Do you think that history is boring? That ancient ruins are nothing but a pile of stones? Think again, because Karnataka might just change your mind. The state has a wealth of stories waiting to be heard, and each one is fascinating than the other. After all, it has been home to multiple kingdoms starting from the mighty Mauryas to the powerful Chalukyas, Hoysalas, and the Vijayanagara empire.
The best base to explore Karnataka is, of course, Bangalore, which also has a history of its own. Once the stronghold of the Ganga dynasty, Bangalore’s rich heritage is in danger of being forgotten due to its rapid progression over the last few decades into a tech hub.
But hope still lingers in the form of enthusiastic travellers and history buffs who seek out the stories that Bangalore and Karnataka are ready to tell at all times.
To celebrate World Heritage Day, we pick five heritage sites in and around Bangalore that are a delight to visit.
Begur is where Bangalore begins; it’s where fragments of ancient inscriptions inform us about the origins of the name Bangalore.
A towering gopuram leads you into the 1000-year-old Begur temple, a place rich in sculptures and inscriptions left behind by the Ganga empire. It is here that the name Bangalore can be traced back to “Bengaval-uru” meaning City of Guards.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Begur Temple is built in the traditional, Dravidian style. But since Nagattara, the Ganga chieftain was a follower of Jainism, evidence of strong Jain worship can also be seen in the temple with several statues of Jain Tirthankaras dotting the yard.
Begur is approximately 15km away from Bangalore city centre.
Avani is one of the most ancient sites in Karnataka, and it dates back to the times of the Ramayana.
Situated in Kolar, Avani is rich in folklore and is predominantly known for its temple dedicated to Sita. The story goes that Sita gave birth to Lava and Kusha here, and a small room where Sita is believed to have recuperated from birth has been carefully preserved. Apart from this, Avani is also believed to be the place where Valmiki lived.
A visit to Avani cannot be complete without seeing the unique temple complex dedicated to Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha, and Shatrughna dating back to the 10th century.
Avani is located around 80 km from Bangalore.
Located near Mysore, Srirangapatna took its name from the Ranganathaswamy temple in the town and was once an important part of the Vijayanagara empire. But it gained fame only when it became the capital of Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. Due to the Indo-Islamic confluence, Srirangapatna’s architecture flourished and expanded to include breathtaking palaces and forts along with soaring temples, which have made this town an unmissable stop on the way to Mysore today.
Srirangapatna is around 125km away from Bangalore.
The biggest attraction in Melukote is the Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple which is perched on top of the hills of the Sahyadri. It is believed that the Vaishnavite saint Ramanuja stayed here during the 12th century and was closely associated with the temple. Hence, Ramanuja is worshipped here along with Vishnu in the temple. Melukote is also a predominantly Iyengar town known for the delicious puliyogare stands that line the streets in near the temple.
Melukote is located in the Pandavapura district or Town of the Pandavas, so named because the five princes are believed to have stayed here for a while during their exile.
Melukote is approximately 145km away from Bangalore.
Belur and Halebid
Belur and Halebid are twin towns that are the pride of Karnataka’s heritage. Once the seat of the powerful Hoysalas between the 11th and 14th centuries, the temples in Belur and Halebid were deemed to be the abode of Vishnu according to inscriptions.
Today, they are big tourist attractions with their unique star-shaped structure, highly intricate carvings, and clever architectural engineering. Combined with Shravanabelagola, the famous Jain centre not too far away, Belur and Halebid are mandatory stops on the Karnataka heritage trail.
Belur and Halebid are around 200km from Bangalore.