Attractions: Culture (palaces and fortifications, temples, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam), wildlife parks, yoga & beaches
Essentially a land of fragrance, Karnataka will captivate you with the exclusive scent of sandalwood, the rich smell of coffee blossoms and the perfume of jasmine. Fascinating you with some of the most interesting historic architecture and a varied history, it features hospitable people, good weather, a unique cuisine and a distinctive folk theatre.
Ruled by a succession of dynasties, Karnataka has been a strong influence on the development of Dravidian temples in South India. The Chalukyas, which ruled much of the Deccan between the 4th and the 8th centuries, created some of the first temples in the form of rock-cut caves at Badami & Aihole, which later inspired the whole of South Indian temple architecture. The Hoysala’s, ruling between the 11th and 14th centuries, developed these forms and left the most vivid evidences of their presence with superbly crafted temples at Belur, Halebid and Somnathpur. The sculptural decorations at these temples rival those of Khajuraho and Konark or the best of European Gothic art. The Hindu Hoysala kingdom fell to the Muslim army of Mohammed bin Tughlaq but was later annexed by the Hindu kingdom of Vijaynagar, founded in 1336, with its capital at Hampi.
This capital spread over 26km² is easily one of the most beautiful, extensive and fascinating of India’s ruined kingdoms. Vijaynagar reached its peak in the early 15th century, but fell to the Deccan Sultanates after which Bijapur in northern Karnataka gained importance. Bijapur is packed with an impressive collection of mosques, mausoleums, palaces and fortifications.Other attractions in the state include the former princely capital Mysore. Famous for its crafts, it has numerous shops selling a large range of sandalwood, rosewood and teak carvings and furniture, silk, bronze, copper and silver objects, incense sticks and perfumes.
North of this city lay the ruins of Srirangapatna, built by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan on an island in the middle of the Cauvery River.Also worth a visit is Shravanabelagola, one of the oldest and most important Jain pilgrimage centres in India, with the large 17m high monolithic statue of Bahubali. The simplicity of this place is in complete contrast with the sculptural extravaganza at Belur and Halebid. If you are interested in spotting wild animals, Bandipur and Nagarhole wildlife sanctuaries have thick forests with elephants, samba deer, sloth bears, wild boars etc. and are ideal for trekking and bird watching.