History forms a big part of India’s cultural heritage. Needleless to say, India has a rich history of rulers and pilgrims; each state, nay, each region in India is endowed with its historical significance which it preserves through folk tales and legends. However, some of the best stories in India are still kept alive through the medium of architecture and monuments. Karnataka, the south-western state of India is one such example. One of the most historical places in India, Karnataka has the second-highest number of monuments preserved nationally. With several equally exciting and enticing places to visit in Karnataka, it may be a tad difficult to decide what to do first. Therefore, here is a list of the best historical places in Karnataka to stimulate the history buff in you:
1. Badami Cave Temple
Located in the north-central part of Karnataka, Badami served as the capital city of the powerful Vijaynagara Empire. The Badami Caves comprise several Hindu and Jain cave temples and are a significant example of India’s fascinating rock-cut architecture style. Mostly comprising of Hindu deities, one can find carvings of several Gods and Goddesses such as Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, and Goddess Parvati. There are 6 caves in total, out of which cave 3 is the largest and is mostly filled with Lord Vishnu carvings. Cave 4 has a lot of Jain carvings and a few additional caves are dedicated to Buddhism carvings. The Badami Cave Temples are extremely diverse and famous, not only for their architectural treasure but also for their religious aspects.
2. Bidar Fort
If you could revisit the past, would you? Standing tall and proud, Bidar Fort (also known as Bidar Kote) is a splendid reminder of the glorious past of the Southern dynasties. The fort comprises ruins of a royal town, gates, royal gardens, audience hall, etc. The history of Bidar Fort remains complex and dense. Originally built in the 8th century, several rulers such as the Delhi Sultanate, Tuglaq dynasty, and Shah’s have continually captured and dominated the Fort. It was only after the Independence that the Bidar Fort was respectfully returned to Karnataka again.
3. Bangalore Palace
Have you ever tasted opulence at its finest? The Majestic Bangalore Palace speaks of royalty dipped in a bowl of history. Built-in the year 1878, the grand palace is made by creating a fusion between Gothic and Tudor architecture. This magnificent palace is known to have been built by Raja Chamarajendra Wadiyer. Since he wanted it to resemble the Windsor Castle of London, the architecture is mostly inspired by it. Witness the exotic ceramics, ballroom, gardens, and rooms to experience the royal life of yesteryear.
4. Sri Chennakeshava Temple, Belur
Situated in Belur, this 12th-century Hindu temple will make you feel connected to divinity. A prominent Vishnu temple (Chennakeshava was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu), this temple is one of India’s most important pilgrimage sites attracting thousands of tourists and worshippers every year. It took about long 103 years to build this temple and is highly famous for its elaborate artwork. These sculptures and artworks depict the social life of that era and some famous Hindu classics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
5. Bara Kaman, Bijapur
The somber and ruined Bara Kaman is the incompleted mausoleum of Ali Adil Shah, the leader of the Adil Dynasty. This seemingly grand site has a rather dark history. The mausoleum was meant to be majestic and unique, however, because of unknown reasons, the construction was stopped drastically. Rumors suggest that the construction had to be stopped because if it was seen through, it would’ve overshadowed the Gol Gumbaz. Now, the Bara Kaman contains the bodies of the king, his wife, and daughters.
6. Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur
Speaking of Gol Gumbaz, this historical site is where Mohammad Adil Shah lies along with his wife, daughter, and mistresses. Mohammad Adil Shah wanted his mausoleum to be grander than that of his forefathers and took 30 years to complete it. The architecture of Gol Gumbaz, like several others, is a fusion between Dravidian and Islamic architecture. It served justice to its name, meaning circular dome, by having one of the largest domes in the world.
7. Royal Enclosure
The Royal Enclosure of Hampi is nothing short of an architectural theatre. Although now it is mostly in ruins, hitherto it contained 45 buildings (or more), which included temples, tanks, durbars, etc. This fascinating fortification was the epicenter of the Vijaynagara Empire in its prime.
8. Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebidu
Located in Halebidu, this temple is solely devoted to the powerful Lord Shiva. Built by King Hoysaleswara, the construction of this temple began in the 12th century. It is said that the Hoysaleswara temple was built with the intent to pose a competition to the Chennakeshava temple, which was built in honor of Lord Vishnu. The artwork seen here is extremely interesting and alluring.
9. Bahubali, Shravanbelagola
No, not the one with Prabhas. Bahubali was originally the son of Rishabhanatha and is a highly interesting and revered figure in Jainism. In his lifetime, Bahubali meditated in a standing position for a duration of one year! Therefore, to honor his sacrifice, sanctity, and peace, a statue was made in Shravanbelagola. Carved from one single stone, the statue is well known for being the largest monolithic structure in the world.
10. Kavala Caves, Dandeli
Found in the Dandeli Wild Life Sanctuary, these caves are highly popular amongst tourists. They are said to be originated from volcanic origins. The picturesque settings and natural beauty are suitable for all ages. You will also find a temple at the entrance of the caves which usually gets numerous visitors traveling for pilgrimage every year.
11. Mysore Palace
The city of Mysore is known for nothing if not for its palaces. And the most popular and superior amongst them is the Royal Mysore Palace. The Mysore Palace is the official address of the Wadiyar family (who have ruled over Mysore for years). The palace is enchanting and is one of the top tourist spots in India. One of the main reasons for its magnificence is the palace architecture. The architecture is a skillful blend of Mughal, Rajput, Hindu, and Gothic architecture. The high domes, amazing hallways, and gardens provide a fun-filled visit to the tourists.
12. Namdroling Monastery, Bylakuppe
One of the best and spiritual places in Coorg, the Namdroling Monastery teaches learnings of Tibetan Buddhism. Thousands of people come to this place either for leisure or for religious purposes. The Monastery welcomes each person into its fine architectural treasure and elegant temple tower cordially. Along with meditation centers, the Monastery also contains hospitals and schools for the needy. Indulge in the serenity and beauty as much as you can!
13. Archaeological Museum of Hampi
Situated in one of the best historic cities of India, the Archaeological Museum of Hampi is where a collection of artifacts and pieces of evidence regarding the Vijaynagara empire can be found. One can explore the countless sculptures, miniature paintings, ivory statues, coins, tools, etc. found in the ruins of Hampi. The museum is divided into 4 galleries and is a wonderful place to learn about the late Vijaynagara empire in detail.
14. Monkey Temple, Hampi
Devotion to the Lord is often termed as the supreme form of love. This ‘Monkey Temple’ located in Hampi is a place of worship solely dedicated to Lord Hanuman, the first and foremost friend and devotee of Lord Ram. The temple contains a statue of Lord Hanuman carved from a stone and another smaller temple for Lord Ram and his wife Sita as well. The statue of Lord Hanuman is shown to be the yogic position of Padmasana. The entire vicinity is packed with natural beauty, as far as the eye can see. Oh, also watch out for the monkeys roaming about the temple!
15. Queen’s Bath, Hampi
This glorious monument was built by Achyuta Raya. Although the bath was built for the women of the Vijaynagara Empire, it was frequently used by the king and his queens for their private purposes and was also called a ‘royal pleasure center’. The inside of the bath is made of beautiful Ornate and a large hollow bath is situated right in the middle of the property. Beautiful pillars and balconies add to the simple elegance of the structure. The quaint garden constructed for tourists is a bonus!
16. Tipu Sultan’s Death Place, Srirangapatna
When valor meets determination the name Tipu Sultan arises. Located in Srirangapatna, this site is a tribute to the daring and fearsome leader, Tip Sultan. After he died in 1799, Tipu Sultan was buried here, next to his father. The place is a must-see for any person visiting Karnataka.
17. Elephant Stables, Hampi
Yes, a stable. This seemingly simple, yet colossal structure was used by the ancient Vijaynagara Empire to keep their elephants in. This is one of the few places in Hampi that did not suffer any major setback after Hampi was attacked by the Mughals. The building is rectangular and large with 11 chambers having a dome each. However, out of the 11 domes, the central dome found is said to be the largest of them all. The Elephant Stables provide a peek into the splendid Vijaynagara architecture.
18. Lotus Mahal, Hampi
Also known as Kamal Mahal or Chitragani Mahal, this arena was used (similar to Queen’s Bath) by the women of the Vijaynagara Empire. The Mahal or Palace is extensively known for its unique and distinctive architecture. The shape of the building resembles a lotus. Like several other structures, this architecture is inspired by the Indo-Islamic style of architecture.
19. Virupaksha Temple, Hampi
This temple is specially constructed in honor of Lord Virupaksha, the partner of Goddess Pamadevi and a reincarnation of Shiva. Located at the bank of the great river Tungabhadra, this temple is one of the most sacred and most visited temples in Karnataka.
20. Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, Srirangapatna
As the name suggests, this palace was where the greatest ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, resided in the summer. This palace, although mostly in ruins, is preserved splendidly. The tall pillars, gardens, motifs, etc. are truly a sight to see. The rooms are now converted into a museum. All the achievements and important feats of the glorious ruler are showcased in this museum.
With so many historical places of Karnataka to visit, one is sure to have a pleasant time in the state. The many palaces, temples, and monuments will give you a little peek in the curtain of Indian history. Along with Karnataka, which is rich in historical places several other states in India will leave you pleasantly awestruck.