Monuments of Karnataka are the witness of its rich culture and tradition. It is the land that experienced some of the great ancient dynasties of India and hosts numerous spots of its long history for tourists. Apart from the dense forests, beautiful beaches and hills this state consist a number of ancient sculptured temple monuments and heritage monuments.
Karnataka is the state which ranks second highest for its nationally protected monuments. The State Directorate of Archaeology and Museums protects its 752 monuments whereas a lot of monuments are in the queue to receive protection.
Table of Content
Popular Historical Monuments of Karnataka
- Bangalore Palace
- Mysore Palace
- Gol Gumbaz
- Raichur Fort
- Yellur fort
The Bangalore Palace was started in 1862 and completed in the year 1944. It is designed on the lines of the Windsor Castle in England and was constructed by Rev. Garrett. Rev. Garrett was the principal of the Central High School in Bangalore, which is now known as the Central College.
In 1884, Chamaraja Wodeyar, the Maharaja of Mysore, bought this palace. This palace is located in the heart of the city of Bangalore and is encircled with beautiful gardens. Primarily made of wood, the Bangalore Palace is famed for its carvings and paintings. At present, it is owned by the descendant of the royal family of Mysore, Srikanta Datta Narshimharaja Wadiyar.
The palace ground is now used for holding musical concerts and other public events. Several rock bands and rock stars have performed here like the Black Eyed Peas, Sting, Scorpions, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Bryan Adams and Iron Maiden.
The palace was built in the Tudor style architecture with impressive towers, battlements and turrets. The interiors of the palace were decorated with woodcarvings, floral motifs, cornices and relief paintings on the ceiling. The furniture of the palace was neo-classical, Victorian and Edwardian in style and consisted of thirty-five rooms with most of them being bedrooms.
The Mysore Palace, once the residence of the Maharajas of Mysore is one of the largest palaces of its kind in India and one of the most splendid. The Mysore Palace dominates the skyline of Mysore and it has beautifully designed square towers at cardinal points, covered with domes.
It is a three-storied structure, 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. The tastefully decorated and intricately carved doors open into luxuriously decorated rooms.
Henry Irwin, the British consultant architect of Madras state, designed it. The palace was originally built of wood, which got burnt down in 1897 AD and was rebuilt in 1912 AD, by the twenty-fourth Wodeyar Raja.
Mysore Palace Intricately carved doors, the golden howdah (elephant seat), paintings as well as the fabulous, jewel encrusted golden throne (displayed during Dussehra) are amongst the palaces other treasures. The walled palace complex houses the Residential Museum (incorporating some of the Palaces living quarters), temples and shrines including the Shwetha Varahaswamy temple.
The palace is illuminated on Sundays, Public Holidays as well as during the Dussehra Celebrations when 97,000 electric bulbs are used to illuminate it.
From atop the Matanga Hill at daybreak, Hampi is every inch the capital city of a golden empire. Though what lies before are but the bones of an enchantress, who once had the whole world in her sway, Hampi is far from what one would call ruins. Once visited by the Portuguese, Arabs, Persians and Orientals, the capital city of Vijayanagara, has only grown in popularity across the centuries.
And no surprise that! Every bend in the road is punctuated by a 14th century, if not older, temple; perched on nearly every hillock is a four-pillared canopy-like monument and its entire horizon, pixilated by huge gestalt-ish boulders. The regal 9-storey tall gopura of the Virupaksha Temple, where Siva is believed to have married Parvati, watches over the city like a specially-appointed god – its memory of magnificence and grandeur forever etched in stone.
Hampi gives an impression of preserving itself for the past to resume. The wedding ceremony of Shiva and Parvati is celebrated every year at the Virupaksha Temple, as it has been for centuries. The long bazaar avenues stand in expectant silence, as if waiting for that kind of commerce to resume, where diamonds and precious stones were used as currency.
In the evenings, like a zillion dusks before, the dying rays of the sun turn the entire Vijaya Vittala Temple to gold; a sight which is as much a wonder as the temple’s 56 musical pillars that produce the sounds of 56 different musical instruments.
The Royal Enclosure waits in readiness for its sandalwood halls to be returned, the massive elephant stables, the Lotus Mahal – shaped like a lotus blossoming in the sun, the Hazararama Palace temple with intricate stories carved over its every side and the Mahanavmi Dibba or the Victory Platform still majestic and proud await to fall back into routine.
The sheer detail of the carvings and the number of sculptures speak of a race of artisans that weren’t quite done in their business of outdoing each other in craftsmanship. Monolithic structures carved out of a single rock-the imposing Lakshmi Narasimha, the majestic Stone Chariot, the massive Ganesha statues, the Badavilinga are proof of the brilliance that was once envied.
Cross the Tungabadra River over to the ancient capital of Anegundi and there are leisurely roads to traverse, myths to chase and boulders to scale and dive off, into the waiting arms of the Sanapur Lake. Hampi has challenged time, survived the centuries and lived to tell the tale. And, they say, if you listen carefully enough, you might learn a thing or two on how to do the same.
Halebeedu, before it became Halebeedu or the destroyed city, was the second capital of the Hoysalas and went by the name Dwarasamudra. Today, the Hoysaleshwara Temple, though the sole survivor of all the grandeur that once was, hitherto the plunder of successive invaders, still tells a mean tale.
Karnatakas Golden Triangle is a pilgrimage of every sort. In this day and age of TV evangelists and revival movements, to see human devotion manifested by such immeasurable beauty and sheer workmanship that has survived centuries, makes the journey from Belur to Halebeedu and to Shravanabelagola a litany of a different sort.
Prayer might be the last thing on your mind as you marvel at that intricacy of the carvings at the Chennakesava Temple or while you absentmindedly accept the prasad at the Hoysalaeshwara Temple, and it would take a really devout pilgrim to focus on god while panting and wheezing up the 600-odd step climb to Shravanabelagola – but nevertheless, youre following the path a pilgrim set towards god. If not anything else, it awakens you to the god in you and opens your mind to the extent of human creation.
Tens of thousands carvings representing action-packed sequences from the Hindu myths chipped from black soapstone cover the length and breadth of the Chennakesava Temple. As you go from one magical carving to the next, along the temples star shaped platform in almost-reverent wonder, youre unwitting tracing the path of the pradakshana like the devout Hoysalas once did.
The same applies to the Hoyasaleshwara Temple at Haleebedu – the erstwhile capital of the Hoysalas – that again is made out of black soapstone, but with bigger and more intricate sculptures. Your heart breaks with your guides, when he tells you about the fall of Haleebedu – back then known as Dwarasamudra – at the hands of Alauddin Kiljis and Muhammad Tughlaks armies, like it was just yesterday.
Aihole known as the cradle of temple architecture, Aihole is an experience of time travelling, by all means. A quiet village where centuries-old temples have been let alone to grow old in peace, history rests in equanimity at this former capital of the Badami Chalukyas. Temples from the fifth century to the fourteenth century stand no further than a few yards from another, taking you through a fascinating, evolutionary passage of art and architecture.
The rock-cut Hindu temple of Ravana Phadi in Aihole, Karnataka, was made during 550 AD. The temple of Ravana Phadi was once decorated with stunning paintings and artworks, but due to lack of proper preservation, only remnants of paintings on ceiling still remains.
Aihole, which used to the capital during the rule of Chalukya dynasty, consists of 125 temples, of which, most are rock-cut Hindu temples. The Ravana Phadi temple is cut in rock, and Lord Shiva is worshipped in the temple.
Once the capital city of the Hoysala dynasty, Belur is home to the Chennakesava Temple known as the ‘jewel in stone’ – a title it’s held unsurpassed since 1116 AD. With nearly ten thousand intricately carved sculptures that bring to life, stories from the Hindu myths and routine from the day and age of the Hoysalas, this temple dedicated to the “beautiful” avatar of Vishnu, is indeed the epitome of beauty.
The most famous monument in Bijapur is the Gol Gumbaz, a mausoleum of Muhammad Adil Shah II (1627-57). It is the largest and most conspicuous building in Bijapur and one of the most celebrated in India. The Gumbaz was built during the peak of architectural prowess of the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur, probably in an attempt to outdo the spectacular tomb of Ibrahim Adil Shah II, the Father of Adil Shah II.
The monument was constructed in 1659 by a master builder, Yaqut of Dabul. However the building could not be completed according to plan, perhaps because construction started towards the end of Adil Shah`s reign. It covers an area of 18,225 square feet which is bigger than the better known Pantheon in Rome which is 14,996 square feet. Undoubtedly, it is one of the largest single chamber structures in the world.
The Bidar Fort is one of the most impressive monuments dotting the landscape of Bidar, Karnataka. It was originally constructed by the rulers of the Chalukya dynasty in the eight century AD and later renovated by succeeding dynasties. The fort reached the height of its architectural glory under the Mughal dynasty.
Situated at a height of 2200 feet, the Bidar fort provides a picturesque view from the top overlooking the Manjira River Valley.
Bidar-Fort The construction of the fort is a marvel to behold. It has been built of local laterite and trap stone of a circumference of 9-5 km (6 miles). The fort is protected on the North and the East by a steep hillside, and in the South and West by a triple moat with the intervening hedges hewn from solid rock.
The fortifications are extremely strong with thirty-seven bastions some of which still have a heavy ordinance. The fort has a total of seven gateways apart from the main entrance from the city.
The main gateway was constructed by Sultan Ahmad Shah Wali of the Bahamani dynasty in the year 1429. The other seven gateways are the Mandu Darwaza, Kalmadgi Darwaza, the Delhi Darwaza, Kalyan Darwaza, Karnatak Darwaza and the postern and side gate. Long serpentine tunnels lead to the Eastern gateways
Raichur Fort is one of the major monuments of Karnataka. It is located in the old town of Raichur midway between the Krishna River and Tungabhadra River. When Bijapur secured independence in 1489, Raichur was its first capital. The fort is situated on top of the hill that bounds Raichur.
The Raichur Fort was built in 1294 by the rulers of the Kakatiya dynasty of Warangal. According to an inscription on a slab in the Western wall, it was built by Raja Vitthala on the orders of the Raja Gore Gangayya Raddivaru, the minister of the Kakatiya Queen Rudramani Devi.
It is a picturesque sight rising 290 feet above the plain with double lines of fortification. Both Hindu, as well as Muslim influences, can be seen in the construction of the fort. The inner walls which have been constructed with huge blocks of stones which are held together without any cementing material in between them, are said to be the work of the Hindus. In the Hindu fortification, there are two gateways- the Sailani Darwaza in the West and the Sikandari Darwaza in the East.
The Sikandari Darwaza formed the eastern entrance of the Hindu fortifications. There are two arched entrances in the gateway- one facing the west and the other facing south. The one facing east, once crowned with a battlemented parapet is now in a ruined state. The Sailani Darwaza draws its name from the name of a saint, Pir Sailani Shah.
Yellur fort in Karnataka is situated in the Yellur village of Belgaum. Its real name is Rajhansgad but derives its name from being in proximity to Yellur village. It is about 19.4 kilometres from Belgaum via the National Highway No 4A. It is accessible via two wheelers only to a certain extent that is only till the base of the mountain. The further route has to be covered via foot. This also makes for a great place to go trekking owing to its mountainous nature. This fort is attracted by all the nature lovers and adventure lovers in Belgaum.
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.
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 Nayak Palegars.
It has 19 gateways, 38 posterior entrances, a palace, a mosque, granaries, oil pits, four secret entrances, and water tanks. Amidst rocky surroundings inside the fort complex on the hill are many temples. Ekanatha Temple and Chandravalli Caves are worth visiting. The Hidimbeshwara Temple is the oldest temple on the site. Other places of tourist interest in Chitradurga district are Brahmagiri, Vanivalas Sagar, Nayakanakatte, Jogimatti, Jattinga and Rameswara.
The once capital of the Ganga Kingdom is also a place worth exploring. Visit the famous Kolaramma Temple, originally built by the Gangas and later renovated by the Cholas. Some of the other spots to visit here are the Someshwara Temple built during the Hoysala period, a shrine with its attractive individual stucco figures of Sapta Matrikas, and the Makbara with the grave of Haider Alis relatives.
Apart from temples, there are beautiful hillocks overlooking the town of Kolar, providing ideal trekking tracks for adventure enthusiasts. Kolar is reputed for its country blanket (Kambli).