‘The state of ancient ruins dotted with spice and coffee plantation is blessed with regal legacy, antiquity architecture and bountiful nature. Karnataka, the seventh largest State in terms of area has been ruled by various dynasties and is thus home to diverse culture. The mineral rich state that forms the Deccan part of the country is the top producer of raw silk, coffee and sandalwood.’
Breathtaking royal heritage, magnificent forts and palaces are sheer architectural landmarks of Karnataka. The majestic shrines and beatific caves residing in the cities are a perfect way to explore the exceptional culture and diverse ethnicity of the State.
Steeped in royal heritage, the city situated at the base of the Chamundi Hills is home to rich history of the Wodeyars. The great patrons of art, the Wodeyars, had a succession of 25 kings who ruled Mysuru until 1947.
Designed by an English architect, Henry Irwin, the Mysore Palace, also known as the Amba Vilas Palace is the official residence of the Wodeyar dynasty. The three-storey stone structure in fine grey granite with deep pink marble domes incorporates elements from Indian, Indo-Islamic, Neo-Classical and Gothic revival styles. The palace was built between 1897-1912 and has beautifully designed square towers. The central arch of the facade has the sculpture of Gajalakshmi – the goddess of wealth with elephants. The Diwan-e-khas has rosewood doorways and the Durbar Hall has sculptures on the pillars and an ornate ceiling.
The octagonal-shaped Kalyana Mantapa boasts of multi-hued stained glass ceiling with peacock motifs. The portrait gallery at the southern end of Kalyana Mantapa has two portraits of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. The rare paintings of the Wodeyars, like the miniature of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in water-colour and gold and an oil painting of Yuvaraja Narasimharaja are also the treasured jewels of the palace. The golden howdah (or elephant seat) and the jewel encrusted golden throne are part of the items on display. The seven canons situated in front of the Gombe Thotti (Doll’s Pavilion) are used to mark the beginning and end of the annual Dasara procession. The palace is illuminated on Sundays and public holidays with 1,00,000 bulbs during Dasara celebrations.
The city of Hampi where history and architecture reside, dates back to the times of the Hoysalas. Recognised for its ruins and stone formations, Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For the strong historical and cultural connection, the city is a must in the itinerary on your next visit to the state of Karnataka. Besides attracting tourists across the globe to the wonderful sites and stone formations, the Tungabhadra river that flows through the city, craggy hill ranges and open plains make it a place of retreat for the birds. Located within Vijayanagar Empire, Hampi is believed to be a site of Kishkindha, the empire of monkey king Vali and his younger brother, Sugriva. According to the legend, the city also has strong connections with the great epic Ramayana.
Hampi is a site of flourishing Dravidian architecture with lofty towers and decorated pillars. The iconic stone chariot, also the symbol of Karnataka Tourism, resides within the Vithala Temple complex. Built in the 15th century, dedicated to Lord Vittala, the temple boasts of Vijaynagar style art and architecture. With three entrance Gopurams, the complex also has a large Pushkarani (stepped tank), Vasantotsava Mandapa (ceremonial pavilion), wells and a network of water channels. The temple also presents a perfect blend of Vijayanagar and Indo-islamic architecture in Queen’s Bath and the elephant stables.
Another temple, the Virupaksha Temple located in Hampi Bazaar is a small shrine dedicated to Lord Virupaksha. Among the three entrance Gopurams, the main entrance tower measuring 49 mts is the highest. The temple underwent expansions work during the Hoysala and Chalukya period. The mandapas and towers in the complex are intricately carved.
The enclosure, meant for the Queen and other royal ladies, is called the Lotus Mahal. The two-storied structure houses private temples and servant quarters. Another main attraction of Hampi is the Archaelogical Museum with four galleries displaying different sculptures, armoury and sati stones, brass plates and other precious items of the Vijayanagar Empire.
Karnataka is a storehouse of artistic riches. It gives the tourist an opportunity to discover everything from miniature paintings, toys to dances and textile.
Dance, Drama & Music
The folk theatre form of Karnataka, Yakshagana, with a long history of 400 years is a brilliant blend of intriguing costumes, eye-catching gestures and engaging conversation. The art form is believed to have originated in the coastal districts of Karnataka and majorly depicts stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is said that in the 13th century, a sage named Narahari Thirtha started Dashavathara performance in Udupi, which is today called Yakshagana.
Along with the use of elaborative headgears and narrative humour by antics of the clown called the ‘Hasyagar’, the theatre form has poetic songs sung by the chief musician known as the ’Bhagvata’. The chief musician controls the narrative of the play with background music played by a group of musicians known as ‘Himmela’. The ensemble of Yakshagana consists of minimum 15 people with men playing both male and female characters. Earlier, the performances were staged in the open air and today, they are performed in the compound of a temple. With stage design and unique rendering similar to the Western Opera, the folk theatre form is gaining steady popularity outside India.
A visit to Karnataka is not just about exploring its heritage and architecture, the state is also home to various adventure activities and is a paradise for nature and wildlife lovers.
Coorg: The Scotland of India
Officially known as Kodagu, the hill station is popular for the breathtaking scenery and the adventure activities for the tourists. Not only famous for the spice and coffee plantations, the place also gives a chance to explore wildlife, experience treks, admire the falls and give adrenaline a boost with various activities.
Located 4kms from the heart of the city, Abbey falls provides a mesmerising view of the cascading water which joins the Kaveri river. They were earlier called the Jessie falls by the Britishers in memory of the daughter of the town’s first captain. One can also catch a glimpse of coffee and cardamom plantation on the way to the falls.
One of the best known wildlife reserves of India, the Nagarhole National Park offers a diversity of flora and fauna. The park boasts of almost 270 species of birds and wildlife enthusiasts can also spot tiger, Indian bison, Asian elephants, Russell’s viper and Indian rock python here.
Coorg also offers a variety of options for the adventure lovers. One can experience the thrill by white water rafting in Kithu-Kakkatu River in Upper Barapole. As the water gushes through the water, the rafters experience fascinating rapids like Morning Coffee, Grass Hopper, Ramba Samba, Wicked Witch and Big Bang. A jump in the water mid-way is sure to make for a memorable experience.
A trek through the lush green forests and numerous small streams and rivers is a must when you visit Coorg. The trek to the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary gives a peak in to the rich diversity of wildlife. Iruppu falls in the Bramhagiri mountain range are a major tourist attraction. The falls are considered scared by the locals because of the legend associated with it. People believe that Lord Rama and Lakshman passed along the Brahmagiri range while searching goddess Sita. It is said that Lakshman shot an arrow into the Brahmagiri hills and brought the river Lakshmana Tirtha into being. Hence, the falls are believed to possess the power to cleanse sins.
Words: Kritika Dhawan