There are numerous historical places in Karnataka. Along with the known sites, there are many lesser-known heritage sites in this state. Karnataka was the hotbed of the religious art and architecture. Several dynasties have ruled in different regions spread across today’s Karnataka. The towns and cities which have served as the bases for these ruling clans have become famous historical places. But there are many other towns, villages, and hamlets which have preserved the monuments built in the past. Some of them are known due to their proximity with the major cities, and there are many which survive in isolation. We have selected finest of these places. Here is the list of the offbeat historical places in Karnataka.
Srirangapatna (also called Seringapatna), though a small town today, holds an important place in the history of Karnataka. It was an outpost of the Vijaynagaras until the Wodeyars -their chieftains in Srirangapatna – claimed independence. They established the kingdom of Mysore with Srirangapatna as their capital. In the 18th century, for a short period of a few decades, Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan ruled over Mysore from Srirangapatna. Tipu was killed in 1799 by the joint forces of East India Company and the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Wodeyars were brought back into power, albeit with an acceptance of East India Company as a sovereign power. In Srirangapatna, you can visit its fort and the famous Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple.
Location: Srirangapatna is 21 km north of Mysore.
Chitradurga means a picturesque fort. And it truly is. It is the finest of the surviving forts in Karnataka and is an impressive historical site. Spread over a series of hillocks, this fort is about 145 km from the famous historical site of Hampi. While the records suggest that Mauryas had their presence here, the fort only emerged on the map under Vijaynagara Empire. Vijaynagara kings ruled here through their feudal chieftains, called Nayakas of Chitradurga, in the 16th century. After the fall of the Vijaynagara Empire in 1565 AD, Nayakas took command of the place and ruled for over two centuries. Chitradurga is one of the strongest forts in South India. It has seven concentric walls for protection and the height of the walls range from 5 to 13 metres. Along with the fortifications, the hilly area also added to the defensive capabilities of the fort.
Location: Chitradurga is 200 km northeast of Bangalore and 145 km south of Hampi.
Somanathapura, set along the bank of Cauvery river, is situated near Mysore in south Karnataka. You can call this small village a sibling of Belur and Halebid. That is because it is famous for its Chennakeshava Temple which is associated with the Hoysala Empire. Built in 1268 AD, this temple is said to be the last significant temple built under the Hoysalas. The temple is uniquely styled to resemble a three-peaked hill. It is set on a raised platform just like other Hoysala temples. The exteriors are covered with elaborate carvings. If you are in Mysore, you would enjoy making an excursion to this beautiful heritage site.
Location: Somanathapura is 40 km west of Mysore.
Udupi (also called Udipi), a city situated along the shore of the Arabian Sea in the eastern Karnataka, is an important pilgrimage for Hindus. In the 13th century, a saint called Madhvacharya established a ‘matha’ (monastery) here. It is famous as Krishna Matha. The Krishna Temple of Udupi has many legends associated with it which makes it highly venerable for Hindus. Another important temple here is Udupi Anantheshwara Temple; it has Lord Shiva as the presiding deity.
Location: Udupi is 56 km north of Mangalore and 178 km south of Gokarna.
Shravanbelgola is as much important to the history lovers as to the Jainism followers. It is a quintessential Jain pilgrimage and is home to the famed statue of Gomateshwara. This 58-feet tall monolithic statue is situated on a hill called Vindhyagiri. Chandragiri is the second hill in Shravanbelgola and is supposed to have received its name from Chandragupta Maurya. It is believed that he meditated here with a Jain saint. Ashoka, his grandson, built a temple here in his memory in 3rd century BC. The temple, called Chandragupta Basadi, was rebuilt in the 9th century AD. Along with the gigantic statue, it is this rich history that makes Shravanbelgola a charming historical site in Karnataka.
Location: Shravanabelgola is 78 km north of Mysore.
Mahakuta, situated near Badami (14 km), has a group of temples that date back to the 6th and 7th centuries. As per the inscriptions, the construction of these temples was funded by the Chalukya royals. The temples here display influences of both ‘Nagara’ and ‘Dravida’ styles. The builders have in fact created a fusion of these two popular styles and their own local art. Along with being a lesser-known heritage site in Karnataka, Mahakuta is also a peaceful place. So, if you are in Badami, you can do an outing to Mahakuta.
Location: The group of temples at Mahakuta are situated just about 14 km from the famous historical site of Badami.
Talakadu, a sleepy town, is situated on the bank of Cauvery river in south Karnataka. It is a historical place as well as a pilgrimage site. There are no precise records to determine the origin of this town. But by the third century it was under the control of Ganga clan of rulers. They continued until the 11th century when Cholas took over. And then Hoysalas took charge, who were replaced by Vijaynagaras, and eventually Talakadu came under control of the king of Mysore. There are five important temples in Talakadu, and each of them is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is also said that about thirty temples are buried beneath this town.
Location: Talakadu is 50 km southwest of Mysore.
Lakshmeshwara is a town in the Gadag district in central Karnataka. This town relies on agriculture today. But in the past it must have been a hub of religious activities which is evident from the presence of Hindu and Jain temples here. Add to it the fact that many Jain saints and writers have lived here. The most famous temple here is Someshwara Temple which dates back to the 11th century. It is one of the finest works of Chalukyas.
Location: Lakshmeshwara is 96 km northeast of Badami and 124 km north of Hubli.
Lakkundi, just like Lakshmeshwara, is situated in Gadag district. This village has an abundance of heritage structures. It has about 50 temples, 29 inscriptions, and numerous step-wells. As per the inscriptions, Lakkundi was originally called Lokkigundi. The first dynasty that ruled here was Western Chalukyas. They were followed by Kalachuri, Seunas (Yadavas of Devagiri), and the Hoysalas. The finest monument in Lakkundi is Kasivisvesvara Temple, which is considered to be one of the best examples of the architectural style developed by Western Chalukyas (also called Kalyani Chalukyas).
Location: Lakkundi is 48 km northeast of Lakshmeshwar and 12 km east of Gadag. Hampi is 96 km east of Lakkundi.
Situated on the bank of Tunga river in southeast Karnataka, Sringeri is home to the famous Sharada Peetham. Built in the 8th century, it is the first ‘matha’ (monastery) built by Adi Shankaracharya. He stayed here for about twelve years. He established a shrine called Sharada Temple which gutted in the fire. Following the incident a new temple was built in its place. Another important monument in Sringeri is the Vidyashankara Temple which dates back to 1338 AD.
Location: Sringeri is situated in Chikkamagaluru district and is 85 km west of Chikamagalur town.
Kolar city is a growing commercial centre but it has also witnessed a dramatic history. Konganivarman Madhava, a king of the Western Ganga dynasty, founded Kolar in 350 AD and made it his capital. Later it became the battlefield of the Chalukyas and Cholas. And after them this place also witnessed the rule of the Vijaynagaras. The monuments here are Kolaramma Temple and Someshwara Temple. The Kolaramma Temple was originally built by the Ganga Kings, and it flaunts the ‘Dravida Vimana’ style of architecture. The Someshwara temple dates back to the 14th century and is an example of the Vijaynagara style.
Location: Kolar is 70 km east of Bangalore.
Avani is a small village situated near Kolar, 100 km east of Bangalore. Legend has it that Sita – wife of Lord Rama – gave birth to her sons Lava and Kusha at this place. On the top of a hillock in Avani, there is a temple dedicated to Sita. It is also believed that Valmiki – the writer of Ramayana – had resided here for a long period. Avani is also indirectly associated with Adi Shankaracharya. Sri Narasimha Bharat IV, who was associated with Sringeri Sharada Peetham, had stayed here for a while. And during his stay he found here an idol of goddess Sharada along with the idol of Shankaracharya. Hence, he established a monastery here which is called Avani Sringeri Jagadguru Shankaracharya Sharada Peetham.
Location: Avani is situated near Kolar and is 100 km east of Bangalore.
Melukote, situated near Mysore, is spread over a series of hillocks which are collectively called Yadavgiri (or Yadugiri). It shot to fame due to the fact that the famous saint Ramanujacharya had stayed here for long period in the 12th century. The important monument in Melukote is Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple. In 1614, the Raja of Mysore had donated land for this temple. And in 1785, Tipu Sultan had offered elephants to the temple management.
Location: Melukote is 55 km north of Mysore.
Amruthapura, a village in Chikkamagaluru district of Karnataka, is the site of a 12th century temple. Known as Amruteshwara Temple, it was built by a person of the same name. Amrutheshwara Dandanayaka was a commander under the Hoysala kings. Obviously the temple was built in the Hoysala style of architecture. The carvings on the exteriors of the temple are very impressive and so is the ‘mandapa’ (the inner hall).
Location: Amruthapura is 65 km north of Chikamagalur town.
Mirjan Fort is situated near the beach town of Gokarna in the eastern Karnataka. As per one historical record, this fort dates back to 1200 AD and later it came under the control of the Vijaynagaras. Another record suggests that Chennabhairavadevi, queen of a Vijaynagara king, got this fort built in the 16th century. She commanded her territory from here and also utilized a port nearby for maritime trade. After the fall of Vijayanagara dynasty, several clans seized control of the fort. And at last it landed in the hands of the British. The fort is ruined, most of the structures in the fort have disappeared. Archaelogical department has carried out restoration work on its walls, bastions, and gates.
Location: Mirjan Fort is 21 km southeast of Gokarna.