It’s been referred to as the ‘Cradle of Stone Architecture?’Its temples are a must for art lovers, where one comes across some of the most artistically carved stone chariots, monolithic idols, open pillared pavilions, exquisite temples and more that never fails to capture the hearts of tourists.

Ready to find out more about the heritage tourism Karnataka has to offer? Here’s exploring the breathtaking state with you!

Think heritage tourism and the first few places that’s comes to mind are its World Heritage Sites – Hampi and Pattadakal. A city that in earlier days has even been compared to Rome! That’s Hampi set amidst an awesome boulder-strewn landscape along the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Once the magnificent capital of the mighty Vijayanagar kingdom, today any archeologist’s dream come true! Founded by Harihara and Bukka in 1336, it fell into the hands of the Muslim rulers of North India in 1565 after the disastrous battle of Talikota and subsequently lapsed into decline and abandonment. Today the ruins of these historical monuments have stood the ravages of man and time, still evoking memories of the grandeur of a bygone era, and attracting tourists from across the globe to witness its marvel.

It’s said that there are over 500 temples and monuments around the hills and valleys here with many historians still searching for new discoveries. Some of the popular temple monuments here include the Krishnaswamy temple, Hazara Ramaswamy Temple, Vithalaswamy temple, Huge Badavi Linga, Elephants stable, King’s Balance, Elephant Stables, Pushkarini Tank, Monolithic Ganeshas, Noblemen’s Palaces etc.

A trip to Pattadakal would take you back to the 8th century, when Pattadakal was the capital of the Chalukya rulers. Here one can find a cluster of ten beautifully chiseled temples each displaying interesting architectural features. The biggest temple is the Virupaksha Temple having a huge gateway, several inscriptions, and a profusion of friezes from the epics. Facing the temple is a pavilion containing a massive Nandi.

Similar in design however smaller in size is the Mallikarjuna Temple while the Sangameshwara Temple is the one of the oldest temples in this complex dating from the reign of King Vijayaditya(696-733 AD).

Other must visit temples here include the Papanatha Temple, known for its impressive architecture, chiselled ceilings and 16-pillared main hall; temples of Jambulinga, Kadasiddeshvara and Galaganatha. What makes Pattadakal unique is the fact that many south Indian & north Indian style temples share the same landscape.

Other important heritage sites here include the great and unique architectural achievements at Aihole and Badami in Bijapur district and the temples of Halebedu, Belur and Somanathapura.

Often referred to as the cradle of Hindu temple architecture, Aihole is a tranquil village on the banks of the Malaprabha River where one can find hundreds of temples in the villages and fields nearby, the most impressive being the Durga Temple with its elevated plinth, semicircular apse, and gallery encircling the sanctum. The Lad Khan Temple, the oldest of temples here was originally a royal assembly hall and marriage mantapa chosen as the abode of a Muslim prince, Lad Khan. Other temples that are must visit here are the Huchimalli Temple that houses a sculpture of Vishnu sitting atop a large cobra. The Ravalphadi Cave Temple is a masterpiece that celebrates the many forms of Shiva.

Whilst there,  do take time to visit the Konti Temple Complex, the Umamaheswari Temple, the Jain Meguti Temple, and the two-storied Buddhist Temple that are worth seeing.

Picturesquely situated at the mouth of a ravine between two rocky hills, Badami is known for its four rock cut caves replete with carved pillars and exquisite sculptures, all hewn out of red sandstone on the precipice of a hill. The third cave, dedicated to Lord Vishnu is the largest with inscriptions dating this Vishnu temple to 578 CE during, the period of Kiritivarma Chalukya. Carved images of the Narasimha and Trivikrama i.e. avatars of Vishnu, and murals depict the divine marriage of Shiva and Parvati.

The first temple dates back to the 5th century CE and has a gigantic carving of Ardhanareeswara and Harira manifestations of Shiva in bas relief. Also seen here is a carving of the cosmic dance of Shiva Nataraja depicted with eighteen arms, and relics of Ganapati, Shanmukha and Mahishasuramardhini. The second temple bears images of Vishnu in his Varaha and Trivikrama incarnations, while on its ceilings, are carvings of Vishnu on Garuda and several other scenes from the puranas. Overlooking the caves here is the Agastya Theertha Tank, its banks dotted with a cluster of Bhoothanatha temples.

The only Hoysala temple still in active worship is a star-shaped temple with hand lathe-turned filigreed pillars and sculptures on the banks of the Yagachi River in Belur. Seen here are friezes of charging elephants, military scenes, mythological figures, dancers and musicians, and elaborately decorative motifs. Facing the temple, palms’ touching in homage is the winged figure of Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s carrier. Other magnificent sculptures are of those of celestial nymphs singing, dancing or executing daily chores, and the sculpture of Shanthala Devi, King Vishnuvardhana’s queen in front of the shrine. Other must visit temples are the temples of Chennigaraya, Viranarayana, Sridevi, and Bhoodevi.

Halebedu is around 17km from Belur; it served as the ancient capital of the Hoysalas. Again here the temple is an architectural delight, its walls richly carved with an endless variety of Hindu deities, sages, animals, birds, and friezes depicting the life of the Hoysala kings. The Archaeological Department also has a museum within the temple complex, which houses excavated ruins found here.

Guaranteed to take your breath away! The exquisitely carved, star-shaped Kesava temple with its triple towers is a perfect example of Hoysala architecture situated in Somnathpur. Here too one can see some intricately carvings of caparisoned elephants, horsemen, mythological birds and beasts and more!

If you’re looking at shopping, one can find some fascinating stone idols, sculptures and terracotta items in some of these places.

Each more breathtaking & more exquisite than the other, these fascinating ruins will leave you spellbound! Visit it for some of the country’s finest architectural structures and discover a glorious bygone era!