Travel Bucket List – India: Karnataka Part 3

If Bengaluru is the head of Karnatka, then Mysore or as it is called today, Mysuru is definitely it’s heart and is known as the cultural capital of the state.

Located at the foothills of the Chamundi Hills at an altitude of about 2,427 ft, southwest of Bengaluru, Mysuru served as the capital city of the Kingdom of Mysore for nearly six centuries from 1399 until 1956. The Kingdom was ruled by the Wadiyar dynasty, with a brief period of interregnum in the late 18th century when Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were in power. The Wadiyars were patrons of art and culture while Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali also contributed significantly to the cultural and economic growth of the city and the state by planting mulberry trees introducing silk in the region and fighting 4 Anglo-Mysore wars against the British. Known for its heritage structures and palaces, including the Mysore Palace, and for the festivities that take place during the Dasara festival it lends its name to various art forms and culture, such as Mysore Dasara, Mysore painting; the sweet dish Mysore Pak, Mysore Masala Dosa; brands such as Mysore Sandal Soap, Mysore Ink; and styles and cosmetics such as Mysore Peta (a traditional silk turban) and the Mysore silk sarees.

The name Mysore is an anglicised version of Mahishuru, which means the abode of Mahisha in the vernacular Kannada. This refers to Mahishasura, a mythical demon who could assume the form of both human and buffalo, who, according to Hindu mythology, ruled the ancient parts of the Mysore Kingdom, known in Sanskrit as Mahíshaka, centred at Mahishapura. He was killed by the Goddess Chamundeshwari, whose temple is situated atop the Chamundi Hills, after whom it is named. Mahishapura later became Mahisuru, a name which the royal family uses even now, and finally came to be anglicised as Mysore by the British and Maisuru or Mysuru in the vernacular Kannada language. On 1 November 2014, the name was officially changed to Mysuru.

I have been to Mysore twice, one when I was very young when my aunt used to live there. We must have spent a good part of our summer holiday there, but I don’t really have many memories of that trip. The second time was a girls day trip from Bangalore to Mysore. We were six of us girl cousins plus a friend and we did this trip using a tour company. This used to be quite common then, no idea whether it exists now. The trip also included a side trip to Srirangapatna and I have many memories of trip!

On to discover Mysuru….

An incredibly breathtaking example of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, the Mysore Palace is a magnificent edifice also known as the Amba Vilas Palace. It is the former palace of the royal family of Mysore and is still their official residence. Built in the year 1912 for the 24th ruler of the Wodeyar dynasty, the Mysore Palace is counted amongst one of the biggest palaces in the country. The construction of the palace was orchestrated by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV and then further expanded by his son and the last Maharaja, Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar. The facade of the palace is a harmonious blend of Hindu, Muslim, Rajput and Gothic styles which imparts it a regal quality. With the Chamundi Hills towards its eastern side, the Mysore Palace is an enchanting sight to behold. Located inside the Old Fort, the palace is renowned for its light & sound show and vibrant Dussehra celebrations. The Palace is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm and you will need atleast two to three hours to cover the palace. The entry fee to enter the palace is INR 70 for both Indians and foreigners while children between the ages of 10 and 18 pay INR 18.

The Jaganmohan Palace has an illustrious history attached to its name. Used by the Wodeyars when their main residence Amba Vilas Palace was under renovations post a fire incident, it is one of the seven palaces that are situated in the city and is counted as one of the most beautiful. The Jaganmohan Palace was converted into a magnificent art gallery in 1915 and today hosts some of the most exquisite pieces of artwork. It currently holds more than 2000 paintings pertaining to various art forms like the Mughal, Shantiniketan and Mysore. The architecture of Jaganmohan Palace is intricate and detailed beautifully with the main door being a beautiful example of the typical Hindu style of architecture and two wooden displays illustrating the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu embellishing the premises as well. The palace also held an important position in the administrative and legislative affairs of Mysore for a long period. From hosting the early convocations of the Mysore University to holding the first session of the Legislative Council of Mysore, this palace has seen it all. The Jaganmohan Palace is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm daily and you will need to pay INR 20 for an adult and INR 10 for a child to enter the premises.

Built in the year 1921, the Lalitha Mahal is the second largest palace in Mysore and was built at the orders of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV of Mysore for the stay of the then Viceroy of India, The Earl of Reading. The architecture of the grand palace was inspired by the St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which makes visiting the palace an enjoyable pause to your day. The entry fee to the Lalitha Mahal Palace is INR 100 and the palace is open between 10 am and 6 pm daily.

Spread over 60 acres and located about 21 kms from Mysuru, the Brindavan Gardens is visited by millions of tourists yearly and is a must-see destination in Mysuru. You can’t visit Mysuru and not make a trip to these gardens. The gardens were constructed in 1932 by the Diwan of Mysore, Sir Mirza Ismail, who was inspired by Hyder Ali who had built the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens in Bengaluru. Built across the Cauvery river, the gardens took around five years to construct and has a boating facility offered by the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation which connects the two parts of the garden along with a walkway bridge. The well-synchronised fountain show with music is the highlight of the garden and is not to be missed. The Gardens are open from 7 am to 8 pm on weekdays and from 7 am to 9 pm on weekends. The Musical Fountain show runs from 6:30 to 8 pm during weekdays and from 6:30 to 9 pm on weekends. You will need a good three to four hours to explore the gardens. Entrance fees are INR 50 for an adult and INR 10 for a child. If you plan to bring in your DSLR camera, you will need to pay INR 100. If you are interested in the boating experience, a round trup from the north garden to the southern part of the garden will cost you INR 30 per person before 6 pm and INR 60 per person after 6 pm. If you only want to boat on one side after 6 pm, it will cost you INR 30.

Popularly known as the Mysore Zoo, the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens is located near the Mysore Palace and is known as one of the oldest and best zoological gardens in India. It was established in 1892 by the then Maharaja, Chamaraja Wodeyar as a royal zoo with an area of 157 acres and after India’s independence, was handed over to the state government department of parks and gardens. The zoo has created natural habitats for over a hundred and sixty-eight species of animals, birds and reptiles. The zoo also plays the role of an orphanage for abandoned animals and was the first zoo in the world to perform a caesarean delivery on an elephant which made news all over the world. The zoo has various exhibitions regularly held.

The Karanji Lake, a popular picnic spot was put under the Zoo’s jurisdiction in 1976. The lake has different species of birds and is said to possess the largest aviary in the country with over 147 species under it’s domain. The lake also has a waterfall with two water bodies alongside as well as a butterfly park, home to more than 45 species of butterflies. You can also visit the Regional Museum of National History which is situated on the banks of the lake and find out more on the natural environment of South India and how to maintain it. The zoo and the lake are open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm and closed on Tuesdays. Entry fee for the zoo is INR 50 for adults and INR 20 for children under 12 during the weekday and INR 60 for an adult and INR 30 for a child during weekends. For the lake, you need to pay INR 10 for an adult while a child pays INR 5.

Home to over 2000 birds, the Shuka Vana is a must visit for ornithophiles and nature lovers. With over 450 varied species, this striking 50m high aviary spanning an area of 1 acre currently holds the record for most bird species in an aviary in the Guinness Book of World Records. This unique park, commonly known as parrot park, is a part of the Avadhoota Datta Peetham in the Sri Ganapathi Sachidananda Ashram, and also serves as a rehabilitation centre for abused, injured and abandoned birds. One can also find many rare species of parrots flying around this beautiful enclosure. The place is closed on Wednesdays and on other days is open between 9:30 am and 12:30 pm and then again between 3:30to 5:30 pm. There is no entry fee to access the Shuka Vana.

The Chamundeshwari Temple is a traditional Hindu temple located on the eastern edge of Mysore at the height of 1000 ft on the Chamundi hills. Dedicated to and named after goddess Durga, the temple also has statues of Nandi and Mahishasura, the demon. The Chamundeshwari Temple is considered as a Shakti Peetha and is one among the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas. The temple showcases the fierce form of Shakti, a tutelary deity that was held in reverence for centuries by the Maharajas of Mysore; hence deriving its name from goddess Durga. The idol of goddess Durga here is adorned every day and worshipped by a number of priests. The deity is offered a variety of fruits, coconuts and flowers to show respect and reverence. You can reach the temple either by walking up the steps or by driving through the interwoven valley road. Usually not very crowded, the view of the city of Mysuru from the temple is stunning, as you can see many significant structures of the city including the Lalitha Mahal Palace. The temple has also been declared as the No Plastic Zone. The temple is open from 7:30 am t0 2 pm and then from 3:30 to 6 pm and then again from 7:30 to 9 pm.

The ancient temple of Trinesvaraswamy is located outside the Mysore Fort, with the main deity being Trinesvara i.e. the three-eyed Shiva. The gopura of this temple was destroyed in the 18th century, but the beauty of the Dravidian architecture is still on display here.

The Srikanteshwara Temple is built in the Dravidian style and is dedicated to Lord Shiva and said to have healing powers. The 125 feet tall Gopura along with the 7 gold kalash are a must see on visiting this temple. The temple is open from 6 am to 1 pm and then again between 4 to 8:30 pm

On the banks of river Kaveri, about 35 km east of the centre of Mysuru lies the tiny tranquil town of Somanathapura. Here you can find the finest example of Hoysala architecture known as the Prasanna Chennakesava Temple or simply the Kesava Temple. Consecrated in the year 1258 CE, it is a Vaishnav Hindu Temple dedicated to might and beauty of Lord Krishna. The temple’s name comes from Chenna which means beautiful and Kesava which is another name of Lord Krishna. The Chennakesava temple is one of the 1500 Temples built by the Hoysala Empire kings in different parts of their kingdom, and is said to be the climax development in Hoysala temple style and yet is unique in many other ways. This temple is one of the three to be nominated in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Unfortunately, this temple is no longer used as a place of worship because the idols have been broken and desecrated by invading Muslim armies. But you can still see the beauty and charm of the structure and admire the delicate carvings and sculptures. The temple is open from 9 am to 5:30 pm and entry fee for Indians is INR 20 if using cashless payment and INR 25 if paying by cash. For foreign nationals, cashless payment is INR 250 and cast payment is INR 300. There is no entry fee for children below the age of 12. Videography equipment needs an entry fee of INR 25.

Recognised as the second tallest church in Asia, St. Philomena’s Church was constructed to pay tribute to the Catholic Saint and martyr, Saint Philomena. Built in a Neo-Gothic style, it is a distinctive landmark in the city. The foundation for the church was laid in the year 1933 by the then king, Sri Krishnarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur IV for the European residents in the city. After eight years of construction, the church started functioning in 1941. The remains of Saint Philomena have been preserved here and are present even today. A daughter of the Greek King, Saint Philomena had always been a devotee of God. She was taken to meet the Emperor when she was 13 years old, after which, the Emperor, mesmerised by her beauty, wanted to marry her. She refused and the emperor ordered to have her executed. The church stands as a symbol of the secular viewpoint and the religious accord of Mysore. Open from 5 am to 6 pm daily, there is no entry fee to enter the church.

A part of Mysore University, the Folklore Museum is home to one of the most elaborate collections of folk art, products and articles. Visit the museum to witness one of the most sprawling depictions of the state’s folk art.

The Mysore Rail Museum is the second of its kind in India, right after the National Railways Museum of Delhi. Built in 1979 by Indian Railways, the museum depicts the journey and development of the Indian railways through an opulent collection of photographs and other items. With a plethora of information and insight into the intricacies of the railway engine, Mysore Rail Museum is especially enjoyable for children up to 10 years of age. Most of the exhibits were earlier placed at the Mysore Palace which was later shifted here. The first steam engine along with the first signals made is exhibited here. There are also wooden pillars and doors belonging to the Old Srirangapatna railway station. The other fascinating display here includes a wide range of lights, tickets, ticketing machines, clocks, signal signs, and a hand-operated the steam water pump. There is a battery-operated mini toy train that takes the tourists around the grounds of the museum. The museum is closed on Mondays and on other days is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm. Entry fee is INR 15 per person.

Two items which are synomous with Mysuru, the Mysore Silk and the Mysore Sandal Soap have their factory and retail outlets in this city. The Government Silk-Weaving Factory is an interesting place to visit. Given that Mysuru’s prized silk is made under its very sheds, this government-run outlet, set up in 1912, is the best and cheapest place to shop for the exclusive textile. Behind the showroom is the factory, where you can drop by to see how the fabric is made. It’s around 2km south of town. The Government Sandalwood Oil Factory, located in the heart of the city, was established almost a century ago in 1917 to harvest the oil to be used for a variety of purposes, most importantly the state’s signature and iconic sandalwood soap. There are strict restrictions on the felling of sandalwood trees and hence the factory might sometimes be closed, but it is well worth the visit. A guide usually explains and takes visitors through the process of powdering the wood, then the laborious process of boiling, distilling, condensing and extracting the oil. A store on the premises offers a variety of products made with the oil including soaps, incense sticks, cosmetics and perfumes.

Now let’s head 250 km northwest of Mysuru to the coastal town of Mangalore.

Mangalore
Officially known as Mangaluru, Mangalore is the second largest city and a major port in Karnataka and is located between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats mountain range. The city has been ruled by several major powers, including the Kadambas, the Alupas, the Vijayanagar Empire, the Keladi Nayaks and the Portuguese. The city was a source of contention between the British and the Kingdom of Mysore rulers Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, and was eventually annexed by the British in 1799. Mangalore remained part of the Madras Presidency until India’s independence in 1947 and was unified with Mysore State and then the state of Karnataka in 1956.

Mangalore was named after the deity Mangaladevi, the presiding deity of the Mangaladevi Temple or a synonym of Tara Bhagvati of the Vajrayana Buddhist sect. According to local legend, a princess named Parimala or Premaladevi from Malabar renounced her kingdom and became a disciple of Matsyendranath, the founder of the Nath tradition. Having converted Premaladevi to the Nath sect, Matsyendranath renamed her Mangaladevi. She arrived in the area with Matsyendranath but had to settle near Bolar in Mangalore because she fell ill on the way. When she died, the Mangaladevi temple at Bolar was consecrated in her honour by the local people and the city got its name from the temple.

Being a coastal city, Mangalore’s beaches are quite famous. The Panambur beach is located about 13 km south of Mangalore port. The name of the beach has been derived from ‘Panam’ meaning money and ‘ur’ meaning place. Every year it is visited by hordes of tourists and locals as it hosts several events like boat racing, kite festival and sand sculptures competitions. Despite a massive footfall, it is one of the cleanest beaches one can come across in the western coastline of India. It is the first beach in the country which is wholly owned by a private enterprise, i.e. the Panambur Beach Tourism Development Project. The International Kite Festival is organised every two years at the Beach which is very popular.

A popular beach with locals, the Tannirbhavi beach’s coastline with its golden sand and cool, fresh air makes people revisit the place time and again, making it crowded on weekends and public holidays. Entering the sea is not advisable, but one can try their hand at one of the water sports at the beach.

Located about 13 kms north of Mangalore, the Surathkal beach with its beautiful rocks that delightfully punctuating the smooth coastline, is a great location for those looking to enjoy the pleasure of the Konkan coast without a herd of people marring the lovely view of the ocean. The sunsets here are breathtaking and definitely worth the drive from Mangalore. The enchanting Sadashiv temple found here encases the piece of the Shiv Lingam that gives this beach its name. A charming lighthouse completes the picture perfect scene of coastal beauty.

Located in Ullal, a small fishing village 12 kms away from the city centre of the bustling city of Mangalore, Ullal beach mesmerises its visitors with a panoramic view of a long coastline and the majestic Arabian Sea. The entire coast of the beach is flanked with tall lush casuarinas and dense palm trees and the the beach is set in a 14-acre casuarina grove. The waters off the beach are very clean and you can also do water sporting activities there. You can also explore the nearby attractions like the Someshwara Temple, St. Sebastian’s Church and Queen Abbakka’s Fort.

Another beach in Ullal is the Someshwara Beach, a quaint hidden gem boasting of shimmering golden sands with a long and beautiful coastline and peppered with rock boulders called Rudra Shile, making it unique from other beaches. The beach also houses the Someshwara Temple, dedicated to the Hindu God Lord Shiva and it is believed that the rocks dotting the beach are present because of the God’s presence. However, due to the presence of these rocks and also because of the strong currents, the waters are not ideal for swimming. Make sure you visit the Ottinene Hill which is a beautiful vantage point near the beach which gives mesmerising glimpses of the city below, the river Netravati and the big beautiful Arabian Sea.

The Mangaladevi Temple dedicated to Goddess Mangaladevi, a form of Goddess Shakti or Goddess Durga is the oldest temple in Mangalore, built in 9000 AD. The city’s name is derived from the name of this temple and the city is built from around its geographical centre. The spacious temple complex allows devotees to sit and meditate or chant after offering their prayers to feel rejuvenated and at peace. The temple is open from 6 to 10 am and then between 12 – 1 pm and again between 4 to 8 pm.

The Kudroli temple was consecrated by Sri Narayana Guru for the Billava community in 1912, who were prohibited entry into any other temple in the area. The deity in this temple is Gokarnanatheshwara, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The surrounding temples and the main temple itself are built in Tamil Nadu style, decorated with murals showing various mythological legends. During Dusshera, the temple is lit and the entire Kudroli road is filled with stalls selling food and souvenirs. The temple is open between 6 am to 2 pm and then again between 4:30 to 9 pm.

Built in 1068 AD, the Kadri Manjunatha temple has the typical Hindu architectural style of the basic Vijayanagari style with it’s presiding diety being Lord Manjunatha. It is situated at the base of the Kadri hills, and has many caves around it as it is located on hillocks. These caves have murals dating back to prehistoric times. Kadri was once the centre of Buddhism and over time, when Buddhism declined, the Natha Prantha, a new religion, came to prominance. The Natha Pranthas were believers of Lord Shiva and devotees called Jogis. The temple has been renovated many times, with the current structure dating back to the 14th century. The temple has a connection to Lord Parasurama and it is believed that when Lord Parashurama was asked to find a new abode called Kadrivana for Lord Shiva, Lord Manjunatha with his many wives stayed here, and with the help of Vishwakarma, the temple was constructed here. Behind the temple on the hill is the Kashi Bhageerathi Theerth where it is believed that the water here comes from River Bhageerathi in Kashi or Varanasi in present day Uttar Pradesh. As a tradition, devotees visit here before entering the temple. The temple is open from 6:30 am to 8:30 pm daily. This temple has a dress code for both men and women. Men have to wear full length pants or a dhoti with or without a shirt. Women are expected to wear modest clothing with full length pants or a skirt and should not wear sleeveless clothes or short dresses or shorts.

One of the holiest temples in the region, the Kateel Shri Durgaparameshwari Temple is situated on an islet in the middle of River Nandini amidst a serene and natural landscape. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga Parameshwari and is located at a distance of 27 kilometres from Mangalore. When visiting the temple, one must take a moment to appreciate the panoramic view of the location, especially during the monsoon. The temple is open from 5:30 am to 10 pm.

The Sharavu Mahaganapathi Temple is an ancient temple, around 800 years old, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesha. The name Sharavu is derived from the word ‘Shara’ which means arrow and has an interesting legend attached to it. According to the legend, the temple was built by a Tulu King, Maharaja Veerabahu to pay for the sin he caused when he mistakenly killed a cow instead of killing a tiger who was standing just beside the cow. The king was not aware of the harmonious life of the animals in the jungle and thought the tiger would kill the holy cow and in an attempt the save the cow, he shot an arrow which hit the cow instead of the tiger. To pay for the mistake, he was instructed to install a Shivalinga and a sanctum sanctorum around it and worship the Lingam every day of his life. It is also believed that the images of Siddhilakshmi and Dashabhuja Maha Ganapati appeared on the southern wall of the temple after a few years. Ever since, Maha Ganapati is also worshipped in the temple which came to be known as Shri Sharavu Mahaganapathi Temple. The temple is especially crowded on the important festival days like Sankranthi, Ganesh Chaturthi and Dussehra. The temple is open from 6 am to 7 pm daily.

The Saavira Kambada Basadi is a 15th century Jain temple, located about 35 km east of Mangalore. The temple depicts the mighty past of the Jain rulers of Moodabidri and is dedicated to the 8th Tirthankar Chandraprabha, whose massive 8-foot idol is worshipped in the temple. The temple’s talking point are its beautifully carved pillars, standing on mandapas, each narrating a different story of its glorious past. The temple in itself is a 3-storeyed granite structure.

A magnificent 16th century Roman Catholic church, the Rosario Cathedral is also called Church of Our Lady of Rosary of Mangalore. It is a magnificent structure with a beautiful interior and one of the few places in Mangalore where one can find peace and tranquillity away from the chaotic city life. The magnificent cross and the dome on the Cathedral are said to be prominent features which are easily visible to the ships approaching the Mangalore Harbour. The Cross is lit every evening and serves as guiding light for fishermen and seamen. The catherdral is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily

A late 16th century Roman Catholic Church, the Milagres Church is one of the oldest in Dakshina Karnataka dedicated to Church of Our Lady of Miracles. The original Milagres Church doesn’t exist anymore as it was demolished by Tipu Sultan, but a cemetery and a chapel which was built years later are still present. Tourists are drawn to its tranquil vibe, its century-old architecture, its religious significance and historical importance.

The St Aloysius Chapel is located atop the Lighthouse Hill and has a breathtaking view from its entrance. The unique wall paintings in the St. Aloysius Chapel, which were painted in 1899 by Antonio Moscheni, an Italian Jesuit when he visited Mangalore on a mission in 1878 attract a large number of visitors. The paintings have suffered damage over the years, what we see today are the mostly restored paintings. The view of the Arabian Sea from the chapel is worth the trip up the hill. The chapel is open from 7 am to 7 pm.

Sultan Battery isa watchtower constructed by Tipu Sultan to keep a lookout for the entry of warships into the Gurpur River. The battery, made from black stones had been given the look of a miniature fortress. Not being able to withstand the ravages of time, this tower stands in ruins today. This is a popular tourist spot as you get beautiful views when on the battery. This is also a boating point to get to Thannirbhavi Beach.

The Srimanthi Bai Government Museum or the Bejai Museum is located in the heart of the city and is also Mangalore’s only museum. It has a collection of ancient coins, paintings, statues and inscriptions which display the rich heritage of India. The copper inscription containing the verses of Keladi Venkatappa Nayaka dating back to 1624 AD is the highlight here. Entry to the museum is free and the museum is open from 6 am to 5:30 pm and is closed on Mondays.

From Mangalore, lets make our way to Belgaum which lies almost on the Maharashtra Karnataka border, part of a border dispute between the two states and which is about 420 km north of Mangalore.

Belgaum
Belgaum was founded in late 12th century AD by the Ratta dynasty, who shifted from nearby Saundatti. Pillars found inside Belgaum fort have Kannada inscriptions in Nagari scripts, one from 1199 by Ratta King Kartaveerya IV. The city original name was Venugrama, a Sanskrit word which means “village of bamboo”. Alternatively, it is referred to as Venupura in early Indian texts, which means “city of bamboo”. Belgaum became a part of the Yadava dynasty kingdom (Sevunas) in early 13th century. The region was invaded by Khalji dynasty of Delhi Sultanate in 14th century and shortly thereafter, Belgaum came under the rule of Vijayanagara. In 1474, the Bahmani Sultanate conquered Belgaum with an army led by Mahamood Gawan. In 1518, the Bahamani sultanate splintered into five small states and Belgaum became part of the Bijapur Sultanate. In 1686, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb overthrew the Bijapur sultanate and Belgaum passed nominally to the Mughals, who called it “Azamnagar”.The Maratha confederacy took control of the area during the rule of the Peshwas and in 1776, the region was overrun by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan after Hyder Ali’s coup in the Kingdom of Mysore. The Peshwa regained Belgaum, after Tipu Sultan was defeated by the British forces. In 1818, the British annexed Belgaum and the region in the control of the Peshwa. After India’s independence, Begaum was part of Bombay State and when states were reorganised in 1956 along linguistic lines, Belgaum district was transferred to Mysore State, which was later renamed Karnataka in 1972. In 2006, the Government of Karnataka announced that Belgaum would be made the state’s second capital, and that the city would be a permanent venue for the annual 15-day winter session of the state legislature with the inauguration of the second state Suvarna Vidhan Soudha on 11 October 2012.

Belgaum Fort has a long and varied history and having played host to several dynasties, it has undergone many renovations and additions. An oval shaped structure, constructed after demolishing 108 Jain temples and 101 Shiva temples, the fort is surrounded by a deep, wide moat in soft, red stone, the fort’s original entry gate with a bridge is no longer operational. The gate currently being used is often quoted as an example of exquisite Indian architecture. The exterior of the gate is adorned with large motifs of birds and animals. The changing dynasties are reflected in the variety of religious shrines in its limits. The fort displays Jain, Hindu and Muslim architectural styles and is home to Jain temples, Hindu temples and mosques. The entrance of the fort has two shrines dedicated to Lord Ganapathi and Goddess Durga that exist in perfect harmony with two ancient mosques, Jamia Masjid and Safa Masjid demonstrating how the Belgaum Fort is a manifestation of the legacy of religious tolerance. There is a lake adjoining the fort called Fort Lake which has a floating cafeteria as well as pedal and motor boats available for a short spin across the lake. During India’s independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned here and the fort was recently honoured it as a state heritage monument. The Belgaum Fort is open from 8 am to 6:30 pm daily and Indians pay INR 24 and foreigners pay INR 50 as entry fees. If you plan on taking a camera inside, you need to pay INR 50 per camera.

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Fort Lake, also known locally as Kote Kere is located right in front of the Durga Temple entrance of the Belgaum Fort and has lush greenery surrounding it with walkways along its boundary. The lake is crowded most evenings with visitors coming to view the sunset. There are pedal and motor boats and a floating café in the lake premises. Every weekend there is a fountain show between 6 – 8 pm as well as a mini amusement park for children. The lake is open daily from 6 am to 8 pm.

Also known as the Kashi of the south, the Kapileshwar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and located beside the Shahpur Flyover which connects the Belgaum to Shahpur. It is believed that the visit and darshan of the 12 Jyotirlinga scattered all over India will remain incomplete unless started from the Kapileshwar Temple. The Shivalinga here is said to have self-incarnated and the inscriptions in Kamal Basti have references to the temple and say that the temple might have been conscrecated in 1000 AD. Similar to the Kashi temple, devotees to the Kapileshwar Temple are allowed access to the Shivalinga up close. There is a rare cluster of Banyan, Peepal and Ficus trees in the compound of the temple which is open to devotees from 5 am to 9 pm every day. The crowds during Mahashivratri are to be seen to be believed.

Kamal Basadi also known as Kamal Basti is a 10th century Jain temple built during the reign of the Ralta Dynasty in the Chalukya style. Two hundred years before the temple was built, the idol of lord Neminath was found in the jungle and the temple was built inside the Belgaum fort, along with Chikki Basti, which today lies in ruins. The name Kamal Basti is derived from the appearance of the temple as a lotus with 72 petals. Each petal consists of the name of the 24 Tirthankaras, for each period, carved on them. The structure comprises of entrances and pillars beautifully carved out of stones. The polishing of the pillars has enhanced the intricacy of the temple. The ceiling consists of projected Jain Tirthankaras on an upside-down lotus carving, made of stone. The structure stands on stone pillars, carved beautifully with images of Jain gods on them. There exists a Garbhagriha, located in the temple itself, with the idol of Lord Neminatha in it. The temple also comprises of a stone carving of the Sinhasan of Lord Neminath. The temple consists of idols from 11th century AD, of lord Sumatinath in standing position and idol of Lord Adinath in padmasana position. It also has an idol of lord Parsvanatha under the shade of 7 hooded Nagraj.

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Gokak Falls which gets its name from the Goki river is known for its beautifully turbulent waters gushing over the rocks and down to a fall of 52 metres or 170 feet starting from the Ghataprabha river, that traverses a long distance before entering the rocky belt of Gokak. Falling into the Gokak valley, the falls crash against the valley and form a horseshoe at its crest. Apart from the colour of the water and its width of 177 metres, the general features of Gokak Falls give it a resemblance with the Niagara Falls. The falls has a 170 meter long hanging rope suspension bridge built over it that allows visitors to walk right above the fall and feel the wind pushed by the river. The falls are located 60 km from Belgaum city.

This is all for today. In the next part, we’ll see some of the smaller, but interesting Karnataka towns and then some wonderful bounties of nature.

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