Karnataka owes its history, culture and development to several great empires and dynasties that ruled the region over the years. And it is this historical influence that makes it home to several great architectural wonders that reflect the diverse traditions and cultures of Karnataka.
You can see the influences of both north and south India in its architecture and it is no wonder that is is home to one of the World Heritage sites. If you plan to go on a cultural escapade to this state, here is a list of the best heritage sites to visit in Karnataka.
Best Heritage Sites to Visit in Karnataka
Hampi, situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra river and capital to the once great Vijayanagara Empire is now a Word Heritage site. Hampi is home to what remains of the palaces, elephant stables, and temples from the times gone by. Two structures that will leave you in awe are the Royal Center and Sacred Center. Palaces such as the Hazara Rama Chandra Temple, Queen’s Bath, King’s Palace, Mahanavami Dibba and Lotus Mahal are also must see places for its sheer architectural splendor.
In the district of Bagalkot is Badami, the capital city of the Chalukya empire. This city is strategically situated in a rocky region encapsulated by huge boulders that offer a natural defense against enemy forces. That’s why you’ll find 4 cave temples situated here, each dedicated to individual deities. The temples here have huge pillar-supported verandahs that have detailed carvings of the dancing Lord Nataraja who can be seen in 81 different dance poses. In one of the caves is a sculpture of Varaha, a boar avatar of Lord Vishnu.
Another cave holds sophisticated carvings of Lord Vishnu on top of a serpent Adisesha with its hoods covering the crown and is the grandest of them all. The last cave is home to the sitting statues of Jain Theerthankaras.
A short trip from the caves will take you to the 7th century Jambulinga Temple, which has 3 separate places of worship dedicated to Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Also of interest is the Boothanatha Temple built during the 6-7th century, which has a pyramid shaped main place of worship.
Some 17 kilometers off Belur is a luscious green spot that was capital to the Hoysalas in the 12th to 13th centuries. Built in the 12th century by King Vishnuvardhana, the intricately carved Hoysalaeshwara Temple is a tourist hub. Built on a star shaped platform are 2 identical shaped temples that house linga sanctums. There is a colossal sculpture of a Nandi who sits in front of both temples. The temple walls have illustrations from the Mahabharatha and Ramayana as well as engravings of other deities, birds and animals.
Within these temples you will also find sophisticated artwork of Nataraja and Ravana. The nearby archeological museum also houses rare sculptures and statues among other relics. Also of interest are the Kedareshwara and Belavadi temples located near the vicinity of the Hoysalaeshwara Temple.
Pattadakal is home to a beautiful 8th century temple that is dedicated to Virupaksha. Massive entrance gates lead you to the statue of a colossal Nandi who sits at the entrance to the temple. Close by is the Mallikarjuna temple that has carvings on its columns that tell the story of the Panchtantra.
Other temples of attraction include the grand Galaganatha, Jambulinga and Kadasiddeshwara temples with their elaborately carved ceilings, the Papanatha Temple whose architecture reflects the influences of both the north and the south and the ancient multi-storeyed Sagameshwara Temple built by King Vijayadithya.
12 kilometers off Pattadakal lies Aihole, a simple village that has hundreds of temples, some even dating back to the 6th century, scattered along the banks of the Malaprabha river. The most elegant of these temples is the Durga Temple, while the Lad Khan Temple with its wedding mandapam and Huchimalli Temple housing the intricately carved statue of Lord Vishnu lying on the serpent Adisesha are also sights to behold.
Close by is the Ravala Phadi cave which has statues of Harihara, Nataraja and Siva. There is also a Shiva Lingam within its sanctum. You might also want to stop by the Konti complex, which has sophisticated craftwork on its pillared halls.
Lakkundi is also a big temple town with over 50 temples that attract devotees throughout the year. Engravings that depict the life and times of the Kalyana Chalukya regime are a treat for the eyes. The most remarkable of temples in Lakkundi is the Kashi Vishwanatha Temple. Also a must see monument is the oldest and most revered Mahavira Jain Temple , which is known for its linga engraved step wells.
Also known as Kallina Kote or Palace of Stone, this architectural marvel was constructed by the Nayak Palegars and served as garrison to the Vijayanagara Empire. The humongous boulders used for constructing the 4 entrances, 19 gateways, oil pits, wells and granaries are a sight to behold. Within its walls are the temples of Sampige Siddheshwara and Ekantha that are just as magnificent as the fort itself. You’ll also want to visit the oldest Hidimbeshwara Temple and the mosuq built by Hyder Ali.
Kittur Chennamma Fort
En route the bengaluru-Pune highway is the historical Kittur Chennamma Fort that is made entirely of black rock. This fort was used during the fight of Rani Chennamma against the British but now lies in ruins along with many other structures that lies within.
The capital city of Adil Shah Sultanate, Bijapur has a number of palaces, battlements, gateways, mosques, tombs and minarets. The most prominent structure is the Gol Gumbaz which has a dome measuring 44m in diameter. The place is covered in candy green pastures and beautiful water pavilions and is a masterful work of art.
Also known as Kalburgi or Stony Land, this place has great monuments like the Dargah of Sufi saint Kwaja Bande Nawaz and Sheik Roza, the Jama Masjid and Sharanabasaveshwara temple. It was and still is the melting point of various cultures and customs, having been under the rule of the Chalukyas, Bahmanis, Hoysalas, Rashtrakutas, and Nizams of Hyderabad.
In the north of Karnataka lies the learned city of Bidar, which was renowned for its contribution to the architectural and literature communities of its times. Bidar is worth checking out for its impressive Bidar Fort, Jalasangi temple that has intricate carvings of gods and goddesses, Madarasa of Mohammed Gawan, Chalukyan art and Chowbara Clock tower.
Srirangapatna, situated about 14 kms from Mysore was the fortress town of mighty warriors Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. When in Srirangapatna, you can visit Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace (Daria Daulat Bagh, which is a beautiful mosque with twin minarets, the Gumbaz or mausoleum of Tipu Sultan and his parents, and the famous Ranganathaswamy Temple.
Belur is home to the famous 12th century Chennakeshava Temple build by the Hoysala king Vishnuvarthana, which as stunning images of elaborate battle scenes sculpted on its walls. Also of interest is the beautiful sculpture of Garuda placed at the entrance.
Somnathpur is home to the amazing Keshava Temple, whose walls are carved with illustrious images of elephants, mythological beast and birds, and soldiers riding horses. Inside the temple are extravagant boutique ceilings and engraved pillars that illustrate the architectural accomplishments of its times.
This fort, built as a militart bastion by the Vijayanagar kings was further fortified by French engineers during Hyder Ali’s reign. It now stands tall illuminated by over 188 high power lamps.
Adichunchanagari is home to the Swami of Vokkaliga sect and the Kalabhairaveshwara temple which sees a steady stream of devotees visiting throughout the year. If you happen to be here, make sure you stop by the nearby Peacock sanctuary.0