Kaleidoscope of Culture and Crafts
Called as Karu'nadu (elevated land) in ancient times, Karnataka is made up of a series of uplands with an average height of 610 metres above sea level. The Baba Budan range in the western ghats has one of the highest mountain peaks between the Himalayas and the Nilgiris. And boasting of one of the wettest regions in India at Agumbe are the western ghats rich in teak and rosewood as also the world famous sandalwood. These wildly beautiful locales where tuskers still thrive have paved the way for the legendary craftsmanship of Karnataka in sandalwood, rosewood and ivory. Swift flowing rivers criss-cross to create a network of water sources and at many a place cascade down majestically to form an awesome splendour.
The course of Karnataka's history and culture takes us back to the pre-historic times. The earliest find of the Stone Age period in India was a hand axe at Lingasugur in Raichur district. The Ashokan rock edicts found in the state indicate that major parts of Northern Karnataka were under the mauryas. Chandragupta Maurya, the great Indian emperor, abdicated the throne and embraced Jainism at Sravanabelagola. Adding new spiritual ethos of the land, many great dynasties left their imprint upon the aesthetic development of Karnataka's art forms. Prominent among them were the Chalukyas, the Hoysalas and the mighty Vijayanagara Empire. The Chalukyans built some of the very early Hindu temples in India, at Badami in Northern Karnataka, setting the trend and the style for structural temples. Aihole turned up as an experimental base for the dynamic creations of architects. The Hoysalas who ruled from the 11th to the 13th century chiselled their way into the pages of glory by building more than 150 temples, each a marvel upon marvel of sculptural skill. The amazing dexterity and fluidity of expressions at Somnathpur, Halebid and Belur open themselves to the wide eyed wonder of our eyes. Vijayanagara, the greatest of all medieval Hindu empires and one of the greatest the world over, fostered the developmen t of intellectual pursuits and fine arts. Under the enlightened rule of Krish-nadevaraya, the empire rose to its zenith and drew rave appreciations from foreign travellers who came to the court of the king. Abdur Razaaq the Persian ambassador had remarked, "The eye of the pupil has never seen a place like it and the ear of intelligence has never been in- formed that there existed any- thing to equal it in the world". The Vijayanagar empire with its capital at Hampi fell a victim to the marauding army of the Deccan Sultan in 1565 A.D. As a consequence of this, Bijapur became the most important city of the region. This city is a land of monuments and perhaps no other city except Delhi has as many monuments as Bijapur. The Bahmani Shahis and the Adilshahis of Bijapur have played a notable part in the history of Karnataka by their contribution to the field of art and architecture and also by their propagation of Islam in the state.
Hyder Ali and his valiant son Tipu Sultan are notable figures in the history of the land. They expanded the Mysore kingdom on an unprecedented scale and by their resistance against the British, became personages of world fame. Tipu was a great scholar and a lover of literature. His artistic pursuits were also many and he made rich gifts to the Hindu temples. The Tiger of Karnataka was killed in ·1799' A.D., and the Mysore throne was handed over to the'· Odeyars.
The whole of Karnataka came under the control of the British in the beginning of the 19th Century. The new state was named as new Mysore and the Maharaja of Mysore was appointed the Governor by In- dependent India. This unified state was renamed as Karnataka on November 1, 1973.
The varied and tumultuous history coupled with architectural excellence and religious fervour have turned Karnataka into a tourist bonanza. Nature has also not lagged behind in bestowing her bounties on the land with the result Karnataka abounds in awe-inspiring waterfalls, exotic beaches, wildly beautiful thick forests and game sanctuaries. The state also offers excellent facilities for the trekkers, the anglers and the golfers. In short, it caters to every need of the tourists.
Crafts:- Karnataka is famous for its aesthetic craftsmanship in Sandalwood and Rosewood. Eye-catching items of furniture, inlay work, coffee tables, wall hangings etc. are worthwhile purchases. Rich silks, wooden toys, leather puppets; Bidriware and other artefacts make ideal mementoes.
Theatre:- Karnataka's folk theatre has an ancient and rich tradition, the two principal forms being Yakshagana and the puppet theatre. Yak- shagana, a powerful and vibrant spectacle is somewhat similar to Kathakali tradition of Kerala in the choice of its elaborate costumes and vigorous dancing.
Bhootada Kunita (Dance of the Divine Cult), Nagamandala and the demon dance are some quaint rituals prevalent only in Dakshina Kannada coastal area and they embody the profound drama of life.
Govt. of India Tourist Office, K.F.C. Building, 48 Church Street, Bangalore-560 001 Ph: 5585417. Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation Limited 10/4, Kasturba Road, Bangalore-560 001
Termed as the fastest growing city of India, hailed as an air-conditioned city and regarded as the garden city, Bangalore delights visitors with its charm and beauty. Its salubrious climate complements the beautifully laid out parks and gardens and pays a fitting tribute to the gracious lifestyle of the populace.
Bangalore which literally means' the town of baked beans was founded by Kempegowda, a chieftain of the Vijayanagar empire, around the 16th century. He built four towers in the four directions to specify its boundaries. However Ban- galore has far exceeded these limits, since.
Kempe Gowda Circle, popularly called Majestic, with its shopping areas, numerous cinemas, hotels and restaurants and the railway and bus stations (situated at the periphery of K.G. Circle, Opposite to each other) is the focus of attention of every visitor to Bangalore.
The affluent society, the yuppies and the hep crowd would stalk along the area bounded by M.G. Road, Brigade Road, Residency Road and St Marks Road. This area is distant 3-4 km from Majestic.
The Old part of the city is south of the railway station, around city market.
Places of interest:
Vidhana Soudha: This magnificent building is modem Bangalore's well-known landmark. Built in Neo- Dravidian style using solid granite, it was the brainchild of late Shri K. Hanumanthaiah, a former chief minister of the erstwhile Mysore state. The state secretariat and the legislatures are housed in this five storey building. The entrance is an ornately carved sandalwood door.
Cubbon Park: This sprawling aesthetically laid out park is across the Vidhana Soudha and covers an area of 300 acres. Conceived by Lord Cubbon in 1864, it is an oasis of tranquility amidst the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. The red Gothic structure of the city's High Court against the back drop of the green of the Cubbon Park is a riot of colours. Beside this building, the public library with its attractive rose garden, the Jawahar Bal Bhavan with its bumper attractions for the children are also located in the park. The Bal Bhavan is closed on Mondays and 2nd Tuesdays.
Lalbagh: This famous botanical garden was laid out by Hyder Ali and developed by his son Tipu Sultan. One of the towers set up by Kempegowda can be seen on a hillock here. Huge old trees with their canopy of green foliage and rare species of plants vie for attention along with the flaming red of the Gulmohar trees. The Glass House where flower shows are held twice a year is also impressive. Lalbagh has an attractive floral clock also.
Plant lovers can buy rose plants, crotons and other exotic shrubs and plants at bargain prices from the Horticultural Society situated near the Double Road gate.
Bull Temple: Kempegowda, the founder of the city is credited with the construction of this temple which has a mammoth bull carved out of a single rock. It is an example of the Dravidian style of architecture.
Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple: Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is a natural cave born out of a monolithic stone. On January 14th every year, a ray of sunlight passes through an arch between the horns of a stone bull outside the temple and lights up the idol inside - a testimony to the architectural excellence combined with a thorough knowledge of astronomy possessed by the builders of the temple.
Tipu's Palace: Built in 1791 A.D., as a summer palace by Tipu Sultan, it has an attractive wooden interior.
Government Museum: Some rare collections of sculptures, coins and inscriptions as also some splendid displays of art are exhibited here. The museum faces the Kasturba Road. Wednesday is the weekly holiday.
Ulsoor Lake: The tranquil Ulsoor lake dotted with picturesque little islets is situated in the Cantonment area. It has facilities for boating. Open from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M.
Bangalore offers a wide range of hotels, restaurants, bars and shopping arcades.
The Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation conducts guided tours around the city.
Within easy reach:-
Whitefield (16 kms): This quiet, peaceful village has acquired fame on account of 'Brindavan' Ashram of Sri Satya Sai Baba, a holyman said to possess superhuman powers.
Bannerghatta National Park (22 kms): 104 sq.kms of wild life habitation on the out- skirts of the city, the Banner-ghatta National Park has a lion safari as also crocodile and snake farms. Children will enjoy it.
Mutyala Madavu (45 kms): Tiny drops of water cascading down a height of 300 feet appear pearl like in the sunshine and offer an enjoyable picnic spot.
Nandi Hills (60 kms): This historic hill station at a distance of 60 kms from Bangalore has the ruins of Tipu's fortress. Built as a fortification in the wars against the Marathas and the British, one can see the embrasures and loopholes for placing cannons in the fort. But the beautiful locale and the enchanting atmosphere belie the character of the ;ort and have turned Nandi Hills into a popular hill resort. There are three bridle paths leading to the top offering interesting trekking. Towns of antiquity dot its base.
How to get there:
KSTDC & KSRTC buses operate to Nandi Hills from Bangalore.
Mekedatu (Goat's leap) (98 km): A narrow gorge where a goat can leap across the river Cauvery has created an ideal picnic spot. Downstream where Cauvery mingles with the river Arkavathi stands a temple dedicated to Sangameshwara.
Shivaganga (56 kms): There is a natural spring named 'Pathala Ganga' at Shivaganga which is at a height of about 4500 ft above sea level. Offers a panoramic view from the top. The two main shrines are the Gangadhareswara Cave temple and Honnadevi Temple. This place is associated with Shanthala, wife of the Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana.
Devarayana Durga (79 kms): Extensive forests, lovely countryside and hill top temples make this hill an ideal place for trekking. Nearby are a natural spring 'Namada Chilume' and a temple dedicated to Ugra Narasimha.
Ghati Subramanya: There is an ancient temple of Lord Subramanya in this pilgrim centre which is 52 kms from Bangalore.
Talakad (132 kms), Kolar Gold Field (98 kms), Kanva Reservoir (69 kms) Vidurashwatha (88 kms) are the other places of tourist interest.
How to get there:
Bangalore is well connected by air to all the major cities of India (Madras, Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Mangalore, Goa and Belgaum).
There are regular train ser- vices to Madras (daily 4 trains) (journey about 7 hours) To Mysore 7 trains daily (journey about three and half hours); Calcutta (twice weekly) New Delhi (daily) journey 42 hours (Rajdhani 35 Hrs). The Ban- galore city railway station and Bangalore city bus station are located opposite to each other. Railway enquiry Ph: 131, 132.
Auto Rickshaws: These are the best and the convenient means of transport within the city. These are metered and can carry upto three passengers. Extra charges are levied for luggage and waiting. One and a half times the meter fare is levied during night times.
Taxis: Taxis are not popular in Bangalore. However tourists can hire taxis through the Hotel reception / Travel Counters.
Bangalore Transport Services (B.T.S.) Phone 2872090 The main terminus for city services is located opposite to City Railway Station. Buses to all extensions of the city are operated from here. The other two bus terminals are Shivajinagar and City Market.
Bangalore Bus Station (out station) Phone: 2873377, 2871261: This Bus Station is situated just opposite to City Railway Station. Regular and Super Deluxe Buses are operated to all the towns and cities in Karnataka and also to neighbouring states (Madras, Goa, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh). Various other State Government Transport services are also available from this Bus Station.
Airport: Bangalore has only a domestic airport, which is 15 kms from the city. Indian Air- lines operates daily flights to Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Mangalore, Hyderabad, Goa (Airport Enquiry Ph: 564433) Indian Airlines city office is located at KHB Buildings, (next to Cauvery Bhavan) on KG. Road (Phone: 2211914).
Where to Stay:
Apart from the Ashok Radisson, Taj Residency, West End, Windsor Manor and the Oberoi Hotels which are all luxury hotels, there are several hotels in Bangalore offering decent boarding and lodging.
The Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) operates sightseeing trips within Ban- galore city.
Things to buy:
The Cauvery Arts & Crafts Emporium at 23 M.G. Road, stocks a wide range of finely handcrafted tables, carvings (mostly in Sandalwood), jewellery, Ceramics, Carpets and joss sticks. Although a bit pricey some of the best craft work in India are to be found here. The Emporium staff are good at packing and mailing. Another equally good place to pick up handcrafted items is the Cottage Arts at 52 M.G. Road, at the junction of Brigade Road and M.G. Road. The Government Emporium behind Symphony Theatre stocks quality silk saris.
The Cauvery Arts and Crafts Emporium with its main outlet on M.G. Road is the ideal place to buy all the handicrafts that Karnataka has to offer. There are several well- known shops selling silks and sarees.
The Royal city, the jewel of Karnataka, the sandalwood city, Mysore is a mammoth, magnificent tourist paradise. A city of many splendours, it has gorgeous palaces, beautiful parks, wonderful museums and art galleries, darns, reservoirs and temples. Wide stretches of treelined avenues enveloped with the aroma of jasmine, jacaranda and frangipani permeate the air.
Mysore is at its best during Dussera, the ten day festival held during September-October every year. Pomp and pageantry mark this spectacular procession as one of the 'greatest shows on earth'.
The most comfortable and quickest way to get to Mysore is to catch a bus at Bangalore and in a little under 3 hours, you are in Mysore. There are also conducted tours originating from Bangalore, covering enroute Srirangapatnam, Brindavan Gardens and complete sightseeing in Mysore.
The railway station and the bus station 2 km from each other are nevertheless, close to the city centre. Sayyaji Rao Road, represents the main shopping area.
How to get there:
Mysore is at 138 kms South West of Bangalore and 160 kms. from Ooty and 121 kms from Hassan. The nearest Airport is at Bangalore.
There are regular Express buses to all the important places to the neighbouring states (Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Tamilnadu). There are 7 express trains a (journey 3.5 hrs) from Bangalore.
Mysore Palace: Dominating the city's skyline is the most resplendent architectural structure in Mysore - the palace. Its style is a healthy combination of Dravidian, Indo-Saracenic, Oriental and Roman styles. The regal castle was reconstructed in the year 1912 due to the old palace suffering fire accidents. The front of the palace has an open balcony supported by massive circular columns. The interior of the palace, especially the Durbar Hall is richly decorated. Replete with ornate ceilings, intricately carved massive doors, gleaming floors, frescoes depicting scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the entire scene exudes royal splendour. The jewel studded 200 kg golden throne is displayed during the Dussera Festival.
The royal portrait gallery which is historically interesting is open to visitors.
The entire palace is illuminated during Dussera Festival.
The state archaeological department and some temples are in the palace environs.
Open from 10.30 A.M. to 5.30 P.M. An entrance fee is levied.
Chamundi Hills (10 kms): The temple of Goddess Chamundeswari stands atop this hill which has one thousand steps to climb. The temple has an imposing seven- storeyed Gopuram depicting the Goddess in all her moods and forms. A giant statue of the demon Mahishasura built in mortar is nearby. Half-way to the top of the hill is a monolithic granite figure of Nandi, the sacred bull. There is also a small lake which is used for the Teppotsava (float ceremony) held a few days after Dussera.
Lalitha Mahal Palace: This beautiful summer palace has been turned into a luxury hotel with all royal trappings.
Sri Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery: Formerly known as the Jagan Mohan Palace, this building houses the art gallery. Exhibited on the walls of the spacious halls are examples of various schools of Indian art. The paintings include portraits of the royal family, puranic themes, landscapes and special themes. Notable among them is "the lady with the lamp" of Ravi Varma. A separate gallery is allotted to Mysore artists.
Also on display are ancient musical instruments, antique furniture, sandalwood and ivory figurines. One grain of rice on which the ten incarnations of Vishnu are carved is worth a closer look.
Timings: 8.30 A.M. to 5.30 P.M.
Zoological Garden (2 kms): The Mysore Zoo, which celebrated its centenary recently has a large collection of wild animals, birds and snakes. It has the distinction of breeding wild animals and King Cobra in captivity. It is set in one of the city's beautiful gardens.
Open from 7.30 A.M. to 12 Noon
2.30 P.M. to 6 P.M.
St. Philomena's Church: It is one of the largest Churches in India built in the neo-Gothic style. There is an attractive statue of Philomena in the underground chamber. Some fine attractive glass paintings can also be viewed here.
Temples: Thriving under royal patronage, Mysore abounds with as many as 185 temples and some of them are in the palace environs also. The important ones among them are Varahaswamy, Prasanna Krishnaswamy, Trineswara and Lakshmi Narayana Swamy. They are not impressive from the archaeological point of view.
Other places of interest:
Government Silk Weaving Factory, Sandalwood Oil Factory, Rail Museum (with a Maharani saloon dating 1888) and Manasa Gangothri (Mysore University Campus).
Mysore being a major tourist centre, caters to all palates and has innumerable restaurants with reasonably priced vegetarian meals and snacks. Strong filter coffee is a hot favourite.
KSTDC and private operators offer tours.
Fairs & Festivals:
Mysore is best visited during "Dussera" a 10 day festival which commences in the last week of September and concludes by the first week of October, each year. During this period, the palace is illuminated every night and on the concluding day of the festival, the Maharajah leads one of the most colourful processions to be witnessed in India. But the locals swear that the procession has lost much of its glamour ever since the privy purse was abolished by the government and the monarch bus ceased to sponsor the festival any more. These days the festival is being sponsored by the government; caparisoned elephants, liveried retainers, cavalry and flower bedecked images of deities make their way through the streets to the sound of jazz and brass bands and through the ubiquitous clouds of incense. A spectacular festival indeed!
Krishnarajasagar Dam & the Brindavan Gardens (12 kms): The world famous Brindavan gardens on the terraces of the K.R.S. Dam across the river Cauvery is a meticulously planned garden. Every evening the gardens come alive in a burst of dazzling colours and illumination when twirling and dancing fountains lend an atmosphere of enchantment to this fairy land. Boating facilities are also available.
Brindavan Gardens are at a short distance of 12 kms from Mysore and getting there by bus or by a shared taxi is easy.
How to get there:
KSTDC buses operate to Brindavan gardens from Mysore. Additionally, "City buses" operate frequently from Mysore.
Srirangapatna: Srirangapatna which was Tippu Sultan's island fortress on Cauvery is 16 kms away from Mysore and is a mute witness to the days of chivalry and valour enacted there. Stone walls and minarets enclose palaces, houses, temples and a mosque. These historical relics are:-
Sri Ranganatha Swami Temple: This temple is one of the largest shrines in Karnataka and has a colossal idol of Sri Ranganatha (Lord Vishnu) in his reclining form. Tippu had made generous endowments to this temple.
The temple represents a mixture of Hoysala and Vijayanagara styles of architecture.
Dungeon: This is situated to the north of Ranganathaswami Temple. Tippu had held a number of British officers .as prisoners here.
Jumma Masjid: Noted for its imposing twin minarets which are adorned with cornices and floral bands as also metallic Kalasas at the top, this mosque is situated near the Bangalore gate. A flight of 200 steps leads to the top of each minaret.
Daria Daulat Bagh: Tippu Sultan built this as a summer palace. Graceful proportions and arabesque work in rich colours have turned this building into a fine example of Saracenic architecture. Now a museum, it houses some of Tippu's belongings. There are mural paintings on the walls of the ground floor depicting Tippu's military campaigns against the British.
The Gumbaz: The tombs of Hyder, Tippu and his mother can be seen here. The verandah contains polished black basalt pillars.
Ganjifa Art Gallery: A small private gallery on Ganjifa art (miniature paintings on playing cards) deserves a visit.
Rangana Thittu: 3 kms to the South West of Srirangapatna is Ranganathittu, a haven for migratory birds. Spoon Bills, Open Bill Storks, White Ibis, Egrets, Darters, Herons flock to this small islet formed by the river Cauvery. An ideal place for the avid bird-watcher, the best season is between June and October.
Nanjanagud dedicated to Nanjundeshwara (15 kms.) Melkote Vishnu Temple (50 kms) are some of the temple towns within easy reach of Mysore.
How to get there:
Many buses operate to and from the central Bus Station at Mysore, to Srirangapatna. It is also possible to take any of the trains operating on the Mysore- Bangalore line.
Somanathapur: Somanathapur is 38 kms from Mysore and is noted for the Keshava Temple, a splendid specimen of the Hoysala sculpture and architecture. Constructed in 1268 A.D. by Soma, an officer of the Hoysala Kingdom, it is built on a star-shaped plan similar to the other Hoysala temples at Belur and Halebid but is a triple shrine temple' unlike them. One of the most beautiful constructions in the world, the temple has superbly sculptured walls and intricate ceiling domes. No two friezes is alike. The flowing contours of the majestic elephants, speeding horses and soldiers and the use of space to highlight the dramatic effect infuse a remarkable realism.
The temple is open from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.
How to get there:
A few direct buses operate daily to Somanathapur from Mysore. Alternatively you can take a bus to either T. Narsipur or Bannur and then change to another bus for Somanathpur.
Biligiri Ranga's Hill: Picturesque B.R. Hills, the range of hills between the Cauvery and Tungabhadra rivers, gets its name from the temple atop its highest peak. Once in 2 years the Booditithina Madigas (a tribe) make an offering of a large pair of slippers measuring 1'9" made out skin to the deity.
Big tuskers leading their herds to the water hole are a common sight here. Best season to visit is between May and November.
Shivasamudram: This is India's first ever hydro-electric project where the river Cauvery leaps down gigantically into two cascades known as Gaganachukki and Barachukki. Offers a magnificent scene during the rainy season. Shivasamudram is at a distance of 80 kms from Mysore.
Conducted Sight Seeing Tours (K.S.T.D.C.)
Mysore Local: St. Philomena's Church, J.C Art Gallery, Zoo, Maharaja's Palace, Chamundi Hills, Sornnathpur, Srirangapatna, Ranganathittu (in season June to September only), Brindavan Gardens.
Belur, Halebid and Shrava- nabelagola, Ooty (in season)
Sravanabelagola, a great centre for Jain culture is situated at a distance of about 100 kms from Mysore and is famous for its colossal statue of Gomateshwara who is also referred to as Lord Bahubali. Carved out of a monolithic stone, the imposing 17 metre high statue of Gomata towers in majestic' splendour and is visible even from a distance of 20 kms. Starkly simple, the beautifully chiselled features of the statue embody serenity. His perfect lips are turned out at the comers with a hint of a smile as if viewing the world with detachment. Once in 12 years, the statue bathes in ·glory when a special ceremony called Mahamastakabhisekha takes place to anoint the Lord with thousands of pots of milk, coconut water, ghee, curds, saffron, jaggery, bananas and sandalwood paste. Literally a feast for the eyes!
Sravanabelagola attained historical importance when Chandragupta Maurya settled on this hill in 3rd century B.C along with his guru Bhagwan Bhadrabahu Swami after renouncing his kingdom. Bhadrabahu's disciples spread the tenets of Jainism thus affording a firm base to the religion in the South. The religion also found immense patronage under the Gangas and the statue was erected by Chavundaraya, a military com- mander under King Rachamal- la of the Ganga dynasty. It was sculpted by Aristanemi in 981 A.D.
In addition to this statue, there are several Jain bastis (temples) and monasteries in Sravanabelagola and also on the nearby Chandragiri Hill. Of these, Chavundaraya Basti is of historical significance.
How to get there:
Direct buses operate to Sravanabelagola from Hassan, Arsikere, Mysore and Ban- galore. KSTDC operates a rushed tour from Mysore- Hassan is the most convenient base to explore Sravanabelgola, Belur and Halebid from.
Belur and Halebid: The Hoysalas who ruled southern parts of Karnataka from the 11th to the 14th century have built more than 150 temples, each a masterpiece of creation and the temples of Belur, Halebid and Somanathapura are the cream of this exuberant activity. Hailed as 'nectar in stone', they surpass some of the world's well known creative art in their beauty and execution. The Hoysala temples are built on a star-shaped pedestal and are centred around a pillared hall. The precise carving of the rounded surface of the pillars are so smooth and appear as if they are 'lathe turned'. Every niche and comer of the temples is filled with genius and the delicate attention to the tiniest detail is incredible.
The Hoysaleshwara Temple at Halebid is one of the finest specimens of Hoysala creativity. Practically encyclopedic in its sheer volume of carved pageantry, the temple has representations of Hindu deities, sages, birds, animals, hunting, agriculture, dance and music besides scenes of war.
Two open-pillared Nandi Mandapas are situated in front of the temple. There is also a smaller temple, the Kedareswara at Halebid.
Belur (156 km from Mysore, 40 km from Hassan, 222 km from Bangalore): The Channakeshava temple at Belur which was built by the famous Hoysala ruler Vishnuvardhana in 1117 A.D. is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This temple was built to commemorate the king's conversion from Jainism to Vaishnava faith under the influence of Saint Ramanuja. The Gopuram of this temple is a later addition probably made by Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagar. The most remark- able feature of this temple is the presence of 38 bracket figures of 'Madanikas'. Beautiful, pensive, playful and amorous, each figure is full of feminine grace and charm. One sculpted beauty wrings water from her long tresses and the drops of water are collected on hair ends. A thread inserted into the pupil of the eye emerges through the nose. The figures are so heavily ornamented to make us feel that perhaps the architects of the temple were originally jewellers by profession!
Halebid and Belur are only16 kms apart and Hassan is the most convenient base to visit these places as well as Sravanabelagola.
Hassan is linked by road to Bangalore and Mysore and the KSTDC runs conducted tours from Bangalore and Mysore to all the three places. Arasikere is yet another base to reach Belur and Halebid.
Hassan, Belur, Halebid and Sravanabelagola offer tourist accommodation including government run hotels.
Hampi the 14th century magnificent capital of one of the greatest empires of the world, is protected by the tempestuous Tungabhadra river in the north and by rocky granite ridges on the three sides. Covering a vast area of about 26 kms., the ruins amidst the wildly beautiful landscape emerge as though to dissolve the distinction between natural and man made forms. The great temple complexes, fortification of gateways, administrative as well as residential structures, watch towers, aqueducts, baths offer a dramatic landscape and appear desolate at having lost the grandeur that was once theirs.
The genesis of Hampi goes back to the age of Ramayana as the site of Kishkinda, a monkey kingdom. Thus considered sacred, the site was raised to the status of a city in 1336 A.D. by two brothers Hakka and Bukka to consolidate the concept of a Hindu state in the Deccan. The subsequent two centuries witnessed the rapid growth of the Vijayanagara empire to dizzy heights, attracted international commerce and grew so wealthy that many a foreign traveller who visited Hampi was at a loss to describe its riches. Hampi owed much of this status to Krishnadevaraya acknowledged as one of the greatest rulers of the imperial kingdom. Hampi was destroyed in 1565 A.D. by the combined forces of the Deccan Sultans and the splendid city was pillaged and reduced to shambles just within six months.
Amidst these ruins stands the Virupaksha temple dedicated to Shiva also known as Virupaksha or Pampapathi. The hall leading to the sanctum sanctorum has finely carved columns with animals. This temple is still in use and the street leading to the temple is still the setting for chariot ceremonies held in February.
The Vithala Temple: Situated on the southern banks of the Tungabhadra river, the Vithala temple is rightly termed as the 'Supreme flowering of the Vijayanagara art'. The main pavilion consists of 56 pillars elaborately carved and when struck, emit different musical notes. In its quadrangle stands a magnificent stone chariot, perfectly proportioned with an engineering technology so superb that the stone wheels can rotate!
Hazara Rama Temple: This temple built within a rectangular complex is located in the royal centre. Built in the early 15th century, the enclosure walls of the temple are carved both on the exterior and the interior with stories from the epics, dancers and troops. On the walls of the sanctum are two rare depictions of Vishnu as the Buddha.
The Mahanavami Dibba or the royal seat is yet another striking structure in Hampi. This . immense platform was used by the kings to view the Dussera festivities. It commands an overwhelming view of the royal residences and other remains of a glorious era. Closeby are the Lotus Mahal and the elephant stables. The Lotus Mahal, a graceful two- storeyed palace is a photographer's delight and is an attractive synthesis of Hindu and Islamic architectures.
Queen's bath, monolithic Ganesha, Ugra Narasimha, the watch towers are some of the other relics dotting Hampi.
How to get there:
It is highly recommended to make Hospet a base to visit the Hampi ruins as the facilities are more and better at Hospet.
Air: The nearest airport at Belgaum (259 kms) is connected by Indian Airlines flights to Bombay. Bangalore (325 kms) is linked to most parts of India by air.
Rail: Hospet is connected by Broad Gauge line to Bangalore. Overnight Hampi Express leaves Hospet at 8:15 p.m. and reaching Bangalore by 6.30 a.m. The departure time at Ban- galore is 9:30 p.m. and arrival time at Hospet is 7:40 a.m. Hospet is also connected by overnight trains to Hyderabad, Tirupati, Hubli, Margoa (Goa), Badami, Bijapur, Sholapur and Vijayawada by meterguage. Since Guntakal is only 100 kms from Hospet, one can reserve sleeper, accommodation in trains going to Bombay,' Madras, Ahmedabad" Howrah and Delhi from Hospet itself. One week's advance booking is essential. Railway Enquiry Telephone No: 28360
Road: Regular KSRTC buses ply between Hampi and Bangalore. The tourism department also runs conducted tours covering Hampi, T.B. Dam and Manthralaya.
Tungabhadra Dam: This massive hydro-electric project was constructed in 1953 across the river Tungabhadra and merits a brief visit.
Bijapur or thecity of victory was the capital of the Adilshahi dynasty (1489 to 1686 A.D.). One among the confederacy of five states which saw the eclipse of Hindu rule in the south, the Bijapur kingdom played a significant role in the history of Karnataka by its contribution to art and architecture and by propagating Islam in the land.
The two main attractions of Bijapur, viz. the Golgumbaz and Ibrahim Roza are at opposite ends of the town. All the major hotels and restaurants are to be found along Station Road (M.G. Road)
The city abounds in mosques, 'mausoleums, palaces and fortifications. Unique by virtue of their size, design, these art heritages of Karnataka appear starkly simple when compared to the exuberance of the Chalukyan and Hoysala architectures but are rated as some of the finest Islamic architecture in the world. The main attraction of the city is the well known Golgumbaz. Dominating the landscape of Bijapur is' its hemispherical dome, considered as the world's second largest. Unsup- ported by pillars, it stands testimony to a major engineering feat. Its acoustical qualities are so phenomenal that a whisper is echoed 12 times over and carries the slightest sound made by the rustle of a paper over a distance of 38 metres!
Under the dome lies the tomb of the 7th Adilshahi King Muhammed Adil Shah. His two wives, his mistress, his daughter and his grandson were also buried alongside.
Adjoining the Gumbaz is a fine mosque. Nearby is the museum displaying Bijapur carpets.
It can be visited on any day of the week between sunrise and sunset. A nominal entrance fee is levied but on Fridays this is also exempt.
Ibrahim Roza: Said to be the inspiration for Taj Mahal, this magnificent monument has the tomb of Ibrahim Adil Shah II. Quranic verses are inscribed in gold on the royal tomb.
Mehtar Mahal: A gateway of a mosque, it has a flat roof stone supported by delicately carved stone trellis in Hindu style. The ornamentation of Mehtar Mahal is described "as equal, if not superior, to any- thing in Cairo".
Jami-E-Masjid a large building with a huge shallow dome, Asar Mahal with beautiful fresco paintings, Jal Manzil or the water pavilion, old mosque formerly a Jain temple are worth visiting to recall the original beauty of Bijapur.
Another interesting object to be seen is Malik-I-Maidan, the legendary cannon of the Adilshahis. Weighing a solid 55 tons, it was cast in Ahmed-nagar in 1549 A.D. and sports a muzzle shaped into a lion's head with an elephant being crushed to death between the fangs.
Getting to Bijapur:
Bijapur is linked by rail and road with all important cities in South India. It is at a distance of 613 kms from Bangalore via Hubli. Conducted tours as also local transport available for sightseeing in the city.
With Bijapur as the base, the following places can be visited.
Badami: Nestling between sandstone cliffs and overlooking the picturesque Agasthyathirtl.a lake (built in the 5th century A.D.) is the town of Badami, the ancient capital of the Western Chalukyas. Scooped out of these cliffs are the famous rock caves, four of them in a row. The first master- piece among these is the 18 armed Nataraja (Shiva), portraying 81 dance poses in vigorous abandon. Two cave temples relate to Vishnu and the fourth one to Durga. Cave 4 is the only Jain temple in Badami, of Mahavira, the 24th Thirthankara. The natural cave is a Buddist temple. Among the remarkable carvings are the 'Flying Gandharvas' (Cave II) and the elaborate legend also found in Cave II.
Badami which witnessed the promotion of its art and architecture under the Kalyan Chalukyas, the Kalachuryas, the Yadavas of Deogiri, the Vijayanagar empire, the Adil Shahi dynasty and the Marathas has a wealth of inscriptions on Indian history. Among the monuments, the most beautiful ones are two Shiva temples, glorified as Bhuthanatha, God of Souls. Set beside a natural pool, the tranquility of the temples is reflected in the moss green of the pool and exudes a freshness similar to the Pallava Shore temple at Mahabalipuram. It is worth noting here that Badami has even a Pallava inscription (642 A.D.) installed during a brief spell of rule by Narasimhavar- man.
The Archaeological museum at Badami has many interesting sculptures relating to the area among which is Lajja-Gauri a seated goddess of a fertility cult.
How to reach Badami:
Badami is on the Hubli- Sholapur rail route, 163 kms from Bijapur and 128 kms from Hubli. The nearest airport is at Belgaum 150 Kms away. The best season to visit Badami is between October and February.
Pattadakal: A mere 30 kms away from Badami is Pattadakal, where, as the name suggests all the Chalukyan kings were crowned. Situated on the banks of the Malaprabha river, it became a centre for experimentation in southern and northern styles of temple architecture conducted by the Chalukyas. Viewed across the river, the cluster of ten temples reflect the architect's aesthetic approach to space and form.
The Virupaksha temple, which is an amalgam of the Chalukyan and Pallava styles of architecture has some exceptionally beautiful sculptures. This is also called as the Lokeshwari temple, named after the queen of Vikramaditya II and built in 740 A.D. said to be worked on by Pallava artists. A 2.6 m. high Nandi in deep green stone faces the temple, which is still in use.
While the Papanatha temple is a fusion of southern and northern styles of architecture, the Galaganatha temple resembles the North Indian temples. The Mallikarjuna temple built in the Dravidian style has sculptures depicting the life of Krishna. An old Jain temple containing two stone elephants is also noteworthy.
Aihole: Aihole is at a distance of about 20 kms from Pattadakal. It was the capital of the Chalukyas between the 4th and the 7th centuries and symbolises Hindu temple architecture in its formative years. Gandaragudi and Ladkhan are the earliest temples and the Durga temple, unusually built like a horse-shoe back is another important structure in Aihole. The Durga temple complex has the first model of the intricate Hoysala pillars.
There are more than 70 structures in Aihole, most of them still in a good condition. Kunta temple complex, Ravanaphadi Cave, Meguti temple (dedicated to Mahavira) and a Buddhist temple to name only a few.
Bidar had the distinction of being the capital of the Bahmani Kingdom from 1428 AD. and later of the Barid Shahi dynasty. Situated in the north- eastern comer of Karnataka, it has some unique monuments offering a fascinating history of Islamic architecture in India. Unfortunately, many tourists are not aware of Bidar's attractions.
Strategically placed on the trifocal point of Kannadigas, the Telugus and the Marathas, Bidar was an effective fort in the kingdom of Kalyan Chalukyas, and later was ruled by the Kakatiyas of Warangal. (Jalasangvi, a small village in Bidar district has a shrine which is one of the finest specimens of Chalukyan architecture). Bidar subsequently came under the Muslim influence, first under the Tughlaq control, then under the Bahmanis as also the Baridi family who were the ministers to the last of the Bahmanis and in 1724 AD. it became a part of the Asaf Jahi kingdom and gradually fell into oblivion.
Today Bidar has a splendid fort in which are located three palaces - Rangin Mahal, Gagan Mahal, Takhat Mahal. Besides these is the Madrasa of Mahamud Gawan architecturally similar to the Madrasa at Fez and Rabat. The floral designs and the encaustic tile works in Bidar's monuments also bear the stamp of Persian art. In the Rangin Mahal, mother of pearl has been lavishly used to bring out brilliant floral designs against the jet black background. A Persian verse in one of the rooms reads:-
"Every precious pearl which cherishes love in its shell,
Cherishes the desire to be given in alms at Thy court,
Anyone who enters Thy door is inspired with Thy love,
As if love pours down from Thy portico or balcony"
This sums up the lyrical beauty of Bidar.
Linked to the Gulbarga- Bidar state highway is Jalasangvi which has some splendid sculptures in its shrine dedicated to Kalleswara. The bracket figures on the exterior walls of the temple are exuberantly sculptured Madanikas in very alluring poses. "Moon breasted, swan- waisted and elephant-hipped" these seductive beauties evidently were the source of inspiration for the Hoysala bracket-figures.
Jalasangvi can be reached easily by state transport.
Nanak Jhera a place of pilgrimage for the Sikhs, is also in the vicinity of Bidar. Located near All Barid's tomb, it has an imposing Gurudwara. Legend has it that Guru Nanak visited the place when it was in the grip of a famine and on his performing a miracle, a spring of water burst forth from the late rite stone. This water source is perennial.
Gulbarga was the capital of the Bahmani Kings from 1347 AD. to 1428 AD. The Jami or Jumma Masjid located inside the old fort was built by a Moorish architect around the 15th century, in imitation of the great mosque in Cordova, Spain. Uniquely built, it has a huge dome canopying the en- tire area, four smaller domes and 75 smaller ones.
Bande Nawaz's Dargah and the Sharana Basaveshwara temple have turned this town into a pilgrim centre.
Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation runs the Hotel Mayura Bahamani here,
The Coastal Carnival:
With the soaring western ghats on the east and the dark waters of the Arabian Sea lap- ping the shores, Karnataka has some of the finest beaches along the 300 km long coast line. The pristine beauty of the verdant forests and the spectacular sunsets add their own enchantment to captivate the city-weary tourist.
Karwar: Adjoining the border to Goa is this natural harbour. The Arab traders called it Bait-e-Kol, the Bay of Safety as it has a chain of 5 islands protecting it from storms.
Karwar enjoys an excellent beach. Kurmagad island, which is extremely picturesque with an old fort and a shrine and a launch will take you there.
How to get there:
Bus: Buses connect Karwar with Panaji, Hubli, Bijapur, Bel- gaum, Mangalore, Bellary, Belur, Sringeri, Chikmaglur, Jog Falls, etc.
Gokarna: An ancient centre of Shaivism, Gokama is situated at a distance of about 55 kms from Karwar. The ‘Atmalinga' in the Mahabalesh- wara temple here has an interesting belief woven around it - Ravana, the demon king of Ramayana obtained the At-malinga after a severe penance and that Ganapathi tricked him into putting it down and never be able to lift it up again.
Nearby (30 kms) is Yana, a huge natural cave with a Bhairava Linga.
Gokarna has a tourist department guest house atop a hill overlooking the sea.
Maravanthe: Moving southwards, on the coastal highway is Maravanthe which offers scenic beauty at its best. The highway is flanked by the Arabian Sea and the Sauparanika river against the backdrop of the Kodachadri Hills. At sunset, the crimson and gold of the sky are reflected both in the sea as well as the river. What a canvas it creates!
Little further up is the Belekal Theertha Falls near Baindur.
Udupi (58 kms from Man- galore): It is an important pilgrim centre and is associated with Madhwacharya, the great exponent of Dvaita school of philosophy. The ancient Krishna temple has a charming idol of Krishna and evokes ecstasy in the devout minds. The Paryaya festival held once in 2 years when the management of the temple changes hands amongst the 8 Mutts set up by Madhwacharya is a -colourful spectacle drawing devotees from far and near.
Malpe beach (6 kms) is a quiet beach and is an ideal place for a swim. Sail across to St. Mary's island with its huge formations of basalt rocks, palm groves and a frothing sea - a perfect setting for a painter.
Venur, Mudabidri and Karkala are eloquent testimony to the fact that for more than 2000 years Karnataka has been the pivotal point for Jainism.
While Karkala has a 13 metre high statue of Bahubali, Mudabidri has a 1000 pillared shrine called Chandranatha Basti. It is the oldest of 18 bastes found here. Built in 1430 A.D., it has a priceless collection of jewel studded icons of Jaina Thirthankaras and also a magnificent array of exquisite figures in jade, emerald, amethyst etc.
These places can conveniently be visited with Man- galore as the base.
Mangalore (356 km from Bangalore) the district head- quarters of Dakshina Kannada is one of the major cities of the State. It has some well known temples - Mangaladevi, Kadri Manjunatha (which houses the exquisite icon of Trilokeshwara considered to be one of the best in the country). The St. Aloysius Chapel has a rich collection of paintings of Moschemi, the Italian Jesuit.
How to get there:
Indian Airlines and some private airlines operate flights from Mangalore to Bombay and Bangalore.
Bus: Buses connect Man- galore with Hassan, Hospet, Karwar, Goa, Madras, Bombay, Mysore, Bangalore, etc.
Trains: Trains connect Man- galore with Bangalore, Trivandrum, Ernakulam, Hassan, etc.
Dharmasthala (75 kms from Mangalore) dedicated to Lord Manjunatha, Karanje (37 kms) well-known for its medieval Shiva temple, Subramanya and Katil are the Hindu shrines around Man- galore.
The coastal area of Karnataka abounds in a wide variety of mangoes, jack fruit, cashew and bananas. The spicy fish curries and other sea foods are delectable.
Mangalore is linked by air, rail and road with the major cities. But a journey on the Bangalore-Hassan-Mangalore railway line is a memorable experience, passing through the tropical forests of the western ghats.
The South-West Karnataka:
A few hours journey from Mangalore will take us to Coorg (Kodagu) District, the birth place of the river Cauvery.
Mercara (Madikeri) its capital has a wonderfully cool climate and is a major coffee growing area. Raja's seat and Sri Omkareshwara temple are the major tourist attractions.
How to get there:
Bus: Mercara is on the Mysore - Mangalore route. Buses connect Mercara with Mysore. Mangalore, Bangalore, Hassan, Arsikere, Belur & Chikmaglur.
Talaeauvery which is about 50 kms from Madikeri is the source of the river Cauvery and during the month of October when the Sun enters the constellation of Libra, she bubbles up in a small pond amidst chanting of prayers and great fanfare. Cauvery subsides after a while only to begin her marathon journey across the plains some 8 kms away.
Sringeri: Not far from the coffee growing hills of Chikmaglur. Sringeri is the southern seat of the orthodox Hindu hierarchy founded by Adi Shankara, who propogated the Advaita Philosophy.
How to get there:
Bus: Buses connect Sringeri with important towns, like Bangalore, Mysore, Hassan, Chikmaglur, Sagar, etc.
The Silver Cascades:
Jog Falls: Is situated in Shimoga district at a distance of about 380 kms from Ban- galore. Talaguppa is the nearest rail station on the Birur line. During the monsoon months when the Jog falls are at their magnificent best, KSTDC conducts weekend tours to this place.
At Jog, the river Sharavathy flowing over a rocky bed, splits into separate streams called as Raja, Rani, Rocket and Roarer. Considered as one of the highest waterfalls in the world, the cascading waters seem to descend from the heaven riding on the arch of a rain- bow,
Shivasamudra: Cauvery has caused yet another mighty Falls .' Gaganachukki and Barachukki forming the Shivasamudra Falls near Mandya (44 kms) hurling down a height of 106 metres. It is said that during the 16th Century, Nanjaraja, the ruler of the region committed suicide along with his wife by jumping down the Gaganachukki. Karnataka Power Corporation has a circuit house here.
The Gokak Falls: Ghataprabha river takes a 170 ft. leap here over a sandstone cliff. The cliff is in a picturesque gorge of the Gokak valley and is horse shoe shaped. The shape and the rapidity of the Falls are compared favourably with those of Niagara Falls.
July-September is ±e best period to enjoy the fury and the glory of the Gokak Falls. It lies at a distance of 535 kms north west of Bangalore and the Gokak railway station is 6 kms away. Belgaum is a mere 24 kms away.
Magod Falls: Located on the Hubli-Karwar route at a distance of 19 kms from Yellapura (Uttara Kannada district) the Magod Falls caused by the Bedthi river first takes a rapid leap of 250 feet and then in slow motion cascades down a height of 350 feet. This presents an enchanting scene.
The Hebbe Falls near Kemmannagundi and the Unchalli Falls (also known as Lushington falls) are located amidst dense forests and 'this scenery enhances the beauty of the gushing waters. Unchalli is at about 19 kms from Siddapur caused by the river Aghamashini.
Wildlife and Bird Sanctuaries:
Nagarhole: Recognized as one of the best wild life conservation spots in the world, this national park is 95 kms both from Mysore as well as from Mercara. The sanctuary boasts of a large elephant congregation and the rich lush green bamboos, succulent grass and other shrubs offer ideal conditions for these magnificent beasts. Bisons have also found the ideal habitation here. The sanctuary also abounds in tigers, deer, panthers and jackals, various insects, scorpions and some of the gorgeously plumed. birds. Toads and tortoises, Carp and Mahaseer complete the junglebook of any wildlife enthusiast.
Murkal which is 12 kms from Nagarhole offers 2 beds / 3 beds cottages and dormitory accommodation. Safaris into Nagarhole are charged at Rs. 50/- per person. Accommodation will have to be booked well in advance at:
1. "Vana Vikasa", Forest Department Corporation, 18th Cross, Malleswaram, Ban- galore-3. Tel: 3345192.
2. Assistance Conservator of Forests, Wild Life Preservation, Chamarajendra Circle, Vani Vilas Road, Mysore. Tel: 211559.
Bandipur National Park: A well maintained 'Project Tiger' site, Bandipur (80 kms from Mysore) is half-way on the Mysore-Ooty highway and stretches along the borders of Kerala and Tamilnadu. The deciduous forests and water reserves ensure the balance in the eco-system. Besides elephants and tigers, wild bear, sambar and other wild animals can be seen here.
For booking of accommodation contact the Field Director, Project Tiger, Government House, Nazirabad, Mysore.
Kabini River Lodge: The Kabini River Lodge (80 kms from Mysore) is situated on the shores of the Kabini river and supports life for thousands of animals and birds. Coracle is a bamboo boat lined with buffalo hide and riding on it though the swift waters of the Kabini is quite an enjoyable experience.
The Cauvery Fishing Camp at Bhimeswari, 117 kms from Bangalore is an angler's delight. Many of the fish caught here have weighed upto 60 lbs!
Bhadra Wild Life Sanctuary: This sanctuary is at a distance of 38 kms from Chikmaglur. It is surrounded by hills with the Bhadra river meandering through it. The sanctuary has a diverse wild life which can be viewed while driving inside the sanctuary. Bhadra Abhayaranya tents at Muthodi offer accommodation.
Also in Chikmaglur district is Kemmannagundi, a hill resort on the Baba Budan range. It enjoys a salubrious climate throughout the year and offers a panoramic view of the mountains and valleys.
This hilly district has some exciting trekking routes in the western ghats including Mullanagiri, the loftiest point of the Baba Budan range. The entire area is considered as the cradle of coffee.