A Pre-historic Brief
The pre-historic culture of Karnataka, the hand-axe culture, compares
favourable with the one that existed in Africa and is quite distinct
from the pre-historic culture of North India. The early inhabitants of
Karnataka knew the use of iron far earlier than the North, and iron
weapons, dating back to 1200 B.C have found at Hallur in Dhaward
The early rulers of Karnataka were predominantly from North India. Parts
of Karnataka were subject to the rule of the Nandas and the Mauryas.
The Shathavahanas (30 B.C to 230 A.D of paithan) ruled over extensive
areas in Northern Karnataka. Karnataka fell into the hands of the
Pallavas of Kanchi. Pallavas domination was ended by indigenous
dynasties, the Kadambas of Banavasi and the Gangas of Kolar, who divided
Karnataka between themselves.
The Kadamba Dynasty was founded by Mayurasharman in c. 345 A.D.
Subjected to some kind of humiliation at the Pallava capital, this young
brahmin gave up his hereditary priestly vacation and took to the life of
a warrior and revolted aganist the Pallavas. The Pallavas were forced to
recognise him as a sovereign when he crowned himself at Banavasi in
Uttar Kannada Dt. One of his successors, Kakustha Varman (c. 435-55) was
such a powerful ruler that even the Vakatakas and the guptas cultivated
martial relationship with this family during his time. The great poet
Kalidasa deems to have visited his court.
The Gangas started their rule from c. 350 from Kolara and later their
capital was shifted to Talakadu (Mysore Dt.). Till the advent of the
Badami Chalukyas, they were almost a sovereign power. Later they
continued to rule ove Gangavadi (which comprised major parts of South
Karnataka) till the close of the 10th century as subordinates of the
Badami Chalukyas and the Rastrakutas.
The Badami Chalukyas
It is the Chalukyas of Badami who brought the whole of Karnataka under a
single rule. They are also remembered for their contributions in the
feild of art. Their monuments are found at Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal.
The first great prince of the dynasty was Pulikeshin I (c. 540-66 A.D)
who built the ashwamedha (horse sacrifice) after subduing many rulers
including the Kadambas.
His grandson, Pulikeshin II (609-42) built a vast empire which extended
from Narmada in the north to the Cauveri in the south. In the east, he
overthrew the Vishnukundins and appointed his younger brother
Vishnuvardhana, the voceroy of Vengi.
The Chalukyan empire included not only the whole of karnataka and
Maharashtra, but the greater part of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Andra,
and also parts of Orissa and Tamilnadu. Vikramaditya II (693-734) in the
line defeated the Pallavas, entered the Pallava capital Kanchi
victorious. The Chalukyan power was weakened in the long run by its wars
with the Pallavas.
In 753, Danthidurga, the Rastrakuta feudatory of the Chalukyas,
overthrew the Chalukya king Keerthivarman II, and his family inherited
the fortunes of the Chalukyas. The engraving of the celebrated
monolithic Kailas temple at Ellora (now in Maharshtra) is attribuited to
Danthidurga's uncle, Krishna I (756-74). Krishna's son, Dhruva (780-93)
crossed the Narmada, and after defeating celebrated princes like
Vathsaraja (of the Gurjara Pratheehara family of central India) and
Dharmapala of Bengal, extracted tribute from the ruler of Kanauji, 'the
seat of India's paramountry'. His son Givinda III (793-814) also
repeated the feast when he defeated Nagabhata II, the Gujara Pratheehara
and Dharmapala of Bengal and again extracted tribute from the King of
Kanauj.The achievements of the Chalukyas of Badami and the Rastrakutas
by defeating the rulers of Kanauj have made their erathe "Age of
The Kalyana Chalukyas
The Chalukyas of Kalyana overthrew the Rastrakutas in 973, Someshwara I
(10432068), succeeded in resisting the efforts of the Cholas to subdue
Karnataka, and he built a new capital, Kalyana (mordern Basava Kaluyana
in Bidar Dt.) The Chola king Rajadhiraja was killed by him at Koppar in
His son Vikramaditya VI (10762127) has been celebrated in history as the
patron of the great jurist Vijnaneshwara, (work: mitakshara, standard
work on Hindu law), and the emperor has been immortalised by poet
Dilhana (haling from Kashmir) who chose this prince himself as the hero
for his sanskrit poem, Vikramankadeva Charitam. Vikramaditya defeated
the Paramaras of Centeral India thrice. In the South he captured Kanchi
from the Cholas in 1085, and in the East, he conqured Vengi in 1093. His
commander, Mahadeva built the Mahadeva temple at Itagi (Raichur Dt.) the
finest Chalukyan monument. His son Someshwara III (1127-39) was a great
scholar. He has written Manasollasa, a sanskrit encyclopedia and
Vikrmankabhyudayam, a peom of which his father is the hero,
The Sevunas (or Yadavas) who were foundatories of the Rastrakutas and
the chalukyas of Kalyana, became a sovereign power from the days of
Bhillama V (1173-92) who founded the new capital Devagiri (modern
Daulathabad in Maharastra). Bhillama V captured Kalyana in 1186, and
later clashed with Hoysala Ballala II at Sorarturu in 1190. Though he
lost the battle.He built a vast kingdom, extending from the Narmada to
the Krishna. His son Jaitugi (1192-99) not only defeated Parmara Subhata
varma, but also killed the Kakatiya kings of Orangal, Rudra and Mahadeva.
Singhana II (11992247), the greatest of the Sevunas, extended the Sevuna
kingdom upto the Tungabhadra. But the Servunas were defeated by the army
of the Delhi Sultan in 1296, and again in 1307 and finally in 1318, and
thus the kingdom was wiped out. The Sevunas have become in immortal in
history by the writings of the mathematician Baskarasharya, of the great
writer on music, Sharngadeva, and of the celebrated scholar Hemadri.
The Hoyasala continued the great traditions of their art-loving
overlords the Kalyana Chalukyas, and their fine temples are found at
Beluru, Helebidu and Somanathapura. Vishnuvardhana (11082141) freed
Gangavadi from the Cholas (who had held it from 999), and in
commemoration of his victory, built the celebrated Vijayanarayana (Chennakeshva)
Temple at Belur.
His commander Katamalla built the famous Hoysaleshwara temple at
Though Vishnuvardhana did not succeed in his serious effort to overthrow
the Chalukyan yoke, his grandson Balla II (11732220) not only became
free, but even defeated Sevuna Bhillama V at Soraturu in 1190, after
having defeated Chalukyas Someshwara IV in 1187. When the Cholas were
attacted by the Pandyas in Tamilnadu, Balla II drove the Pandyas back
and thus assumed the title "Establisher of the Chola Kingdom". Later, in
the days of his son Narasimha II (1120-35), Hoysalas even secured a
foothold in Tamilnadu and Kuppam, near Srirangam became a second capital
of the Hoysalas.
Ballala III (12912343), the last Hoysala, had to struggle hard to hold
his own against the invasion of the Delhi Sultan. He died fighting the
Sultan of Madhurai. It was his commanders, Harihara and Bukka, who
founded the Vijayanagra Kingdom, which later grew to be an empire.
Hoyasala age saw great kannada poets like Rudrabhatta, Janna, Harihara
and Raghavanka. Hoysala temples at Beluru, Halebidu, Somanathapur,
Arasikere, Amritapura etc., are wonderful works of art.
Karnataka Under Vijayanagar Empire
The most celebrated dynasty that ruled Karnataka is the Vijayanagar
dynasty. The Vijyanagar kings were the greatest of all medieval Hindu
empires and were lovers of fine arts. They have contributed a lot to the
culture and traditions of the state. Many foreign visitors who came to
this place during this period have described it as one of the most
The Fall of Vijayanagar Empire
The grand Vijayanagar dynasty disintegrated with its capital at Hampi
after the attack of the Deccan Sultan in 1565 A.D. Therefore, Bijapur
was established as the capital and many monuments were build around the
city. It was ruled by the Bahmani Shahis and the Adilshahis, who have
contributed a lot to the architecture, art and the spread of Islam in
The Muslim Domination and The British Control
Later, the state was ruled by Hyder Ali and his brave son Tipu Sultan.
They were responsible for the expansion of the Mysore kingdom. Tipu was
a great scholar and lover of literature. He was a good administrator and
offered expensive gifts to the Hindu temples. Tipu Sultan was also known
as "Tiger of Karnataka", since he fought bravely with the British and
never allowed them to overpower Mysore . He was killed in 1799 A.D. and
thus the throne of Mysore went into the hands of Wodeyar's. In the
beginning of the 19th century, entire Karnataka came under the control
of the British.
After India's Independence, the state of Mysore was governed by the
Maharaja of Mysore, who was appointed by Independent India. But later,
on November 1, 1973, the integrated state was renamed as Karnataka.
Area : 1,91,791 square kilometers
Population : 44,977,201 (1991 census)
Capital : Bangalore
Literacy rate : 56.04%
Extending over 1,92,000 sq. km. on the western half of the Deccan
plateau bounded by Andhra Pradesh in the east, Maharashtra in the north
and Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the south, Karntaka has a population of
over 45 millions.
The coast about 330 km long with its silver sand beaches and blue
lagoons hedged by miles and miles of tall, waving, palmgroves against
the back drop of majestic mountain regions is strikingly beautiful.
The Malnad stretches about 650 km from north to south with an
undulating range of mountains.
The Karnataka Coastal Region, which
extends between the Western Ghats, edge of the Karnataka Plateau in the
east and the Arabian Sea in the West, covers Dakshina Kannada and Uttara
Kannada districts. This region is traversed by several ridges and spurs
of Western Ghats. It has difficult terrain full of rivers, creeks, water
falls, peaks and ranges of hills. The coastal region consists of two
broad physical units, the plains and the Western Ghats. The Coastal
plains, represent a narrow stretch of estuarine and marine plains. The
abrupt rise at the eastern flanks forms the Western Ghats. The northern
parts of the ghats are of lower elevation (450-600 metres) as compared
to Southern parts (900 to 1,500 metres). The Coastal belt with an
average width of 50 to 80 km covers a distance of about 267 km. from
north to south.
There are quite a few high peaks both in Western and Eastern Ghat
systems with altitudes more than 1,500 metres.
Among the tallest peaks of Karnataka are the Mullayyana Giri (1,925
m), Bababudangiri (Chandradrona Parvata 1,894 m) and the Kudremukh
(1,895 m) all in Chikmagalur Dt. and the Pushpagiri (1,908 m) in Kodagu
Dt. There are a dozen peaks which rise above the height of 1,500 metres.
Climate Semi-tropical Seasons Summer, March to May (18oC to 40oC);
Winter December, March to May (14oC to 32oC);
Seasons, South-West Monsoon: June to August; North-East
Monsoon October to December
Rainfall 500 mm to over 4000 mm
The official Language of Karnataka State
Kannada is almost as old as Tamil, the truest of the Dravidian family.
Initially the area of the Kannada speech extended much further to the
north than present Karnataka, but was pushed back by the Aryan Marathi.
The Kannada Literature
The early (pre 800AD) bits and pieces of Kannada literature are
insufficient to lay claims to the literature’s origins. The oldest
extant book is king Nripatunga’s literary critique Kavi Raja Marga
(circa 840). Jainism being a popular religion at the time, there were
some Jaina poets like Srivijaya and Guna Varman I.
A new trend began with the ‘Three Gems’ of Kannada literature, Pampa,
Ponna and Ranna in the 10th century, where prose and verse were mixed –
the campu style. The three poets extensively wrote on episodes from the
Ramayana and Mahabharata and Jain legends and biographies. Chavunda Raya,
Ranna’s elder contemporary then came up with an elaborate work – a
history of all the 24 Jaina tirthankaras (saintly teachers). The Chola
kings of Tamil-land got too aggressive around the 11th century and
This meant a lean phase in literary activities except for the works of a
few writers like Naga Chandra, known for his Jain Ramayana, the Jain
poetess Kanti, the grammarian Naga Varman II who wrote Karnataka Bhasha
Bhushana in Sanskrit sutras (aphorisms), and Kirtti Varman and Vritta
The middle phase--(1150-1800AD)
The middle phase of Kannada literature (1150-1800AD) saw the power of
Puranic Hinduism over Jainism. A very distinct phase of writing began
the second half of the 12th century in the Vira-Shaiva phase with
There was a spate of writers like Harihara, Raghavanka and Kereya
Padmarasa writing fervently about Shiva in the 12th-13th centuries.
Rebellion against the orthodox rituals came from the brilliant poetess
Akkamahadevi, a harbinger of Bhakti poetry (see below).
The Jains, too, weren’t idle all this while; they composed legendary
histories of various tirthankaras (ford makers). In all, the 13th
century was chock-full with poems, literary criticism, grammar, natural
science and translations from Sanskrit.
Kannada literature Has Strong Hindu Influence
Kannada literature took a strong Hindu bend with the orthodox
Vijayanagara kings (14th-15th AD). Some eminent names were Bhima Kavi,
Padmanaka, Mallanarya, Singiraja and Chamarasa. The Bhakti movement also
affected Kannada literature in the 15th and 16th centuries. The
Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas were translated afresh using the folk
meters satpadi and regale. Devotional songs of dasas or singing
mendicants were compiled, which formed an important part of popular
The Change of Language From Middle To Modern Kannada
The next two centuries were a busy period with many rules, of the
Wodeyar kings, Bijapur Sultans and Mughals, and much literary activity.
Bhattakalanka Deva’s Karnataka Shabdaushasana (1604AD) on grammar,
Sakdakshara Deva’s romantic campu the Rajshekhara Vilasa (1657AD), the
historical compositions of the Wodeyar period (1650-1713AD), Nijaguna
Yogi’s Viveka Chintamani of Shaiva lore (mid 17th century), Nanja Raja’s
Puranic works the Shiva Bhakti Mahatmya and Hari Vamsa (circa 1760),
were some of the notable creations.
All this while the language was changing from Middle to Modern Kannada.
The popular Yakshagana, dramatization of Puranic tales with much
singing, was an innovation of the late 18th century. A good mass of folk
poetry thus came to be written.
Modern education made a late entry in Karnataka as compared to other
parts of India. Works based on Sanskrit models, like Shakuntala of
Basavappa Shastri, continued till the late 19th century. With a little
initiation from the Christian missionaries, the Academy of Kannada
Literature was set up in Bangalore in 1914.
Gradually modern literature gained tempo and translations were made from
English, Bengali and Marathi. Kerur and Galaganatha attempted the first
novels in Kannada, followed by a host of novelists like Shivarama
Karanta, K. V. Puttapa, G P Rajaratnam, Basavaraja Kattimani,
Nanjanagudu Tirumalamba (the first major woman writer in modern Kannada)
The short story too made its advent with Panje Mangesha Rao and Masti
Venkatesha Ayyangar. A new trend in drama began with the use of
colloquial language. Poetry, too, wasn’t left behind; B. M.
Shrikanthayya too Kannada poetry to great heights with innovations like
the blank verse.
Literature in Kannada today is a big enterprise, with bustling centres
like the University of Mysore, the Karnataka University at Dharwar and
the Kannada Sahitya Parishad of Mysore.
HOW TO REACH
By Air: There are many flights catering to national and
international places. Karnataka is connected with Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata,
Madras, Pune, Coimbatore, Goa, Trivandrum, Hyderabad and Calicut.
By Rail: One can depend on railways for getting to Karnataka.
Bangalore, the main city, has two railway stations. There are railways
running directly to Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bombay, Kolkata, Cochin, Guwahati,
Hyderabad, Mangalore, Mysore, Madras, Nagpur, Trivandrum and Goa.
By Road: The well-maintained bus-routes and stands in Karnataka
allow people to travel to Karnataka by road. Bus is a most economical
way to reach here.