Monday, January 16, 2012


Discovery of an Ashoka inscription at Maski in Raichur District a few decades ago and of a Buddhist settlement through a series of archeological excavations at Sannati have shed light on the historic significance of Karnataka in the development of Buddhism. During 1954-95, 81 stone inscriptions, 2 stupas, 3 dibbas or mounds and a defence fort have been discovered at Sannati.

Buddhism had in fact entered Karnataka before the time of the Emperor Ashoka, and that it enjoyed its heyday between the 3rd century B.C. and the 3rd century A.D. Mauryas

Buddhism first emerged during Mauryas times when there was a missionary zeal. Parts of Karnataka were subject to the rule of the Mauryas. Chandragupta Maurya’s son Bindusara (298-273 BC) and Bindusara’s son Ashoka (269-232 BC) caused some of his edicts to be put up here. Ashoka’s grandson Samprati Chandragupta is believed to have come to Shravanabelagola where he spent his last years.

Eleven Ashokas edicts : 4 in Bellary District,3 in Raichur District and 3 others in Chitradurga District bear witness to the Mauryas presence in Karnataka.

The Shatavahana may have been a Karnataka dynasty, as Dharwad and Bellary Districts are called Shantavahani Hara (or Shantavahana region). Some of their kings were called rulers of Kunthala, the old name for Karnataka.The Shatavahana were successors to the Mauryas and ruled in Banavasi, as is evident from the Nasik inscription of Gautamiputra Satakarni and the copper plates from Hirehadagali.

At Sannati in Gulbarga District, as well as Vadgoan Madhavpur near Belgaum and Brahmagiri in Chitradurga District, there are remains of monuments of their period. The Uttara Kannada area of Banavasi has their inscription at Vasan in Dharwad District, and there are remains of a brick temple. Kadamba

Kadambas capital was also Banavasi, known as Vaijayanti. They were tolerant towards Buddhism as epigraphic evidence shows. Recent excavations of the site of Banavasi have given the remains of a Buddhist stupa. The large apsidal structure is what remains and it was planned like a dharma chakra. Kadambas century was a prominent one for Buddhism in Karnataka.

Chinese traveller, Hieun Tsang, visited Banavasi in the 7th century AD and saw 1000 sangharamas and three stupas. He Said By the side of the royal palace was a great sangharama with 300 priests, all men of distinction. This convent has a great vihara 100 in height.

It became difficult for Buddhism to survive, lost its specific identity and got merged with Shaivism. The Buddhist legacy in Karnataka survives in the teachings of Basaveshwara (Basavanna) in 12th century.

Buddhist temple in North Karnataka Aihole

Aihole, is today an insignificant village in Bagalkot District of North Karnataka. This place was a workshop for temple architects and sculptors patronized by early Chalukyas monarchs. Here are some of the earliest structural temples in stone in the country, dating from 450 AD, including one of the 4 Buddhist shrines in Karnataka. Aihole’s hillock, Meguti, to the rock cut Buddhist shrine. It is the most important surviving Buddhist temple in Karnataka.

The Buddhist Chaitya at Aihole, is pre western Chalukyas and indicates the influence of Mahayana. It was built around the 5th century and is 25 feet high.

Sannati, Chitapur Taluk, Gulbarga District, on both banks of the river Bhima, that many Buddhist stupas of the Shatvahana times have been found. Sannati, which date back to the 1st to 3rd century AD, the oldest among the Karnataka Buddhist sites and monuments.

Sannati which resembles Amravati and was the Buddhist centre of the Shatvahana period of pre Christian era and stands as a significant cluster of dozens of Buddhist relics, which include 2 stupas, 3 mounds, 1 fortification, 4 major rock edicts and more than 75 contemporary inscriptions. All scattered across a compact area of about 10 square kilometres.

Sculptures can be seen all along and the Buddhist ruins found there are in large numbers. They include remnants of stupas, stone pottery for holy bones and ayaka stambha which has symbolic representation of birth, parinishnishkramana, enlightenment, preaching and nirvana (salvation) of Buddha.


Inscriptions in the Brahmi script contain names of those who gave grants to sangharama, stupas and viharas.

Badami[9], the erstwhile capital city of the western Chalukyas in the 6th century. These rulers were also associated with Buddhism and relics here have survived in the shape of a Buddhist cave. There is also a figure, identifiable as Padmapani, the Bodhisatva of the same period.

Chinese traveller, Hieun Tsang has stated that during the time of Pulakesin II 642 AD in Banavasi or Konkanpura, there were 400 Sangharamas and 10000 followers of Buddhism.Dambal in Gadag District, there was a Buddhist centre as During 12th century. Inscription

A Dambala inscription of 1095 AD, begins with the customary invocation namo buddhyana and goes go to describe at length the greatness of Tara bhagavati.

Inscription of 1095 AD, a temple of the Buddhist deity Tara and a Buddhist vihara were built by 16 merchants during the reign of Lakshmidevi, queen of Vikramaditya VI. Another temple of Tara, built at Dambal was by Sethi Sangarmaya of Lokkigundi (Lakkundi).Kolivada

Kolivada, Hubbali taluk, Dharwad District.

An icon of Tara has been discovered belonging to about the 13th century.

Inscribed on the pedestal of this icon are the words siddham om namo bhagavatayai Aryatarayai, and followed by the usual statement of the Buddha’s teaching in brief.

Buddhist Tibetan settlement at Mundgod

Tibetan colony Mundgod

The Tibetan settlement at Mundgod[10], is located 45 km from Hubli-Dharwad. and the settlement at Mundgod is the largest in India.It was founded in 1966. Now there are 9 camps with 2 monasteries and a nunnery.

Karnataka was created on 1 November 1956, with the passing of the States Reorganisation Act and this day is annually celebrated as Karnataka Rajyotsava (Formation Day). Originally known as the State of Mysore, it was renamed Karnataka in 1973.It is the land of the Kannadigas, Tuluvas, Konkanis and Kodavas. The capital and largest city is Bangalore.

Karnataka is bordered by the Arabian Sea to the west, Goa to the northwest, Maharashtra to the north, Andhra Pradesh to the east, Tamil Nadu to the southeast, and Kerala to the southwest. The state covers an area of 191,976 square kilometres (74,122 sq mi), or 5.83% of the total geographical area of India. It is the eighth largest Indian state by area. With over 61 million inhabitants (2011), Karnataka is the the ninth largest state by population, comprising 30 districts. Kannada is the most widely spoken and official language of the state.

The two main river systems of the state are Krishna and its tributaries (Bhima, Ghataprabha, Vedavati, Malaprabha, and Tungabhadra) in the north, and the Cauvery and its tributaries (Hemavati, Shimsha, Arkavathi, Lakshmana Thirtha and Kabini) in the south. Both these rivers flow eastward and fall into the Bay of Bengal.

Though several etymologies have been suggested for the name Karnataka, the generally accepted one is that Karnataka is derived from the Kannada words karu and nādu, meaning elevated land. Karu nadu may also be read as Karu (black) and nadu (region), as a reference to the black cotton soil found in the Bayaluseeme region of Karnataka. The British used the word Carnatic (sometimes Karnatak) to describe both sides of peninsular India, south of the Krishna River.[6]

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Mallikarjuna temple and Kashi Vishwanatha temple at Pattadakal, North Karnataka built successively by the Chalukya Empire and Rashtrakuta Empire are UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Karnatakan pre-history goes back to a paleolithic hand-axe culture evidenced by discoveries of, among other things, hand axes and cleavers in the region. Evidence of neolithic and megalithic cultures have also been found in the state. Gold discovered in Harappa was found to be imported from mines in Karnataka, prompting scholars to hypothesize about contacts between ancient Karnataka and the Indus Valley Civilization ca. 3000 BCE.

Prior to the third century BCE, most of Karnataka formed part of the Nanda Empire before coming under the Mauryan empire of Emperor Ashoka. Four centuries of Satavahana rule followed, allowing them to control large areas of Karnataka. The decline of Satavahana power led to the rise of the earliest native kingdoms, the Kadambas and the Western Gangas, marking the region's emergence as an independent political entity. The Kadamba Dynasty, founded by Mayurasharma, had its capital at Banavasi; the Western Ganga Dynasty was formed with Talakad as its capital.

These were also the first kingdoms to use Kannada in administration, as evidenced by the Halmidi inscription and a fifth-century copper coin discovered at Banavasi. These dynasties were followed by imperial Kannada empires such as the Badami Chalukyas, the Rashtrakuta Empire of Manyakheta and the Western Chalukya Empire, which ruled over large parts of the Deccan and had their capitals in what is now Karnataka. The Western Chalukyas patronised a unique style of architecture and Kannada literature which became a precursor to the Hoysala art of 12th century.

Parts of modern-day Karnataka were occupied by the Chola Empire between 990-1210 AD. This process started under Rajaraja Chola I (985-1014) and continued under his son Rajendra Chola I (1014–1044).[25] Initially Gangapadi, Nolambapadi and Tadigaipadi, all parts of modern Mysore, were conquered and annexed under Raja Raja Chola I. Rajendra Chola I "marched up to Donur, he also captured Banvasi, a good part of the Raichur doab and sacked Manyakheta" itself, which was the Western Chalukyan capital. During the time of the Chalukya ruler Jayasimha after his defeat by Rajendra Chola I, the Tungabhadra river was recognized tacitly as the boundary between the two kingdoms. During the rule of Rajadhiraja Chola I (1042–1056), Dannada, Kulpak, Koppam, the fortress of Kampili, Pundur, Yetagiri and the Chalukyan capital Kalyani were sacked. In 1053, Rajendra Chola II after defeating the Chalukyans in war advanced to Kollapura where he erected a pillar of victory before returning to his capital at Gangaikondacholapuram.[26] In 1066, the Western Chalukya ruler Somesvara's forces were defeated by the next Chola ruler Virarajendra, who then again defeated the Western Chalukyas at Kudalasangama, and set up a pillar of victory on the banks of the Tungabhadra. In AD 1075 Kulottunga Chola I won a victory against Vikramaditya VI at Nangili in Kolar district and made himself the master of Gangavadi. The Cholas eventually lost Gangavadi in 1116 to the Hoysalas under Vishnuvardhana.

Statue of Ugranarasimha at Hampi (a World Heritage Site), located within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire.

At the turn of the first millennium, the Hoysalas gained power in the region. Literature flourished during this time, which led to the distinctive Kannada literary metres and the construction of temples and sculptures adhering to the Vesara style of architecture.[29][30][31][32] The expansion of the Hoysala Empire brought minor parts of modern Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu under its rule. In the early 14th century, Harihara and Bukka Raya established the Vijayanagara empire with its capital, Hosapattana (later named Vijayanagara), on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in the modern Bellary district. The empire rose as a bulwark against Muslim advances into South India, which it completely controlled for over two centuries.

In 1565, Karnataka and the rest of South India experienced a major geopolitical shift when the Vijayanagara Empire fell to a confederation of Islamic sultanates in the Battle of Talikota. The Bijapur Sultanate, which had risen after the demise of the Bahmani Sultanate of Bidar, soon took control of the Deccan; it was defeated by the Moghuls in the late 17th century. The Bahamani and Bijapur rulers encouraged Urdu and Persian literature and Indo-Saracenic architecture, the Gol Gumbaz being one of the high points of this style. During the sixteenth century, Konkani Hindus migrated to Karnataka, mostly from Salcette, Goa, while during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the Mangalorean Catholics migrated to South Canara, in Karnataka, especially from Bardes, Goa, as a result of food shortages, epidemics and heavy taxation imposed by the Portuguese.

In the period that followed, parts of northern Karnataka were ruled by the Nizam of Hyderabad, the British, and other powers. In the south, the Mysore Kingdom, former vassals of the Vijayanagara Empire, was briefly independent. With the death of Krishnaraja Wodeyar II, Haidar Ali, the commander-in-chief of the Mysore army, gained control of the region. After his death, the kingdom was inherited by his son Tippu Sultan. To contain European expansion in South India, Haidar Ali and later Tippu Sultan fought four significant Anglo-Mysore Wars, the last of which resulted in Tippu Sultan's death and the incorporation of Mysore into the British Raj in 1799. The Kingdom of Mysore was restored to the Wodeyars and Mysore remained a princely state under the British Raj.

As the "doctrine of lapse" gave way to dissent and resistance from princely states across the country, Kittur Chennamma, Sangolli Rayanna and others spearheaded rebellions in Karnataka in 1830, nearly three decades before the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Other uprisings followed, such as the ones at Supa, Bagalkot, Shorapur, Nargund and Dandeli. These rebellions - which coincided with the 1857 war of independence - were led by Mundargi Bhimarao, Bhaskar Rao Bhave, the Halagali Bedas, Raja Venkatappa Nayaka and others. By the late 19th century, the freedom movement had gained momentum;

After India's independence, the Maharaja, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, allowed his kingdom's accession to India. In 1950, Mysore became an Indian state of the same name; the former Maharaja served as its Rajpramukh (head of state) until 1975. Following the long-standing demand of the Ekikarana Movement, Kodagu- and Kannada-speaking regions from the adjoining states of Madras, Hyderabad and Bombay were incorporated into the Mysore state, under the States Reorganization Act of 1956. The thus expanded state was renamed Karnataka, seventeen years later, in 1973.[45] In the early 1900s through the post-independence era, industrial visionaries such as Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvarayya born in Muddenahalli, near Kanivenarayanapura, Chikballapur District played an important role in the development of Karnataka's strong manufacturing and industrial base.

There are 30 districts in Karnataka: Demographics

According to the 2001 census of India, the total population of Karnataka is 52,850,562, of which 26,898,918 (50.9%) are male and 25,951,644 (49.1%) are female, or 1000 males for every 964 females. This represents a 17.3% increase over the population in 1991. The population density is 275.6 per km² and 34.0% of the people live in urban areas. The literacy rate is 66.6% with 76.1% of males and 56.9% of females being literate.[2] 83% of the population are Hindu, 11% are Muslim, 4% are Christian, 0.8% are Jains, 0.7% are Buddhist, and with the remainder belonging to other religions.[53]

Kannada is the official language of Karnataka and spoken as a native language by about 64.8% of the people. Other linguistic minorities in the state as of 1991 are Urdu (9.7%), Telugu (8.3%), Tamil (3.8%), Marathi (4.0%), Tulu (3.4%), Hindi (1.9%), Konkani (1.8%), Malayalam (1.7%) and Kodava Takk (0.3%).[54] The state has a birth rate of 2.2%, a death rate of 0.7%, an infant mortality rate of 5.5% and a maternal mortality rate of 0.2%. The total fertility rate is 2.2.[55]

In the field of super-specialty health care, Karnataka's private sector competes with the best in the world.[56] Karnataka has also established a modicum of public health services having a better record of health care and child care than most other states of India. In spite of these advances, some parts of the state still leave much to be desired when it comes to primary health care.[57]

Government and administration

Karnataka, like other Indian states, has a parliamentary system of government with two democratically elected houses, the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. The Legislative Assembly consists of 224 members who are elected for five-year terms.[58] The Legislative Council is a permanent body of 75 members with one-third (25 members) retiring every two years.[58]

The government of Karnataka is headed by the Chief Minister who is chosen by the ruling party members of the Legislative Assembly. The Chief Minister, along with the council of ministers, drives the legislative agenda and exercises most of the executive powers.[59] However, the constitutional and formal head of the state is the Governor who is appointed for a five-year term by the President of India on the advice of the Union government.[60] The people of Karnataka also elect 28 members to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament.[61] The members of the state Legislative Assembly elect 12 members to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament.

For administrative purposes, Karnataka has been divided into four revenue divisions, 49 sub-divisions, 29 districts, 175 taluks and 745 hoblies/revenue circles.[62] The administration in each district is headed by a Deputy Commissioner who belongs to the Indian Administrative Service and is assisted by a number of officers belonging to Karnataka state services. The Deputy Commissioner of Police, an officer belonging to the Indian Police Service and assisted by the officers of the Karnataka Police Service, is entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining law and order and related issues in each district. The Deputy Conservator of Forests, an officer belonging to the Indian Forest Service, also serves the government. Sectoral development in the districts is looked after by the district head of each development department such as Public Works Department, Health, Education, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, etc. The judiciary in the state consists of the Karnataka High Court (Attara Kacheri) in Bangalore, district and session courts in each district and lower courts and judges at the taluk level.

Politics in Karnataka has been dominated by three political parties, the Indian National Congress, the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Bharatiya Janata Party.[63] Politicians from Karnataka have played prominent roles in federal government of India with some of them having held the high positions of Prime Minister and Vice President. Three cabinet levels ministers in the current United Progressive Alliance government are from Karnataka. Notable among these is Former Chief Minister and Honorable Union Minister for Law, Justice and Company Affairs, Veerappa Moily. Border disputes involving Karnataka's claim on the Kasaragod[64] and Sholapur[65] districts and Maharashtra's claim on Belgaum are ongoing since the states reorganisation.[66] The official emblem of Karnataka has a Ganda Berunda in the centre. Surmounting this are four lions facing the four directions, taken from the Lion Capital of Asoka at Sarnath. The emblem also carries two Sharabhas with the head of an elephant and the body of a lion.


Line graph of yearly growth
GSDP Growth of the Karnatakan Economy over the previous years

Karnataka, which had an estimated GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product) of about US$ 58.23 billion in 2008-09 fiscal year. Karnataka recorded the highest growth rates in terms of GDP and per capita GDP in the last decade compared to other states.[67]

The state registered a GSDP growth rate of 7% for the year 2007-2008.[68] Karnataka's contribution to India's GDP in the year 2004-05 was 5.2%.[69] Karnataka was the fastest growing state over the past decade in terms of GDP and per capita GDP. With GDP growth of 56.2% and per capita GDP growth of 43.9%, Karnataka now has the sixth highest per-capita GDP of all states.[70] Till September 2006 Karnataka received a Foreign Direct Investment of INR78.097 billion ($ 1.7255 billion) for the fiscal year 2006-07, placing it third among the states of India.[71] At the end of 2004, the unemployment rate in Karnataka was 4.94% compared to the national rate of 5.99%.[72] For the fiscal year 2006-07, the inflation rate in Karnataka was 4.4%, compared to the national average of 4.7%.[73] As of 2004-05, Karnataka had an estimated poverty ratio of 17%, less than the national ratio of 27.5%.[74]

Nearly 56% of the workforce in Karnataka is engaged in agriculture and related activities.[75] A total of 12.31 million hectares of land, or 64.6% of the state's total area, is cultivated.[76] Much of the agricultural output is dependent on the southwest monsoon as only 26.5% of the sown area is irrigated.[76]

Karnataka is the manufacturing hub for some of the largest public sector industries in India, including Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, National Aerospace Laboratories, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, Indian Telephone Industries, Bharat Earth Movers Limited and Hindustan Machine Tools, which are based in Bangalore. Many of India's premier science and technology research centers, such as Indian Space Research Organization, Central Power Research Institute, Bharat Electronics Limited and the Central Food Technological Research Institute, are also headquartered in Karnataka. Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited is an oil refinery located in Mangalore.

Pie chart of economy sectors
Contribution to economy by sector

Since the 1980s, Karnataka has emerged as the pan-Indian leader in the field of IT (information technology). As of 2007, there were nearly 2,000 firms operating out of Karnataka. Many of them, including two of India's biggest software firms, Infosys and Wipro are also headquartered in the state.[77] Exports from these firms exceeded INR50,000 crores ($12.5 billion) in 2006-07, accounting for nearly 38% of all IT exports from India.[77] The Nandi Hills area in the outskirts of Devanahalli is the site of the upcoming $22 Billion, 50 square kilometer BIAL IT Investment Region, one the largest infrastructure projects in the history of Karnataka.[78] All this has earned the state capital, Bangalore, the sobriquet Silicon Valley of India.[79]

Karnataka also leads the nation in biotechnology. It is home to India's largest biocluster, with 158 of the country's 320 biotechnology firms being based here.[80] The state also accounts for 75% of India's floriculture, an upcoming industry which supplies flowers and ornamental plants worldwide.[81]

Seven of India's leading banks, Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank, Corporation Bank, Vijaya Bank, Karnataka Bank, Vysya Bank and the State Bank of Mysore originated in this state.[82] The coastal districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada have a branch for every 500 persons—the best distribution of banks in India.[83] As of March 2002, Karnataka had 4767 branches of different banks with each branch serving 11,000 persons, which is lower than the national average of 16,000.[84]

A majority of the 3500 crore silk industry in India is headquartered in Karnataka State, particularly in the North Bangalore regions of Muddenahalli, Kanivenarayanapura, and Doddaballapura the upcoming sites of a 70 crore "Silk City".[85][86]


Air transport in Karnataka, as in the rest of the country, is still a fledgling but fast expanding sector. Karnataka has airports at Bangalore, Mangalore, Hubli, Belgaum, Hampi, Bellary and Mysore with international operations from Bangalore and Mangalore airports.[87] Major airlines such as Kingfisher Airlines and Kingfisher red are based in Bangalore.

Karnataka has a railway network with a total length of approximately 3,089 kilometres (1,919 mi). Until the creation of the South Western Zone headquartered at Hubli in 2003, the railway network in the state was in the Southern and Western railway zones. Several parts of the state now come under the South Western Zone, with the remainder under the Southern Railways. Coastal Karnataka is covered under the Konkan railway network which was considered India's biggest railway project of the century.[88] Bangalore is extensively connected with inter-state destinations while other important cities and towns in the state are not so well-connected.[89][90]

Karnataka has 11 ports, including the New Mangalore Port, a major port and ten other minor ports.[91] The New Mangalore port was incorporated as the ninth major port in India on 4 May 1974. This port handled 32.04 million tonnes of traffic in the fiscal year 2006-07 with 17.92 million tonnes of imports and 14.12 million tonnes of exports. The port also handled 1015 vessels including 18 cruise vessels during the year 2006-07. The inland water transport within the state is not well developed.

The total lengths of National Highways and state highways in Karnataka are 3,973 kilometres (2,469 mi) and 9,829 kilometres (6,107 mi), respectively. The KSRTC, the state public transport corporation, transports an average of 2.2 million passengers daily and employs about 25,000 people.[92] In the late nineties, KSRTC was split into three corporations, viz., The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, The North-West Karnataka Road Transport Corporation and The North-East Karnataka Road Transport Corporation with their headquarters in Bangalore, Hubli and Gulbarga respectively.[92]


Flag with 2 bars of yellow and red
The Kannada flag is widely used in Karnataka even though it is not an official flag.
Person with painted eyes in Yakshagana costume, as gold-spangled robe with red sheer scarf and spiked headress on gold crown
A Yakshagana artist

The diverse linguistic and religious ethnicities that are native to Karnataka combined with their long histories have contributed immensely to the varied cultural heritage of the state. Apart from Kannadigas, Karnataka is home to Tuluvas, Kodavas and Konkanis. Minor populations of Tibetan Buddhists and tribes like the Soligas, Yeravas, Todas and Siddhis also live in Karnataka. The traditional folk arts cover the entire gamut of music, dance, drama, storytelling by itinerant troupes, etc. Yakshagana of Malnad and coastal Karnataka, a classical dance drama, is one of the major theatrical forms of Karnataka. Contemporary theatre culture in Karnataka remains vibrant with organizations like Ninasam, Ranga Shankara, Rangayana and Prabhat Kalavidaru continuing to build on the foundations laid by Gubbi Veeranna, T. P. Kailasam, B. V. Karanth, K V Subbanna, Prasanna and others.[93] Veeragase, Kamsale, Kolata and Dollu Kunitha are popular dance forms. The Mysore style of Bharatanatya nurtured and popularised by the likes of the legendary Jatti Tayamma continues to hold sway in Karnataka and Bangalore also enjoys an eminent place as one of the foremost centers of Bharatanatya.[94]

Karnataka also has a special place in the world of Indian classical music with both Karnataka[95] (Carnatic) and Hindustani styles finding place in the state and Karnataka has produced a number of stalwarts in both styles. While referring to music the word 'Karnataka', the original name given to the South Indian classical music does not mean the state of Karnataka. The Haridasa movement of the sixteenth century contributed seminally to the development of Karnataka (Carnatic) music as a performing art form. Purandara Dasa, one of the most revered Haridasas, is known as the Karnataka Sangeeta Pitamaha ('Father of Karnataka a.k.a.Carnatic music').[96] Celebrated Hindustani musicians like Gangubai Hangal, Mallikarjun Mansur, Bhimsen Joshi, Basavaraja Rajaguru, Sawai Gandharva and several others hail from Karnataka and some of them have been recipients of the Kalidas Samman, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan awards.

Gamaka is another classical music genre based on Carnatic music that is practiced in Karnataka. Kannada Bhavageete is a genre of popular music that draws inspiration from the expressionist poetry of modern poets. The Mysore school of painting has produced painters like Sundarayya, Tanjavur Kondayya, B. Venkatappa and Keshavayya.[97] Chitrakala Parishat is an organisation in Karnataka dedicated to promoting painting, mainly in the Mysore painting style.

Saree is the traditional dress of women in Karnataka. Women in Kodagu have a distinct style of wearing the saree, different from the rest of Karnataka.[98] Dhoti, known as Panche in Karnataka is the traditional attire of men. Shirt, Trousers and Salwar kameez are widely worn in Urban areas. Mysore Peta is the traditional headgear of southern Karnataka, while the pagadi or pataga (similar to the Rajasthani turban) is preferred in the northern areas of the state.

Rice (Kannada: ಅಕ್ಕಿ) and Ragi form the staple food in South Karnataka, whereas Jolada rotti, Sorghum is staple to North Karnataka. Bisi bele bath, Jolada rotti, Ragi mudde, Uppittu, Masala Dose and Maddur Vade are some of the popular food items in Karnataka. Among sweets, Mysore Pak, Belgaavi Kunda, Gokak karadantu, and Dharwad pedha are popular. Apart from this, coastal Karnataka and Kodagu have distinctive cuisines of their own. Udupi cuisine of coastal Karnataka is popular all over India.


Giant grey stone statue of nude man with vines climbing legs to his arms
The Gomateswara (982–983) monolith at Shravanabelagola is one of the foremost centers of Jain pilgrimage today.
Indoor white relief sculpture of seated deity with 4 arms
Inside Badami cave temple

Adi Shankaracharya chose Sringeri in Karnataka to establish the first of his four mathas. Shri Madhvacharya (Kannada: ಶ್ರೀ ಮಧ್ವಾಚಾರ್ಯರು, Śrī Madhvācārya) (1238–1317) was the chief proponent of Tattvavāda (Philosophy of Reality), popularly known as Dvaita or Dualistic school of Hindu philosophy - one of the three most influential Vedānta philosophies. Madhva was one of the important philosophers during the Bhakti movement. He was a pioneer in many ways, going against standard conventions and norms. According to tradition, Madhvācārya is believed to be the third incarnation of Vāyu (Mukhyaprāṇa), after Hanumān and Bhīma. The Haridasa (Kannada: ಹರಿದಾಸ) devotional movement is considered as one of the turning points in the cultural history of India. Over a span of nearly six centuries, several saints and mystics helped shape the culture, philosophy and art of South India and Karnataka in particular by exerting considerable spiritual influence over the masses and kingdoms that ruled South India.[1]

This movement was ushered in by the Haridasas (Kannada: ಹರಿದಾಸರು, literally meaning 'servants of Lord Hari') and took shape in the 13th century - 14th century CE, period, prior to and during the early rule of the Vijayanagara empire. The main objective of this movement was to propagate the Dvaita philosophy of Madhvacharya (Madhva Siddhanta) to the masses through a literary medium known as Dasa Sahitya (literature of the servants of the Lord. Purandaradasa often called "Pithamaha" of Carnatic Music for his immense contribution in simplifying carnatic music, he was the "Guru" of Swamy Haridas (Tansen's guru)who pioneered Hindustani music in North India. ) Ramanujacharya, the leading expounder of Viśiṣṭādvaita, spent many years in Melkote. He came to Karnataka in 1098 AD and lived here until 1122 AD. He first lived in Tondanur and then moved to Melkote where the Cheluvanarayana Temple and a well organised Matha were built. He was patronized by the Hoysala king, Vishnuvardhana.[99]

In the twelfth century, Veerashaivism emerged in northern Karnataka as a protest against the rigidity of the prevailing social and caste system. Leading figures of this movement were Basava, Akka Mahadevi and Allama Prabhu, who established the Anubhava Mantapa which was the center of all religious and philosophical thoughts and discussions pertaining to Ligayats. These three social reformers did so by the literary means of 'Vachana Sahitya' which is very famous for its simple, straight forward and easily understandable Kannada language. Lingayatism preached women equalism by letting women wear Linga i.e. god around their neck which was prohibited in those days. Basava shunned the sharp hierarchical divisions that existed and sought to remove all distinctions between the hierarchially superior master class and the subordinate, servile class. He also supported intercaste marriages and Kaayaka Tatva of Basavanna bases itself on Karma Siddhanta (Philosophy of Karma). This was the basis of the Lingayat faith which today counts millions among its followers.[100]

The Jain philosophy and literature have contributed immensely to the religious and cultural landscape of Karnataka.

Islam, which had an early presence on the west coast of India as early as the tenth century, gained a foothold in Karnataka with the rise of the Bahamani and Bijapur sultanates that ruled parts of Karnataka.[101] Christianity reached Karnataka in the sixteenth century with the arrival of the Portuguese and St. Francis Xavier in 1545.[102] Buddhism was popular in Karnataka during the first millennium in places such as Gulbarga and Banavasi. A chance discovery of edicts and several Mauryan relics at Sannati in Gulbarga district in 1986 has proven that the Krishna River basin was once home to both Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism.

Mysore Dasara is celebrated as the Nada habba (state festival) and this is marked by major festivities at Mysore.[103] Ugadi (Kannada New Year), Makara Sankranti (the harvest festival), Ganesh Chaturthi, Nagapanchami, Basava Jayanthi, Deepavali, and Ramzan are the other major festivals of Karnataka.


Monument with black plaque of inscribed writing
Halmidi inscription (450 CE) is the earliest attested inscription in Kannada language (right-click to enlarge).

The Kannada language is the official language of the state, the native language of approximately 65% of its population and one of the classical languages of India.[104][105] Kannada played a crucial role in the creation of Karnataka: linguistic demographics played a major role in defining the new state in 1956. Tulu, Kodava Takk and Konkani are other major native languages that share a long history in the state. Urdu is spoken widely by the Muslim population. Less widely spoken languages include Beary bashe and certain dialects such as Sankethi. Kannada features a rich and ancient body of literature covering topics as diverse as Jainism, Vachanas, Haridasa Sahitya and modern literature. Evidence from edicts during the time of Ashoka the Great suggest that the Kannada script and its literature were influenced by Buddhist literature. The Halmidi inscription, the earliest attested full-length inscription in the Kannada language and script, is dated to 450 CE while the earliest available literary work, the Kavirajamarga, has been dated to 850 CE. References made in the Kavirajamarga, however, prove that Kannada literature flourished in the Chattana, Beddande and Melvadu metres during earlier centuries.[106]

Kuvempu, the renowned Kannada poet and writer who wrote Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate, the state anthem of Karnataka[107] was the first recipient of the "Karnataka Ratna" award, the highest civilian award bestowed by the Government of Karnataka. Contemporary Kannada literature is well recognized in the arena of Indian literature, with seven Kannada writers winning India's highest literary honour, the Jnanpith award, which is the highest for any language in India.[108] Tulu is spoken mainly in the coastal districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada. Tulu Mahabharato, written by Arunabja in Tulu script, is the oldest surviving Tulu text.[109] The Tulu language now uses the Kannada script due to the gradual decline of the Tulu script, which was in use until a few centuries ago. The Kodavas who mainly reside in the Kodagu district, speak Kodava Takk. Two regional variations of the language exist, the northern Mendale Takka and the southern Kiggaati Takka.[110] Konkani is mostly spoken in the Uttara Kannada district and in some parts of the Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts. Both Kodava Takk and Konkani use the Kannada script for writing. English is the medium of education in many schools and widely used for business communication in technology-related companies and BPOs.

All of the state's languages are patronised and promoted by governmental and quasi-governmental bodies. The Kannada Sahitya Parishat and the Kannada Sahitya Akademi are responsible for the promotion of Kannada while the Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Akademi,[111] The Tulu Sahitya Akademi and the Kodava Sahitya Akademi promote their respective languages.

Karnataka being a multilingual state, various linguistic groups have been demanding for separate states based on language in the regions where those languages are spoken by the majority. Tuluvas and Kodavas are major ethnic groups which aspire to form separate states.


3-storey stone building with taller ivory tower
Indian Institute of Science is one of the premier institutes of India located in Bangalore.

As per the 2001 census, Karnataka had a literacy rate of 67.04%, with 76.29% of males and 57.45% of females in the state being literate.[112] The state is home to some of the premier educational and research institutions of India such as the Indian Institute of Science, the Indian Institute of Management, the National Institute of Technology Karnataka and the National Law School of India University.

As of March 2006, Karnataka had 54,529 primary schools with 252,875 teachers and 8.495 million students,[113] and 9498 secondary schools with 92,287 teachers and 1.384 million students.[113] There are three kinds of schools in the state, viz., government-run, private aided (financial aid is provided by the government) and private unaided (no financial aid is provided). The primary languages of instruction in most schools are Kannada and English. The syllabus taught in the schools is either of the CBSE, the ICSE or the state syllabus (SSLC) defined by the Department of Public Instruction of the Government of Karnataka. However, some schools follows NIOS syllabus. The State has one Sainik School in Bijapur also.

In order to maximize attendance in schools, the Karnataka Government has launched a mid-day meal scheme in government and aided schools in which free lunch is provided to the students.[114] Statewide board examinations are conducted at the end of the period of secondary education and students who qualify are allowed to pursue a two-year pre-university course; after which students become eligible to pursue under-graduate degrees.

There are 481 degree colleges affiliated with one of the universities in the state, viz. Bangalore University, Gulbarga University, Karnatak University, Kuvempu University, Mangalore University and Mysore University.[115] In 1998, the engineering colleges in the state were brought under the newly formed Visvesvaraya Technological University headquartered at Belgaum, whereas the medical colleges are run under the jurisdiction of the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences. Some of these baccalaureate colleges are accredited with the status of a deemed university. There are 186 engineering, 39 medical and 41 dental colleges in the state.[116] Udupi, Sringeri, Gokarna and Melkote are well-known places of Sanskrit and Vedic learning. An Indian Institute of Technology Muddenahalli has been approved by the central government as part of the 11th 5 year plan. This will be the first IIT in Karnataka State.[117] In addition, a 600 crore Visvesvaraya Institute of Advanced Technology (VIAT) is being constructed in Muddenahalli-Kanivenarayanapura.[118]

Tulu language is taught as an optional subject in the twin districts of South Canara and Udupi.[119]


The era of Kannada newspapers started in the year 1843 when Hermann Mögling, a missionary from Basel Mission, published the first Kannada newspaper called Mangalooru Samachara in Mangalore. The first Kannada periodical, Mysuru Vrittanta Bodhini was started by Bhashyam Bhashyacharya in Mysore. Shortly after Indian independence in 1948, K. N. Guruswamy founded The Printers (Mysore) Private Limited and began publishing two newspapers, the Deccan Herald and Prajavani. Presently the Times of India and Vijaya Karnataka are the largest-selling English and Kannada newspapers respectively.[120][121] A vast number of weekly, biweekly and monthly magazines are under publication in both Kannada and English. Udayavani, Kannadaprabha, Samyukta Karnataka, Vaartha Bharathi, Sanjevani, Eesanje, Hosa digantha, Karavali Ale are also some popular dailies published from Karnataka.

Doordarshan is the broadcaster of the Government of India and its channel DD Chandana is dedicated to Kannada. Prominent Kannada channels include ETV Kannada, Zee Kannada, Udaya TV, U2, TV 9, Asianet Suvarna and Kasturi TV.[122]

Karnataka occupies a special place in the history of Indian radio. In 1935, Aakashvani, the first private radio station in India, was started by Prof. M.V. Gopalaswamy at Mysore.[123] The popular radio station was taken over by the local municipality and later by All India Radio (AIR) and moved to Bangalore in 1955. Later in 1957, AIR adopted the original name of the radio station, Aakashavani as its own. Some of the popular programs aired by AIR Bangalore included Nisarga Sampada and Sasya Sanjeevini which were programs that taught science through songs, plays and stories. These two programs became so popular that they were translated and broadcasted in 18 different languages and the entire series was recorded on cassettes by the Government of Karnataka and distributed to thousands of schools across the state.[123] Karnataka has witnessed a growth in FM radio channels mainly in the cities of Bangalore, Mangalore and Mysore which has become hugely popular.[124][125]


Photo of young man wearing lavendar shirt and unframed eyeglasses
Anil Kumble, former captain of the Indian Test team, is the highest wicket-taker for India in international cricket.

Karnataka's smallest district, Kodagu, is a major contributor to Indian field hockey, producing numerous players who have represented India at the international level.[126] The annual Kodava Hockey Festival is the largest hockey tournament in the world.[127] Bangalore has hosted a WTA tennis event and, in 1997, it hosted the fourth National Games of India.[128] The Sports Authority of India, the premier sports institute in the country, and the Nike Tennis Academy are also situated in Bangalore. Karnataka has been referred to as the cradle of Indian swimming because of its high standards in comparison to other states.[129]

One of the most popular sports in Karnataka is cricket. The state cricket team has won the Ranji Trophy six times, second only to Mumbai in terms of success.[130] Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore regularly hosts international matches and is also the home of the National Cricket Academy, which was opened in 2000 to nurture potential international players. Many cricketers have represented India and in one international match held in the 1990s; players from Karnataka composed the majority of the national team.[131][132]

The Karnataka Premier League, an inter-regional Twenty20 cricket tournament is a cricket tournament played in the state. The Royal Challengers Bangalore, an Indian Premier League franchise, is based in Bangalore.

Sports like kho kho, kabaddi, chinni daandu and goli (marbles) are played mostly in Karnataka's rural areas.

Notable sportsmen from Karnataka include Prakash Padukone who won the All England Badminton Championships in 1980 and Pankaj Advani who has won three world titles in cue sports by the age of 20 including the amateur World Snooker Championship in 2003 and the World Billiards Championship in 2005.[133][134]

Cycling talent of Karnataka needs a special mention. Off late Bijapur district has produced some of the best known Road Cyclists in the national circuit. Premalata Sureban was part of the Indian contingent at the Perlis Open '99 in Malaysia. In recognition of the talent of cyclists in the district, the State Government has already laid a cycling track at the B.R. Ambedkar Stadium here, spending INR. 40 lakh.[135]

Flora and fauna

Photo of olive-winged bird with sky-blue head/vest.
The state bird, Indian Roller.

Karnataka has a rich diversity of flora and fauna. It has a recorded forest area of 38,720 km2 (14,950 sq mi) which constitutes 20.19% of the total geographical area of the state. These forests support 25% of the elephant and 10% of the tiger population of India. Many regions of Karnataka are as yet unexplored, so new species of flora and fauna are found periodically. The Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot, includes the western region of Karnataka. Two sub-clusters in the Western Ghats, viz. Talacauvery and Kudremukh, both in Karnataka, are on the tentative list of World Heritage Sites of UNESCO.[136] The Bandipur and Nagarahole National Parks, which fall outside these subclusters, were included in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in 1986, a UNESCO designation.[137] The Indian roller and the Indian elephant are recognized as the state bird and animal while sandalwood and the lotus are recognized as the state tree and flower respectively. Karnataka has five national parks: Anshi, Bandipur, Bannerghatta, Kudremukh and Nagarhole.[138] It also has 25 wildlife sanctuaries of which seven are bird sanctuaries.[138]

Wild animals that are found in Karnataka include the elephant, the tiger, the leopard, the gaur, the sambar deer, the chital or spotted deer, the muntjac, the bonnet macaque, the slender loris, the common palm civet, the small Indian civet, the sloth bear, the dhole, the striped hyena and the golden jackal. Some of the birds found here are the Great Hornbill, the Malabar Pied Hornbill, the Ceylon frogmouth, herons, ducks, kites, eagles, falcons, quails, partridges, lapwings, sandpipers, pigeons, doves, parakeets, cuckoos, owls, nightjars, swifts, kingfishers, bee-eaters and munias.[138] Some species of trees found in Karnataka are Callophyllum tomentosa, Callophyllum wightianum, Garcina cambogia, Garcina morealla, Alstonia scholaris, Flacourtia montana, Artocarpus hirsutus, Artocarpus lacoocha, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Grewia tilaefolia, Santalum album, Shorea talura, Emblica officinalis, Vitex altissima and Wrightia tinctoria. Wildlife in Karnataka is threatened by poaching, habitat destruction, human-wildlife conflict and pollution.[138]


By virtue of its varied geography and long history, Karnataka hosts numerous spots of interest for tourists. There is an array of ancient sculptured temples, modern cities, scenic hill ranges, unexplored forests and endless beaches. Karnataka has been ranked as the fourth most popular destination for tourism among the states of India.[139] Karnataka has the second highest number of nationally protected monuments in India, second only to Uttar Pradesh,[140] in addition to 752 monuments protected by the State Directorate of Archaeology and Museums. Another 25,000 monuments are yet to receive protection.[141][142]

7-storey domed building with 4 domed corner towers
Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur, has the second largest pre-modern dome in the world after the Byzantine Hagia Sophia.

The districts of the Western Ghats and the southern districts of the state have popular eco-tourism locations including Kudremukh, Madikeri and Agumbe. Karnataka has 25 wildlife sanctuaries and five national parks. Popular among them are Bandipur National Park, Bannerghatta National Park and Nagarhole National Park. The ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire at Hampi and the monuments of Pattadakal are on the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. The cave temples at Badami and the rock-cut temples at Aihole representing the Badami Chalukyan style of architecture are also popular tourist destinations. The Hoysala temples at Belur and Halebidu, which were built with Chloritic schist (soapstone) are proposed UNESCO World Heritage sites.[143] The Gol Gumbaz and Ibrahim Rauza are famous examples of the Deccan Sultanate style of architecture. The monolith of Gomateshwara Bahubali at Shravanabelagola is the tallest sculpted monolith in the world, attracting tens of thousands of pilgrims during the Mahamastakabhisheka festival.[144]

Golden 5-storey Mysore Palace building with 21 domed towers and central spire
Mysore Palace at Night, Mysore, Karnataka.

The waterfalls of Karnataka and Kudremukh are listed as must-see places and among the "1001 Natural Wonders of the World".[145] Jog Falls is India's tallest single-tiered waterfall with Gokak Falls, Unchalli Falls, Magod Falls, Abbey Falls and Shivanasamudra Falls among other popular waterfalls.

Painting of
Painting of Mysore style

Several popular beaches dot the coastline, including Murudeshwara, Gokarna and Karwar. In addition, Karnataka is home to several places of religious importance. Several Hindu temples including the famous Udupi Sri Krishna Matha, the Marikamba Temple at Sirsi, the Sri Manjunatha Temple at Dharmasthala, Kukke Subramanya Temple and Sharadamba Temple at Shringeri attract pilgrims from all over India. Most of the holy sites of Lingayatism, like Kudalasangama and Basavana Bagewadi, are found in northern parts of the state. Shravanabelagola, Mudabidri and Karkala are famous for Jain history and monuments. Jainism had a stronghold in Karnataka in the early medieval period with Shravanabelagola as its most important center.

Recently Karnataka has emerged as a hot spot for health care tourism. Karnataka has the highest number of approved health systems and alternative therapies in India. Along with some ISO certified government-owned hospitals, private institutions which provide international-quality services have caused the health care industry to grow by 30% during 2004-05. Hospitals in Karnataka treat around 8,000 health tourists every year

Under the patronage of the Mauryas and Satvahanas, Buddhism flourished in Karnataka. Gradually Hinduism assimilated most of the teachings of Buddha and Buddhism lost its distinct identity. However, today, there are still numerous places of Buddhist interest spread across the State.

Our destination, Aihole, is today an insignificant village in Bijapur district of north Karnataka and reaching it involves an obstacle course: an excruciatingly slow passenger train to Badami, an hour’s wait for a bus and jostling to get on. The vehicle rattles across the interminable hot plains and flat scrub of north Karnataka. To do just 46 kilometers from Badami to Aihole, the bus needs four tedious hours. But alight at Aihole and the travails are forgotten! For Aihole is one of the most remarkable temple sites in the country with one hundred and twenty temples, big nad small, in different styles, all in a small village.

Art historians say Aihole was a workshop for temple architects and sculptors patronized by early Chalukyan monarchs. Here are some of the earliest structural temples in stone in the country, dating from 450 AD and, among them, is one of the four Buddhist shrines in Karnataka. So we make our way to Aihole’s hillock, Meguti, to the rock cut Buddhist shrine. It is of special interest to us because it is the most important surviving Buddhist temple in Karnataka.

The Chaitya, a double stories structure, is half structural and half excavated in rock. The sanctum sanctorum is in the upper storey. It has a rectangular verandah of 8.78 m x 2.15 m. In the centre of the Verandah’s ceiling is a relief of Buddha in preaching posture. Of the three Buddha sculptures at Aihole, this is the best preserved and is 61cm in Height. He is seated on the padmapitha in the satvaparyankasana, that is, his right hand is placed against his chest in the vyakhyan mudra while the left is placed on the right foot with the palm facing upwards. His right shoulder and right breast are uncovered. There is a triple umbrella above him and his attendants are nearby.

Buddhism was founded in north India in about 500 BC when Siddharth Gautama, born a prince, achieved enlightenment. It is widely held that the religion first emerged during Mauryan times when there was a missionary zeal. Parts of Karnataka were subject to the rule of the Mauryas. Chandragupta Maurya’s son Bindusara (298-273 BC) and Bindusara’s son Asoka (269-232 BC) caused some of his edicts to be put up here. Asoka’s grandson Samprati Chandragupta is believed to have come to Sravanbelagola where he spent his last years. Eleven Asokan edicts, four in Bellary district, three in Raichur district and three others in Chitradurga district bear witness to the Mauryan presence in Karnataka.

Some hold the view, however, that such rock edicts merely prove that Karnataka was within the jurisdiction of Mauryan kings, but not necessarily the advent of Buddhism here. The Sinhalese chronicles, Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa, mention Mangaliputtatissa, a contemporary of Asoka and reputed to be the emperor’s teacher and mentor. He had sent missionaries to Mahshaka (southern region of Karnataka) under Mahadeva, and to Banavasi (the heart of Karnataka) under Rakkhita, to preach the gospel. That would firmly indicate Buddhist prevalence in Karnataka.

In point of fact, Buddhist doctrine held sway in Karnataka even before Asoka’s time. Mahisasana, a form of Hinayana Buddhism, spread after the first convention of Buddhism in Rajgraha (477 BC) to Avanti, and to areas south of it to what are today’s Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Thus, while Asoka accepted Buddhism only in 268 BC, Buddhism was prevalent in Karnataka two centuries prior to the Mauryan monarch.

Early on, Buddhism separated into Sthavarvad (Hinayana) and Mahasanghikvad (Mahayana) which developed into Mahisasana. This branch stretched upto Banavasi from 5th century BC to 3rd century BC, that is, after the very first Buddhist convention in 477 BC and certainly long before Asoka.

Why then, are there are no Buddhist relics found from those centuries before Asoka? The answer is quite simple. There was no idol worship in Buddhism. There had been no sculptures, carvings nor erection of stupas and inscriptions before the Asokan stupas at Sanchi and Sarnath. Prior to them, there were only earthern stupas which could not survive the ravages of time. There is one exception, however, excavations near Banavasi in 1971 revealed stupas and bricks that have been dated to the 2nd and 3rd century BC. A Buddhist deepasthambha (lamp post) of those times was found at the village Togarsi near Banavasi. By and large, in Karnataka, the Hnayana Buddhism that prevailed did not deify Buddha but looked upon him at human level, as perfect man. Paucity of actual remnants before Asoka’s time is thus explained.

The Mauryan inscriptions do not merely indicate the empire’s boundary. They also assert that Buddhism flourished there because the very purpose of Asoka’s edicts was to spread universal message to the masses. Buddhism duly spread and flourished. In sum, the Mauryan was undoubtedly the golden age of Buddhism.

The Satavahanas were successors to the Mauryas and ruled in Banavasi, as is evident from the Nasik inscription of Gautamiputra Satakarni and the copper plates from Hirehadagali. There is a Prakrit inscription belonging to the second century on the stone Naga effigy fund at the Madhukesvara temple, which refers to the fact that Siva-skandanagar-sri, daughter of Satakarni of Chutukula, the king of Vaijayantipura (i.e. Banavasi) was responsible for the installation of that Naga effigy, and the Vihara. A copper plate inscription of 338 AD likens a Banavasi king to a bodhisattva (reincarnation) in his great compassion towards all living beings (praninam parama karnikataya bodhisattvo pamanasya).

From 30 BC to the second century AD, the Satavahanas ruled from Pratisthana (modern day Paithan) on the bank of Godavari river at Aurangabad. Their support to Buddhism is evident from Pliny (1st century AD) whose account mentions Prakrit inscription of Gvinaya Pitaka, referring to Setakannika, which shows that Buddhism was flourishing in Karnataka. Mahavagga, a composer after Asoka’s time endorses this.

The Satvahanas may have been a Karnataka dynasty, as Dharwad and Bellary districts are called Shantavahani Hara (or Shantavahana region). Some of their kings were called rulers of Kunthala, the old name for Karnataka. At Sannati (Gulbarga district), as well as Vadgoan Madhavpur (near Belgaum) and Brahmagiri (Chitradurga district), there are remains of monuments of their period. The Uttara Kannada area of Banavasi has their inscription at Vasan in Dharwad district, and there are remains of a brick temple. The Chandravalli inscriptions that were unearthed in 1888, strongly suggest that worshipers of Buddha were here during the early centuries of the Christian era. The leader coins of the Satvahana kings bear the figure of a humped bull and on the other side of the coins are the unmistakable emblems of the bodhi tree and the chaitya (cairn). Small sculptures of Gandharva, a Buddhist yaksha, are also found.

The earliest epigraphic evidence in this regard (latter half of second century AD) is the stone memorial inscribed in Prakrit. It is that of Vasistapura Sivasiri Pulamari Rajana Mahadevi Sirijantamula, wife of a king of Banavasi who constructed a stambha and a Vihara for the Mahisasanas at Nagarjunakonnda.

Another chronicler, Mahavamso, cites an important event. In the first century, Dattagamini, King of Ceylon, built a vihara and 80000 bhikus of Vanavasi had attended! Bhutpala, a merchant of Banavasi, was responsible for carving the famed Buddhist cave at Karla where an inscription says it was the best in the whole country.

It is at Sannati, (Chitapur, taluk, Gulbarga district), on both banks of the river Bhima, that many Buddhist stupas of the Satvahana times have been found. It resembles Amravati and was the Buddhist centre of the Satvahana period of pre-Christian era and is spread over a three kilometer area. Fine sculptures can be seen all along and the Buddhist ruins found there are in large numbers. They include remnants of stupas, stone pottery for holy bones and ayaka stambha which has symbolic representation of birth, parinishnishkramana, enlightenment, preaching and nirvana (salvation) of Buddha. Inscriptions in the Brahmi script contain names of those who gave grants to sangharama, stupas and viharas. The words – visiriputa sirisata mahasataraha – show the beginning of the Christian era and reference to Banavasi is found. There are stupas carved in stone, and another stupa (1st to 3rd century AD) has Buddha’s feet.

The Sannatis (feudatories) of Satvahanas, known as Mahabhojas, had then ruled the Banavasi area. An inscriptions of that period says: “Nagamulida, wife of Maharathi, daughter of the Mahabhoja, King of Banavasi, mother of Khanda Nagashtak, constructed a cave residence at Kanheri (near today’s Bombay) of Buddhist bhikus.”

After the Satavahanas, Karnataka fell into the hands of the Pallavas of Kanchi and the Chuttu Shatkarnis (who were feudatories of the Satavahanas) ruling from Banavasi after the fall of the Satavahanas. Pallava domination ended when two dynasties, the Kadambas of Banavasi and the Gangas of Kolar (345 AD) held sway.

The Gangas, ruling from Talakadu, followed the vedic religion but were tolerant towards Buddhism. A Sanskrit copperplate (400 AD) issued by Padangala Madhava (440-470 AD), a Ganga ruler, indicated land grants to a Buddhist vihara (gangarajya madhava-sarmanah sasana Buddha-sattvaya dattam). There were Buddhist viharas alive and active and Buddhism was still powerful in the Ganga territory.

Like the Gangas, the Kadambas were also tolerant towards Buddhism as epigraphic evidence shows. The Kadamba capital was also Banavasi, (known as Vaijayanti,) and their century was a prominent one for Buddhism in Karnataka. Chinese traveller, Hieun Tsang, visited Banavasi in the 7th century AD and saw 1000 sangharamas and three stupas. He says: “By the side of the royal palace is a great sangharama with 300 priests, all men of distinction. This convent has a great vihara 100 in height.”

Recent excavations of the site of Banavasi have given the remains of a Buddhist stupa. The large apsidal structure is what remains and it was planned like a dharma-chakra.

The Buddhist Chaitya in front of which we stood at Aihole, is pre western Chalukyan and indicates the influence of Mahayana. It was built around the 5th century and is 25 feet high. We now make our way to Badami in another rickety bus headed toward the erstwhile capital city of the western Chalukyas in the 6th century. These rulers were also associated with Buddhism and relics here have survived in the shape of a Buddhist cave datable to the 6th century. There is also a figure, identifiable as Padmapani, the Bodhisattva of the same period. Hieun Tsang has stated that during the time of Pulakesin II (642 AD) in Banavasi (or Konkanpura), there were 400 Sangharamas and 10000 followers of Buddhism.

In Gadag Taluk, Dharwad district, at Dambal, there was a Buddhist centre as late as 12th century. According to an inscription of 1095 AD, a temple of the Buddhist deity Tara and a Buddhist vihara were built by 16 merchants during the reign of Lakshmidevi, queen of Vikramaditya VI. Another temple of Tara, built at Dambal was by Sethi Sangarmaya of Lokkigundi. Karnataka was indeed the place where the worship of Tara gained ground. Tara became celebrated in Mahayana Buddhism (especially Mantrayana) and acquired popularity as the mother of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, as the power of enlightenment and as the consort of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the patron divinity of the Mantrayana sect in Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia and China.

Tara’s consort Avalokitaesvara-bodhisattva is the Siva of the Saiva cult and there is the correspondence of Tara with Durga. The association between Tara and Avalokita (Lokesvara) is emphasized in Karnataka. In Balligame, on the banks of the river Varada, a Buddhist Vihara known as Jayanti Prabuddha Vihara was built in 1065 by Rupa Byhattaya, the minister of the Chalukyan king Ahavamalla, and the deities that were worshipped there were Tara Bhagavati, Kesava, Lokesvara and Buddha. A Dambala inscription of 1095 AD begins with the customary invocation namo buddhyana and goes go to describe at length the greatness of Tara-bhagavati.

In Kolivada, Hubbali taluk, Dharwad district, an icon of Tara has been discovered belonging to about the thirteenth century and inscribed on the pedestal of this icon are the words siddham om namo bhagavatayai Aryatarayai, followed by the usual statement of the Buddha’s teaching in brief.

The Vihara on Kadari Hill in Mangalore (Dakshina Kannada) was an important site for Mahayana Buddhism. There are three exquisite bronze statues, now in the Manjunatha temple, one of which is of the Mahayana deity Avalokitesvara bodhisattva (consort of Tara) called Lokesvara. The other two bronzes are those of seated Buddha in contemplation. Buddhism, which never became prevalent in Tulu-nadu, continued to survive till the thirteenth century. It gradually got fused with Saivite ideology.

Thereafter, it became difficult for Buddhism to survive, especially as it lost its specific identity and got merged with Saivism. The Buddhist legacy in Karnataka survives in the teachings of Basaveswar or Basava, a religious teacher who flourished in the 12th century.

There are estimated to be 75000 Buddhists in Karnataka of which Tibetans form a substantial portion. Since the year 1900, the South India Buddhist Association of Madras saw Buddhism taking roots and in Kolar Gold Fields near Bangalore there is a Buddhist Vihara at Champion Reef. The Mahabodhi Society of India founded a Buddhist Vihara in Bangalore in 1940 and since 1956, Buddhism has got a fillip under Acharya Buddha Rakkkhita who has published over 50 books and founded an institute, a vidyapeeth and a hospital. Very much in evidence are the four Tibetan settlements of Karnataka, at Bailkuppe (near Mysore), Mundgod (in north Kanara district), Cauvery Valley, and at Kollegal. The most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are Thegchay Ling and Namgoling, both at Bailkuppe.

Dedicated to the teachings of Wisdom and Compassion of the Buddha and the Palyul Lineage of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism.

Located amidst the sandal groves a few hours from Bangalore and Mysore, in Karnataka state, South India, Namdroling was established by His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche shortly after he came to India from Tibet. With only 300 rupees in his hand and with just a handful of monks, he laid the foundation stone of the three-storied main temple that then covered an area of 80 square feet. His Holiness the Dalai Lama consecrated the spot and bequeathed the name "Namdroling Monastery." Today the monastery is home to nearly 5000 monks and nuns, renowned as a center for the pure upholding of the teachings of the Buddha.

Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery
Arlikumari, P.O. Bylakuppe pin 571104
Mysore District, Karnataka State
Tel: (91) 8223-254-318
Tel: (91) 8223-254-038

The Golden Temple in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, is a home for thousands of Tibetans living in exile and a centre for Tibetan Buddhism in South India.

Tibetan prayer flags hang from South Indian trees. Faces change from South Indian to Tibetan. And then two Buddhist monks pass by on a scooter, their red robes flying in the wind. Welcome to the Tibetan settlements of Bylakuppe.

Driving into Bylakuppe feels like entering a little piece of Tibet in the middle of South Indian countryside and its coconut groves and rice fields. There is “The Lhasa Café”, and a simple rooftop restaurant serves Tibetan momos, meat-filled dumplings.

LIC Pension 1.45 करोड़ छोटा निवेश जो आपको करोड़पति बनाये = Pension
Tenzin Palmo teaching 3 day teaching with Tenzin Palmo in north India, April 2012

Home for Tibetan Exiles in South India

There are several Tibetan settlements in the South Indian state of Karnataka, established in 1969-1970 to give a home to Tibetans exiles who had fled their country after the Chinese occupation. There are currently approximately 100 000 Tibetans living in exile in India. Although the Tibetan Government in Exile is based in Dharamsala in the state of Himachal Pradesh, thousands of Tibetans are living in Karnataka. The area of Bylakuppe, near the town of Kushalnagar and approximately 85 km from Mysore, is home to several settlements as well as the Tibetan Buddhist Golden Temple.

Most families living in the settlements make at least part of their living from agriculture, but supplement their income by running shops and restaurants and selling handicrafts and souvenirs to visitors.

Visiting the Golden Temple in Bylakuppe

The main tourist attraction in Bylakuppe is the stunning Golden Temple. Stepping inside the temple feels like walking into another world, and the noisy streets of South India suddenly seem to be very far away. Three beautiful golden Buddha statues look down at visitors above the altar. The walls are adorned with colourful paintings depicting gods and demons from Tibetan Buddhist mythology. The altar is decorated with flowers, candles and incense, and small birds, nesting amongst the golden statues, fly happily around the temple.

Nearby, the Sera Jey Monastery keeps Tibetan Buddhist culture alive in Bylakuppe. There are also several stores around the temple area that sell Tibetan jewellery, handicrafts, incense and souvenirs.

How to Get to Bylakuppe in Karnataka

Bylakuppe is situated near the town of Kushalnagar on the Mysore-Madikeri road. There are buses to Kushalnagar from Mysore and Madikeri, although many visitors rent a car and make a day trip from Mysore to Bylakuppe.

Tourists can only visit the temple and the monastery during the day. To stay overnight at the monastery or the settlements, tourists need a Protected Area Permit (PAP) that has to be applied several months in advance and is issued by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi.

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