, where as Goa has left Karnataka much behind in beach tourism. There is an urgent need to do something in this direction to allow beach tourism on the same model of Goa in the months of September to may.

South Karnataka

South Karnataka is a unique combination of spectacular vesara style Hoysala architecture, colossal Jain monuments, colonial buildings and palaces of the Kingdom of Mysore, impregnable fort at Chitradurga and densely forested wildlife sanctuaries that offer some of the best eco-tourism available in the country. Belur, Halebidu in Hassan District, Somnathpura in Mysore District, Belavadi, Kalasa and Amrithapura in Chikmagalur District, Balligavi in Shimoga District offer some of the best of Hoysala architecture dating from the 11th to 13th centuries, while Shravanabelagola in Hassan district and Kambadahalli in Mandya District have well known 10th-century Jain monuments. Scenic forests and the high density of wild animals of this region are a popular attraction for those interested in the wilder side of life. Bandipur National Park, Nagarahole, Biligirirangan Hills, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary and Bannerghatta national parks are a few popular places for jungle safaris.

The river Kaveri flows east from Kodagu District and along its way one finds important tourist destinations like Shivanasamudra and nearby Sivasamudram Falls,

Srirangapattana and Melkote etc. Mysuru, the cultural capital of the state is home to palaces, colonial buildings and cultural activities including Carnatic music, theatre. Bengaluru the capital is a cosmopilitian city with parks, pubs, restaurants, shopping and fast paced technology rich lifestyle.

Hill stations

See also: Chikkamagaluru district and Kodagu

The Hill stations in Karnataka are generally unexplored and more pristine than better known ones in South India.

  • Shola Grasslands in Kudremukh, Karnataka.
  • Agumbe, Shimoga District
  • Kodachadri, Shimoga District
  • Biligiriranga Hills, Chamarajanagar District
  • Baba Budangiri, Chikkamagaluru District
  • Kemmangundi, Chikkamagaluru District
  • Kudremukh, Chikkamagaluru District
  • Mullayanagiri
  • Pushpagiri (or Kumara Parvatha)
  • Nandi Hills, Chikkaballapur district
  • Kundadri
  • Tadiandamol
  • Talakaveri
  • Male Mahadeshwara Hills
  • Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta
  • Ambaragudda
  • Antara Gange
  • Savandurga
  • Kurinja
  • Yedakumeri
  • Siddara Betta
  • Bananthimari Betta
  • Skandagiri
  • Devarayanadurga
  • Madhugiri

National parks and wildlife

Kudremukh National Park

Karnataka in all has 21 wildlife sanctuaries and 5 National parks. Well known among them are Bandipur National Park in Mysore District, Bannerghatta National Park in Bangalore district, Nagarhole National Park in Mysore District and Kodagu district, Kudremukh National Park in Dakshina Kannada and Chickmagalur district, Dandeli & Anshi National Park in Uttara Kannada district, Gudavi and Mandegadde bird sanctuaries and Sharavati WLS in Sagara Taluk, Shimoga District, Biligirirangan Hills WLS in Chamarajanagar district, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary in Mandya district, Brahmagiri wildlife sanctuary and Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary in Kodagu district. Interior dry areas have their own unique wildlife.

There are twenty one wildlife sanctuaries and five national parks in all.

Recently, the government of India has proposed to the UNESCO to include important ecosystems in the Western Ghats as a World Heritage Site. Two subclusters of natural areas occurring in the list are entirely in the Karnataka region covering several wildlife sanctuaries and some reserve forests. Fragile and exotic ecosystems like Kudremukh NP, Brahmagiri WLS, Pushpagiri WLS, Agumbe, Talakaveri WLS, Someshvara WLS figure in this list. As such, the Western Ghats that run south-north through the Karnataka is considered as one among the twenty five bio-diversity hotspots of the world.

The Niligiri Biosphere Reserve (also a designated UNESCO Biosphere reserve) is located at the junction of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerela. Nagarahole National Park WLS and Bandipur National Park and Nugu WLS in Karnataka are included in this biosphere reserve.

The state is home to the largest concentration of Asian Elephants along Kabini River in Nagarahole and Bandipur parks. These two parks are also hold among the most viable population of the highly endangered Indian Tiger. Ranebennur Blackbuck sanctuary in Haveri district is home to one of the largest populations of blackbuck anywhere in India. The Doraji wildlife sanctuary and areas in Karnataka like Bellary district, Chitradurga are strongholds of the sloth bear.

Karnataka is home to more than 500 species of birds.

Wildlife sanctuaries

Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, near to Hubli-Dharwad (70 km), Uttara Kannada: spread over 834.16 km2, it is the second largest wildlife sanctuary in Karnataka and is contiguous with the Mahaveer sanctuary in Goa.

Ghataprabha Bird Sanctuary: small bird sanctuary incorporating the wetland along the river. It was established in 1974 and encompasses an area of 29 km².

Daroji Bear Sanctuary, 15 kilometers from Hampi.

Peacock sanctuary in Bankapura, Shiggon taluk: Bankpur Fort is the second sanctuary in India exclusively engaged in the conservation and breeding of peacocks. It is also home to a variety of other birds.

Ranebennur blackbuck sanctuary, Haveri district: declared a wildlife sanctuary on 17 June 1974, with a core area of 14.87 km and a buffer zone of 104.13 km for tourists. It is divided into three blocks namely Hulathi, Hunasikatti and Alageri for administrative purposes. The vegetation comprises mainly scrub forests and eucalyptus plantations. Other resident fauna include wild pigs, foxes, jackals and wolves.

Deva Raya Wildlife Sanctuary, near Hampi, Bellary District: A privately owned sanctuary, named after kings of the Vijayanagar Empire.

Attiveri Bird Sanctuary, near to Hubli-Dharwad, Uttara Kanada district: spread over an area of about 2.23 km2, the sanctuary is located in and around the Attiveri reservoir.

Anshi National Park, Uttara Kannada: A habitat for tigers, leopards and elephants, about 340 square kilometres in size. Adjoins the Dandeli wildlife sanctuary.

Magadi Bird Sanctuary, Shirahatti Taluk, Gadag District

Bhimagada Sanctuary, Belgaum District

Adichunchanagiri Wildlife Sanctuary:

Arabithittu Wildlife Sanctuary:

Biligiriranga Swamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary:

Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary:

Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary:

Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary:

Melukote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary: This is located in Mandya district

Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary:

Nugu Wildlife Sanctuary:* Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary:

Sharavathi Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Sagara Taluk:

Shettihalli Wildlife Sanctuary:

Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary: This is located in Udupi district

Talakaveri Wildlife Sanctuary: This is located in Kodagu district

Gudavi Bird Sanctuary: This is located in Shimoga district and is spread over 0.73 km². The tree species that dominate this sanctuary are Vitex leucoxylon and Phyllanthus polyphyllus. 191 species of birds are recorded here including white ibis, pheasant-tailed jacana, purplr moorhen and little grebe.

Mandagadde Bird Sanctuary

Kaggaladu Heronry: This is located in Tumkur district and is one of the largest painted storks sanctuary in South India. Some of the birds that nest here are painted storks, grey herons, pelicans, black stilts and ducks.

Kokkare Bellur

Bankapura Peacock Sanctuary: This is located in Haveri district and spread over an area of 139.10 acres (0.5629 km2). This sanctuary was created mainly for the conservation of peacocks.

Bonal Bird Sanctuary : This is located about 10 km from Shorapur city in Yadgir district.

Dams and Resorvoir in Karnataka

  • Almatti Dam across Krishna River
  • Basava Sagara Dam Lingsugur
  • Bennethora Reservoir, near Harsur, Gulbarga district
  • Bhadra Dam across Bhadra River
  • Chakra Dam on the Chakra river
  • Chikahole Dam, Chamarajnagar
  • Daroji Reservoir, near Hospet, Bellary district
  • Devarabelekere Reservoir, Davanagere district
  • Dhupdal Dam, River Ghataprabha: constructed in 1883 with a nearby inspection bunglow
  • Dhup Reservoir across Ghataprabha, Gokak
  • Gajanuru Dam across Tunga River
  • Gayathri Reservoir
  • Garura Dam Krishna River
  • Gersoppa dam /Sharawathi tailrace
  • Harangi Reservoir Kushalnagar, Kodagu Dist
  • Hemavathi Reservoir (Gorur Dam), Hassan Dist
  • Hidkal Jalashaya (Dam) across Ghataprabha
  • Iglooru Dam across shimsha river, Mandya Dist
  • Kabini Reservoir Beechanahalli, H.D Kote, Mysore Dist
  • Kadra Dam, Uttara Kannada district
  • Kanva Reservoir
  • Karanja Reservoir, Halikhed, Bidar District
  • Kempu Hole Dam
  • Kodasalli Dam
  • Krishna Raja Sagara Dam on Kaveri River
  • Lakkavali Dam across Bhadra river
  • Linganamakki Dam on Sharavathi River in Sagara Taluk
  • Manchinabeli Dam
  • Mani Reservoir, near Thirthahalli, Shimoga district
  • Munirabad, Koppal District
  • Marconhalli Dam, Kunigal, Tumkur Dist
  • Nagara Reservoir, near Nagara, Shimoga district
  • Narayanapur
  • Narayanpur Dam downstream of Almatti Dam
  • Nugu Dam, Beerwal, H.D.Kote, Mysore Dist
  • Naviltheertha Dam across Malaprabha
  • Thumbe Dam across Nethravathi river
  • Renuka Sagara Reservoir, Saundatti, Belgaum district
  • Savehaklu Reservoir, near Thirthahalli, Shimoga district
  • Shanti Sagara or Sulekere Reservoir, Chinnagiri, Davanagere district
  • Shirur Dam, near Ankalgi, Belgaum district
  • Supa Dam across Kali River, Ganeshgudi near Dandeli and Joida
  • Suvarnawathi Dam, Chamarajnagar
  • Talakalale Balancing Reservoir, near Sagara, Shimoga district
  • Taraka Reservoir, H.D.Kote, Mysore Dist
  • Tungabhadra Dam
  • Thippagondanahalli Reservoir
  • Vani Vilasa Sagara, (Marikanive), Hiriyur, Chitradurga Dist
  • Watehole Dam, near Arehalli, Hassan Dist
  • Yagachi Dam on the Yagachi River, Belur Taluka, Hassan District
  • Gayathri reservoir, Hiriyur taluk, Chitradurga Dist
  • Caves[edit]
  • Some well known caves in Karnataka are Yana caves and Kavala caves and Syntheri rocks in Uttara Kannada district, Sugriva's cave in Hampi holds similarity to the descriptions of 'Kishkinda' in the epic Ramayana, hundreds of caves in Basava Kalyana in Bidar District.
  • Ravana Phadi cave, Aihole in Karnataka
  • Aihole
  • Badami cave temples
  • Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple
  • Nellitheertha Cave Temple
  • Hulimavu Shiva cave temple
  • Pandava caves Mangalore
  • Savandurga
  • Kavala Caves
  • Anthargange



Gaganachukki Falls at Shivanasamudram

Karnataka has a number of waterfalls. Jog Falls of Sagara Taluk is one of the highest waterfalls in Asia. Some well known waterfalls are Varapoha Falls, Magod Falls, Lalgulli Falls, Sathodi Falls, Unchalli Falls, Lushington Falls, Shivaganga Falls, Ulavi Falls, Irupu Falls, Sivasamudram Falls near Shivanasamudra, Balmuri Falls, Gokak Falls, Abbe Falls, Achakanya Falls, Chunchanakatte Falls, Hebbe Falls, Kallathigiri Falls, Sogal Falls, Godachinamalki Falls etc.

Godachinamalki Falls, Hukkeri Taluk, Belgaum District

Gokak Falls, Ghataprabha River, near Gokak, Belgaum district: It drops from 52 metres over a sand-stone cliff in a gorge. It is known locally as "mini Niagara" Hydro Electric Power has been harnessed at the falls since 1887 to run a cotton mill. Temples near the falls date from Badami Chalukyas to later Chalukya times and Vijayanagara periods. A suspension bridge crosses the river.

Godachinamalki Falls, Markhandeya River, near Godachinamalki, Belgaum district.

Lushington Falls, Aghanashini River, Siddhapur Taluk: 116 meters in height and named after a district collector who discovered them in 1845

Magod Falls, Gangavathi River, 125 km from Karwar: 183 metres (600 feet) in height, consists of a series of cascades over cliffs

Varapoha Falls, Mahadayi River, in the Jamboti forest.