Karnataka is a land of distinct and varied cultures. From the great dynasties of the Hoysalas, Chalukyas and the mighty Vijayanagara rulers in Karnataka to the Mughals in the 17th century and the British in the 18th century, Karnataka has a rich heritage of cultural and architectural marvels. Mysore, Aihole, Bijapur, Badami, Hampi, Mangalore and Pattadakal are some of the historical destinations in Karnataka.
The ancient city of Hampi with its ruins is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the world’s largest open-air museum. Badami is another historical destination with a number of richly carved monuments and caves dating back to the 6th and 7th centuries. It has four ancient rock-cut caves replete with carved pillars and bracket fi gures, all hewn out of red sandstone, on the precipice of a hill. Belur, the capital of the erstwhile Hoysala Empire, has the beautiful Chennakesava temple that draws tourists to it every year. The Chennakesava Temple that took 103 years to complete is an excellent example of Hoysala architecture.
Halebeedu is another important tourist spot, about 16 kilometres from Belur. The Hoysaleswara Temple with a magnifi cent Nandi at its entrance is an edifi ce with a wealth of sculptural details. Shravanabelagola, about 51 kilometres south-east of Hassan, is one of the most important Jain pilgrim centres. An 18 metre high monolith of Lord Bahubali, one of Asia’s tallest monolithic statues, is situated here.
Karnataka has some wonderful architectural marvels of which the Bangalore Palace and Mysore Palace are prime examples. Inspired by the Windsor Palace in England, the Bangalore Palace is famous for its elegant parapets, battlements, fortifi ed towers, and arches. The Indo-Saracenic style Mysore Palace was built by the English architect, Henry Irwin, between 1897-1912. This enchanting palace dominates the skyline of Mysore with its beautifully designed square towers and domes. Other must visit places are the marvellous Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace in Srirangapatna and the Chitradurga Fort.