Untapped Jewels of Karnataka

Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka by Prerana Bharadwaj

Beyond the pages of Indian History there are many untold stories that are no less remarkable than the ones jotted down by the historians. Walking through the past, through the ancient ruins, pilgrimage, rock arts and palaces, you can’t miss the unforgettable effect they have on you. Some of these stories have been unearthed by the wary traveler, while others are bidding their time. Let us glance through some of the unexplored Heritage places in Karnataka and discover what story they have to tell.

Madhugiri Fort:

Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 1/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj

Madhugiri is a town in Tumkur district in the Indian state of Karnataka. It is around 106 kms far from Bengaluru. The town derives its name from a hillock, Madhugiri which is to the north of the place. At 3,930 ft (1200m) elevation, Madhugiri is a single hill. It is the second largest monolithic in Asia. Nestled on its steep slopes is a fort. Antaralada Bagilu, Diddibagilu, and Mysore Gate are the three gateways of the fort. A series of doorways leads to the hill. The ruined temple of Gopalakrishna is located at the top. It is entirely made of stone and is one of the finest pieces of stone architecture. The construction of the original mud fort was undertaken by Raja Hira Gowda in the 17th century around 1670 AD. The highlight is the rock dome, atop which stands a fort. On the top is the ruined Gopalkrishna temple. While climbing the hill, we can find lot of fort walls. There are 4 phases of climbing. In first phase, we can find broad steps which can be climbed easily. Second phase, railings are there and steps becomes small. This phase is manageable. In third phase, steps become too small (one foot measure) but railings are there. Fourth and most dangerous phase is a very small and curved footsteps, and railing is for only half way. This will take us to top of the fort. Whoever reaches this place, they can have a beautiful view of the surrounding village/city. Minimum we require 2 hours 30 minutes to climb and one hour to return. The best time to visit the fort is October to March.

Mirjan Fort:

Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 2/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj

If you are looking for an ideal place for the weekend on the coastal belt, Mirjan Fort has something amazing to offer. Located amidst the idyllic surroundings of the banks of River Aghanashini, this historical monument in Uttara Kannada is remarkable yet less visited. The fort is located to the south of Gokarna, about a kilometer off the National Highway 17. Mirjan Fort attracts visitors with its majestic look. As one enters the fort through the broad steps leading to the interiors, they get to know of the architectural skills that the builders possessed at a time when modern technology was unheard of. The wells, secret doors, tunnels, kitchen, dwellings, watch tower and other such ruins make visitors ponder over the lost historical significance of the place. This time-tested structure has been built using locally-available laterite stones. It is popularly believed that the fort was built by Queen Chennabharadevi, who was known as the pepper queen of India as she controlled the pepper business through this fort. The fort was built by Nawayath Sultanates in 1200. It was rebuilt by in 1640 by the new ruler. The flowing river, greenish groves and the breezing wind from the seaside adds flavor to the beauty of the fort. The fort has been declared protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which renovated some major parts of the fort recently. It was believed that the fort has lots of wealth hidden inside but later on all the money and wealth was stolen by the Britishers. Balcony was made in such a way that they can attack the enemy peoples from hot water and stones. While entering the fort one can found remains of fort or other monument things. Every year Tri color flag is hoisted on the fort on the day of independence. The fort was used as the storage house of weapons, spice and sandal woods which were later sent to the nearby port to export to other cities. Now there are no walls only remains of them are present. Mirjan Fort is a delight for history buffs. Best time to visit the fort is the Mirjan Fort is located on the west coast of the Uttara Kannada district in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. The fort known for its architectural elegance was the location of several battles in the past.


Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 3/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj
Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 4/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj
Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 5/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj

It is situated 65 kms North of Bengaluru in Tumkur district, is a hill station located in the state of Karnataka in India. The rocky hills are surrounded by forest and the hilltops are dotted with several temples including the Yoganarasimha and the Bhoganarasimha temples and an altitude of 1204 meters. The temple is built in the Dravidian style and faces east. It is situated at almost at a height of 4000 feet. There is a water pool to the east side of the temple where is one is supposed to wash his/her hands and feet before entering the temple. The scenarios along the staircase are beautiful. The fort walls, old stone structure, temples, Mantapa, hills around, fog, other fort structures etc. From the temple, there is a way to go to the top. It takes almost 15-20 minutes to get to the top. From the top, you can get 360 degree view of the places around. There is a Mantapa at the top as well, which can be seen from the temple. If you are planning to go in December, it is the best time. You can sit at the top under the warm sun and enjoy the cold winds.

Kaidala Chennakeshava Temple:

Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 6/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj
Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 7/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj
Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 8/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj
Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 9/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj

The temple was built in 1150; it is on the way to a place called Gulur which is on Tumkur –Kunigal Road. It is 70kms away from Bengaluru. Kaidala was the birth place of the chief architect of Belur Channakeshava Temple, Jakanachari. It was called as “Kridapura” in those days. Legend says that while Jakanachari was involved in the construction of Channakeshava Temple at Belur, his son Dankanachari grew up in Kridapura. Being a sculpture himself, he came to Belur in search of a job. It happens that he goes into Channakeshava Temple complex and finds that the main idol of the Temple was defective. Dankanachari shows that the stone used for the idol had a shallow part inside where frogs, water and sand was found. Jakanachari who was stunned to see this cuts his right hand to keep up his word. It was then Dankanachari comes to know about his Father. They then return to Kridapura where Jakanachari using his left hand creates the idol. A miracle occurs where his right hand reappears. The name of the village was henceforth called as Kaidala. (‘Kai’ means Hand in Kannada). The first color movie in Kannada “Amarashilpi Jakanachari” was based on this legend. The temple is famous for a small Dravidian style. The first look of the Temple gives the feeling of the architecture being very simple. Even the Garbagruha is does not give a feeling of grandeur. What makes this Temple stand apart is the five and a half feet idol of Channakeshava. It is the master piece of Jakanachari which beats the idols of any other Hoysala Temple. The facial expression of the idol and ornamental design is just superb. The design by which the rays of sun fall on the idol is admirable. But it is not allowed to take the photograph inside the Temple. On the outer wall of the Temple, a small during day time and is maintained by a priest and a few old ladies.

Narasimha Jharani Cave Temple:

Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 10/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj
Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 11/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj

“The way to God is through water”

Situated in Bidar in North Karnataka, this temple lies a kilometer away from Bidar city. The Narasimha Jhira Cave Temple is known for its beautiful architecture and is considered to be very sacred. The temple is situated in a cave where the water runs up to 300 meters. This temple is situated under the Manichoola hill range and it opens at eight in the morning. You have to wade through waist deep water to reach the feet of the deity. The mythological story says: after killing Hiranyakashipu (demon), Lord Narsimha comes to this cave to kill Jalasura (another demon). When Jalasura is killed by the Lord, the demon is believed to have transformed into water. That is why; the cave is full of water. For this reason, people have to wade all the way through the water to reach the Lord. Recent arrangements were made to provide electricity and ventilation in this cave. Bats can be seen holding tight the top of the give in and flying all through the passage. It is a ponder that nobody has been hurt by the bats till date. People have to walk inside the tunnel one by one. Since the space is less, only 8 -9 people can enter the sanctum. Narasimha Zarni Cave Temple is definitely one of the unique temples in India. A walk through the waist deep water in this cave tunnel is exciting.

Keshava Temple, Somanathapura:

Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 12/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj
Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 13/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj
Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 14/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj
Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 15/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj
Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 16/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj

Only 36 km from the historic Mysore city in Mysore district, Karnataka, is an excellent example of the spectacular Hoysala style of architecture. Full of intricate sculptures; beautiful and ornate carvings, pillars, lintels and ceilings, this magnificent work of art is one of the few well preserved Hoysala monuments. The Kesava temple of Somanathapura, which is said to be the last major temple of Hoysala dynasty, was constructed in 1268 CE, during the reign of Narsimha III (1254-1291 CE) by his illustrious general "Somanatha”. Somanathapura, meaning Somanatha’s town in Kannada, is named after him. The stone slab with Old Kannada (Halegannada) inscriptions in the surrounding corridor, right inside the main entrance porch to the temple courtyard, gives details about the temple construction and upkeep. The Hoysala era is a significant period in South Indian history, with exceptional developments in art, architecture, and religion. With excellent craftsmanship, exceptional and intricate carvings, design and style, Hoysalan temples are all spectacular works of art. Every available space, of the temple structure, like the walls, pillars, ceiling, entrances, windows, and lintels, almost everything is adorned by ornate designs and beautiful sculptures. Keshava temple of Somanathapura is a splendid gem of the wonderful Hoysala architecture. Once entered into the high-walled temple courtyard surrounded by a cloistered corridor with a colonnade open to the inner side, in the center was one of the finest example of the magnificent Hoysala architecture, the Kesava Temple,with three Shikharas (Peaks, or Spires). These three shilharas correspond to the three shrines of the Hindu deities inside the temple. The entire temple is built on a beautiful star shaped platform, possibly used for pradakshina (circumambulation scared places in Hindu or Buddhist context). The temple walls and peaks are a domed by beautiful sculptures of various images, Hindu deities, scenes from the ancient epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, and other puranas.

The entire temple is cloistered, surrounded by high walled corridors. In this cloister, surrounding the temple, there are several chambers, which might have housed several idols of deities. Enthralled by the magnificent architecture, you will be amazed to see this temple. This is a must visit, if you are visiting Mysore, and if you are a fan of excellent historical architecture, or even if you simply are a tourist.

Kamal Basadi Temple:

Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 17/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj

Belgaum has for long been a center for Jainism, and the region houses many Jain saints and scholars. The kings of various dynasties that ruled this region practiced or patronized Jainism. The Kamal Basadi has been built in the later Chalukya style. Kamal Basadi is located inside Belgaum fort. It has a tiered roof over the shrine. It was built in 1204 AD during the period of Kartavirya IV of the Ratta dynasty. There are two pillars here that bear Kannada inscriptions, one is of the period Kartavirya IV and another of the period of Seluva Krishna.Kamal Basadi is so called because of the Gumbaj of the temple as the masterpiece here is the "Mukhamantapa" with a well-executed in the form of the Lotus of 72 Petals on the ceiling. Outside the Kamala Basti is another ruined Jain temple called the Chikki Basti. In this temple, the past present and future Tirthankars 24 for each period are shown on the 72 petals of the lotus flower. The Sanctum Hill has the stone carved Sinhasan with seated Idol of Bhagwan Neminath and is very artistic. The pillars of the temple are decorated with carvings and brightly polished. The Idol of Bhagwan Neminath was found in the Jungle about 200 years ago. The Idol and other statues are of 11CAD.The only single Masterpiece in the world is the Idol of Navgraha which is also worth seeing.

Patalamma Temple:

Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 18/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj
Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 19/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj

In Bengaluru's 400-year-old Patalamma Temple resides a Durga incarnation. Goddess Patalamma, an incarnation of Goddess Durga, was the prime deity for 20 villages, which are now reduced to Yediyur, Siddapura, Kanakanapalya and Nagasandra. She is one of the seven formidable sisters -the others being Mutyalamma, Bangaramma, Poleramma, Ankamma, Dilli Polasi and Matamma -who are worshipped by Dravidians. It takes a while to locate the Patalamma Temple in the South End Circle area (former Lalbagh Tank region) despite it being on a road named after the temple. Eventually, one is led to a busy crossroad in the middle of public buildings and residences. An open field surrounded by a wall contains three main structures shadowed by towering trees. On one side, there are snake stones (nagakallu) and the navagraha and on the other is a Ganesha temple. Inside the main building, the entrance of the sanctum is guarded by two trishuls, each decorated with bright green bangles and lemons. Wicks placed inside sliced lemons are lit to seek favors from the goddess. Says priest Ramakrishna: "Amma means mother and patala means underworld or netherworld. The goddess is a swayambhu (meaning self-manifested) who appeared in this place from under the ground. One night, she appeared in my forefather's dream and asked him to find and take care of her.” For over 400 years of its existence, his family has been serving and guarding the temple. Ramakrishna’s son will be the sixth generation of his family to serve the temple. The family originally belongs to the oil-presser (ganiga) community. The last renovation of the temple was 40 years ago, says the priest. Patalamma is also part of the Quadrilateral Goddess Pattern that is centered on four local goddesses (Annamma, Patalamma, Gadagamma and Mutyalamma) whose temples are located within the vicinity of the erstwhile tanks in the area.


Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 20/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj
Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 21/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj

A few kilometers from the ‘island town’ of Srirangapatna, is a hill called Karighatta. The word Karighatta is derived from Kannada language which means ‘black hill’. Situated atop this hill is the Karighatta temple that enjoys a lot of religious importance. Dedicated to Lord Srinivasa or Vishnu, this temple boasts of housing the black idol of the lord, which is around 6 feet tall and is known to have been established here by Birgu sage. While the shrine of Lord Vishnu can be found in the middle of the temple, a sanctum dedicated to Goddess Padmavathi is located on the western side. The place is not only frequented by pilgrims but adventure seekers too, as it takes 450 steps to reach the temple. Located at a height of 2697mts feet above sea level, views of Srirangapatna and Mysore from here are magnificent. Also the view of the confluence of Kaveri and Lokapavani rivers from the hill is every photographer’s delight. The best time to visit this temple is during the months of February and March when the traditional car festival is held here.

Chikkajala Fort:

Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 22/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj
Photo of Untapped Jewels of Karnataka 23/23 by Prerana Bharadwaj

An eerie silence greets the chance visitor to Chikkajala Fort. The overgrown weeds and dilapidated structures will probably remind you of a set put up by an art director for a horror flick. But then, even Kannada filmmakers would possibly not have heard of these ruins on the outskirts of Bangalore. The current two-acre fort, believed to have been built more than 200 years ago, needs immediate attention of the authorities concerned. The fort consists of a dilapidated dwelling and a huge hall supported by number of stone pillars. One has to gather enough courage to enter the hall because it may come crashing any moment. It would also, therefore, be no surprise that there is no one to look after the fort except a priest who performs pooja at the Hanuman temple situated in the middle of the fort. There is not much to write home about the temple either. Though its gopuram is intricately sculptured, the day is not far off when it too may become dust. “There are many people, including the revenue department, who claim ownership of this fort. There was one woman who had locked the doors of the fort claiming that it was her ancestors’ property. The gates remained under lock and key for quite some time. On paper, the Chikkajala fort is described as a pre-historic site by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). It’s a different story that there are no ASI signage’s to be seen around. Burial grounds in the area had prompted historians and archaeologists to date the fort to 1000 BC. Even the remains of the pre-historic era are now gone. The tourism department had promised to take over the Chikkajala fort a few years ago, but there hasn’t been any headway. Except for a token whitewashing of the Hanuman temple, there are no official efforts to be seen. There is no one around even to clear the weeds, forget about renovating or repairing the dilapidated hall and dwellings within the fort premises. The pushkharini (pond) looks like a garbage dump. There are no records, no ruins. And in the end, not even history might remain.

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