India > Karnataka > Karnataka Monuments
The monuments of Karnataka offer plenty to tourists and aficionados of history. They take you to the glory and grandeur of a bygone era. Now major tourist attractions, these monuments in Karnataka were built to serve specific purposes. If the forts were bulwarks against marauding enemies, the palaces were symbols of the opulence of royal families.
The Karnataka monuments have spawned tourism industries in their respective locations. People come from distant places to marvel at their architecture and to delve into the legacies of ancient kingdoms. If a tour to Karnataka is on the cards, don't miss the monuments of Karnataka. They will make you come here again and again.
Located in the Basavanagudi region of Bangalore, the Bull temple is one of the prominent landmarks of the city. The name Basavanagudi literally translates to mean "The Temple of the Bull". Dedicated to Nandi, the mount of Lord Shiva, the Bull temple was built by Kempe Gowda in the 16th century. The majestic structure of Nandi, 15 feet tall and over 20 feet long, has been carved out of a single granite rock.
Legends abound regarding the origin of the magnificent bull carved in a crouching position. The surrounding area of the temple was inhabited by groundnut growing farmers and a bull used to graze on the flourishing groundnut crop. Enraged at the loss caused by the bull, a farmer hit the bull with a club which was transformed into a stone. Stunned by this event, the worried farmers built a temple to appease the bull of Lord Shiva, Nandi.
Thus originated the practice of farmers offering their first crop of groundnut as an offering to the bull. The occasion gradually metamorphosed into the famous the Kadalekayi Parishe (The Groundnut fair), which is held in the month of November. Every year, during the fair farmers offer their first crop of groundnut to the sacred bull of the temple.
A 17th Century inscription at the base of the structure mentions about a stream called Vrishabhavathi that is believed to have originated here seven or eight decades ago.
Located on a hilly slope atop a flight of about 200 steps, the Badami cave temple complex comprises four ancient rock-cut caves. Of the four temples, three are Brahmanical temples while the fourth one is a Jain cave.
The earliest of the Badami caves, the first cave was probably carved way back in 578 AD. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this cave houses a magnificent sculpture of the 18-armed Lord Nataraja (Dancing Shiva), resplendent in 81 different Mudras or hand movements. One also comes across sculptures of the deities of Harihara (half-Vishnu, half-Siva), their consorts Lakshmi and Parvati and, and Ardhanarishwar. The square shaped sanctum hollowed in the control back wall enshrines the Shiva-linga.
The presiding deity of the second cave temple of Badami is Lord Vishnu. The Lord is depicted in his various incarnations, prominent among which are the incarnations of Varaha (boar) and Vamana (dwarf). The ceiling is endowed with carvings of Vishnu in eternal sleep, Shiva, Brahma and the 8 Dikpals, the presiding deities of the 8 directions.
The grandest among the Badami caves, the third cave is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This 70 feet wide cave boasts of a profusion of sculptures of Vishnu in different avatars, Narasimha (Vishnu as Man-Lion), Varaha, Harihara (Shiva Vishnu) and as Trivikrama. The elegantly decorated cave embodies the sculptural dexterity of ancient craftsmen.
The solitary Jain cave among the lot, the construction of this cave achieved completion 100 years after that of the other three caves. The cave enshrines a number of statues of the Jain Tirthankaras in different postures. While Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, is depicted in a sitting posture, Tirthankara Parshwanatha is carved with a serpent at his feet.
Originally built in 8th century and strengthened and renovated in 1428 by Sultan Ahmad Shah Bahamani, the Bidar fort boasts of a dominating presence in the Bidar landscape. Nestled inside this moated fort is the royal town dotted with crumbling ruins of the bastions and gates, royal baths and kitchens, audience halls, and pleasure pavilions.
Among the congregation of royal palaces, the Rangin Mahal stands out for its sheer elegance and exquisite carvings. Used as the royal residence, this magnificent palace was built by Ali Shah Barid in the 16th century. This exquisite palace is renowned for the profusion of beautiful wood carvings, fascinating glazed tile mosaics and mother-of-pearl decorations which bear the hallmarks of Persian architecture.
The Solah Khamba Mosque, built in 1327, is another prominent structure inside the fort. One of the largest mosques in India, the Solah Khamba mosque presents an imposing picture with its massive circular columns. Other attractions include the Gagan Mahal, the Diwan-E-Am (the public Audience Hall) where the fabulous turquoise throne once rested, the Takhat Mahal, the Royal Pavilion, and the Naubat Khana.
The Belgaum fort is a major tourist attraction in Belgaum. Belgaum was ruled by a number of dynasties and as such the fort has undergone many additions and renovations throughout its existence. The original mud and stone structure of the fort was built by the Ratta Dynasty in the 13th century but it was Yakub Ali Khan of the Bijapur Sultanate who deserves credit for transforming the fort into an invincible fortress surrounded by a deep moat, huge walls, bastions, battlements and parapets.
One of the oldest forts in Karnataka, the Belgaum fort served as a bulwark against the attacks of invading armies. It steadfastly held fort as Belgaum played host to a multitude of dynasties, from the Rattas, the Vijayanagar emperors, Bijapur Sultans, Marathas and finally the British. During the freedom movement of India, Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned here.
The Belgaum fort is also an embodiment of the legacy of religious tolerance in Belgaum. Nestled within the ramparts of the fort are a number sacred shrines pertaining to different religions. The succession of rulers that held sway at the fort took an indulgent view of the myriad of holy sites. At the entrance, two shrines devoted to Ganapathi and Durga exist in harmony with the two ancient mosques, the Safa Masjid and the Jamia Masjid
Gol Gumbaz is the mausoleum of Muhammad Adil Shah (1627 -56), the seventh ruler of the Adil Shahi dynasty. A fine specimen of Adil Shahi architecture, this mammoth tomb is a dominant landmark of Bijapur. The construction of the Gol Gumbaz was completed in 1659, after 20 years of meticulous craftsmanship.
The chief attraction of the mausoleum is its central dome, which is second in size only to the dome of St Peter's Basilica in Rome and stands unsupported by any pillars. Another astonishing facet of the Golgumbaz is its whispering gallery, which is an acoustic marvel. The gallery has been designed in such a way that the tick of a watch or the rustle of paper can be heard across a distance of 37m and the faintest sound is echoed eleven times over.
The tombs of Sultan Adil Shah, his two wives, his mistress Ramba, his daughter and grandson are located under the central dome. The octagonal turrets which project at an angle and the huge bracketed cornic below the parapet, are important features of this monument. From the gallery around the dome, which can be reached by climbing up the turret passages, one can have a fabulous view of the town.
The massive Gulbarga fort is part of the earliest examples of Islamic architecture in Karnataka spawned by the Bahmani Sultanate. The fort was originally built by Raja Gulchand, a feudatory of the Orangal Kakatiyas. As Gulbarga gained prominence as the Bahmani capital, the fort was fortified by Alauddin Bahman with a deep moat and massive walls.
Ensconced within the confines of the fort are a number of ancient structures including large buildings, mosques, temples, stables, ammunition dumps, carriages, towers, guns, and several beautiful courtyards. The bustling infrastructure of the Gulbarga fort helped as it stood guard against invading armies and raiding marauders. Even though Vijayanagara king Krishnadevaraya ravaged the structure it was subsequently rebuilt by Adil Shah.
The once majestic Gulbarga fort now stands as a dilapidated structure with the structures inside having crumbled into ruins. Owing to neglect on part of the authorities, the fort now presents a desolate and forlorn picture. Several illegal constructions mar the beauty of the fort and the encircling moat is filled with garbage.
Once the majestic capital of the powerful Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi is now a ruined city of ancient palaces and forts. Founded by Harihara and Bukka in 1336, the landscape of Hampi was dotted with magnificent palaces, sacred temples, massive fortifications, baths, markets, pavilions, and stables for royal elephants. The Vijayanagara kings were great patrons of art and Hampi became the epicenter of a flourishing indigenous culture.
All of these were gradually reduced to rubble as the Empire fell to the Muslim invaders of North India in 1565 after the disastrous Battle of Talikota. The victors mercilessly pillaged this capital city and the ruins were left to tell the tale of the bygone era. Now declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, tourists and enthusiastic backpackers travel to Hampi in large numbers.
The sprawling city was planned in such a way that the important structures are located in two areas, referred to as the Royal Centre and the Sacred Centre. The Royal Centre contains remnants of opulent palaces, baths, pavilions, royal stables, while the Sacred Centre locates holy temples. The Sacred Centre is situated on the northern edge of the city along the banks of the holy Tungabhadra River.
The Tungabhadra Dam harnesses the waters of the Tungabhadra River. At the base of the dam is a garden styled along Japanese lines.
How to Reach Hampi
The ruined city of Hampi is located in the Bellary district of Karnataka. For the history-buffs as well as those who have an interest in architecture, a visit to this place is a must, if they are planning a trip to Karnataka. Considering the large rush of tourists that the city experiences every year
The Pattabhirama Temple is a major pilgrimage center in the ruined city of Hampi. Along with the Virupaksha and Vitthala temples, the Pattabhirama temple embodies the prolific temple-building ventures of the Vijayanagara rulers.
The majestic Virupaksha temple stands proudly amidst the ruins of Hampi. While the city of Hampi was pillaged by marauding invaders, the Virupaksha temple stood erect and worship continued throughout the ages. The deity of Virupaksheshwara or Pampapathi, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, is worshipped here.
The majestic Virupaksha temple stands proudly amidst the ruins of Hampi, the erstwhile capital of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire. The temple predates the Vijayanagara period and underwent additions and renovations during the Chalukyan and Hoysala dynasties.
The weather in Hampi is tropical in nature. March, April, May and June comprise of the summer months in Hampi, which are generally hot and dry, with peak temperatures touching 440 C. The minimum temperature around this time hovers somewhere around 290 C. With the advent of the rainy season in July, incessant rains made it impossible to venture outside.
One of the holiest Jain pilgrimages, Shravanabelagola is synonymous with the colossal monolithic statue of Jain saint Lord Gomateshwara. Shravanabelagola occupies a significant place in the Jain legacy of Karnataka, for being the place where Chandragupta, the founder of the Mauryan dynasty, became a Jain ascetic after relinquishing his throne. The place where Chandragupta breathed his last was named Chandragiri.
The gigantic statue of Lord Gomateshwara has been the piece de resistance among a multitude of Jain architectures in Sravanabelagola.
The statue, created around 983 AD by Chamundaraya, a general and minister of the Ganga King Rachamatta, stands atop the Indragiri hill and at a height of 18 meters, is regarded the tallest monolithic statue in the world.
During the auspicious event of Mahamastakabhisheka, held in Sravanbelagola once in 12 years, attracts a huge number of devout
worshippers from all over the world. As part of the ceremonies that last for about 20 days, the image of Bahubali or Gomateshwara is anointed with 1008 kalashas (painted earthen pots) of water, milk, coconut water, clarified butter, saffron, jaggery, bananas, sandal paste and marigold flowers.
With its majestic architecture and royal aura, the Mysore palace is the crown jewel of Mysore, the city of palaces. The official residence of the Woodeyar dynasty, the Mysore palace was first built in the 14th century. After being ravaged by fire and lightning twice, the present structure came up in 1912 courtesy the design of British architect Henry Irwin.
Irwin built the Mysore palace in the Indo-Saracenic style, incorporating the design elements of Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic styles of architecture. The three-storied stone building of fine gray granite with deep pink marble domes features domes, turrets, arches, and colonnades ornated with beautiful carvings.
Among the beautiful rooms of the palace, the elegantly designed Amba Vilasa or Diwan-E-Khas is a treat to the eye and was used by the king for private audience. The Kalyana Mantapa or Marriage Hall with its chandeliers and stained Belgian glass ceiling arranged in peacock designs is another main attraction. The magnificent jewel-studded golden throne, made of 200kgs of pure gold, is displayed during the Dasara festival.
The Mysore palace is illuminated on Sundays, national holidays and state festivals from 7:00 p.m. to 8 p.m. The timings are from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the Dasara festival.