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The name 'Karnataka' derives from 'karunadu' - literally the 'lofty land', referring to the Deccan plateau on which much of the State lies. The language of the people is Kannada.

Karnataka is endowed with great natural beauty - a 260 km coastline in the West from Karwar to Bangalore with numerous silver beaches waiting to be explored, and running more or less parallel to the coast after a narrow plain, the Sahyadri ranges of the Western Ghats. These hilly tracts have dense teak and sandalwood forests, rivers cascading down in stunning waterfalls (among them Jog Falls, 292m, the highest in india), national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, coffee and tea plantations set in rolling hills, and peaceful hill stations like Madikere and Kudremukh. Karnataka has all the ingredients for a lovely holiday.

During its 2000 year history Karnataka has come under predominantly Hindu influence, having been ruled successively by the Satavahanas, Kadambas, Gangas, Chalukyas and Hoysalas, and culminating in the great Vijayanagar empire in the 14th century AD. The Hindu heritage is seen to this day in the magnificent architectural monuments dotted across the State. In the North there are splendid stone temples at Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal built during the 3rd to 8th century by the Chalukyas, some of which are prototypes for the later architectural styles of North and South India.

The temples at Belur, Halebid and Somnathpur in the South, built by the Hoysalas, are unmatched anywhere in India for their ornateness and intricate carvings. And near the heart of Karnataka lie the vast 400-year old ruins at Hampi, believed by many to be one of the most evocative and beautiful architectural and archaeological sites anywhere in the world. Now a World Heritage Centre Hampi is a sombre reminder of the glory of Vijayanagar.

The 17th century Islamic influence in the State is seen in the Gol Gumbaz, the mausoleum of Mohammed Adil Shah, at Bijapur, whose 44m diameter dome is the second-largest unsupported dome in the world (only St. Peter's in Rome is bigger).

Karnataka has its own folk theatre, Takshagana (similar to the Kathakali of Kerala), and traditional dance form, Yakshagana. The fragrant sandalwood oil and beauty soap indigenous to the State are well known in world markets. Sandalwood and rosewood carvings from here are much sought after. So also are the beautiful silk fabrics and sarees.

Bangalore: The Garden City - Bangalore was the cynosure of all eyes across the world in 1996 when it hosted the Miss World Pageant. Every Indian watching the proceedings on the television fervently hoped that the Indian representative would wear the crown as Aishwarya Rai had done before. While that was not to be, the people of Karnataka had yet another reason for being proud of their Capital. More recently, Bangalore has pioneered a new phase in the digital revolution by becoming the first city in the country to use the TV cable network for the convergence of computers, television and telecommunications.

Although in recent years it has grown into one of India's premier industrial centres, Bangalore still lives up to its well-known epithet as the Garden City. Lying 1000m above sea level, it has a pleasant and cool climate - almost perpetual and perfect picnic weather! Little wonder then that the hustle and bustle of industrial growth has not been able to replace the relaxed and easygoing atmosphere which remains its hallmark. The many pubs that have come up in recent years on the posh MG Road and Brigade Road, each with its own special ambience, are the favourite haunts of both the young and the not so young!

Lying near the southern boundary of the State, Bangalore was founded by Kempe Gowda, a local chieftain, in 1537, and further developed by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan in the 18th century. The centre of the city is dotted with beautifully laid out, well-maintained parks and gardens, tree-lined avenues and dazzling shopping plazas & malls. One of India's best botanical gardens, the 96-hectare Lalbagh, was laid out in 1760 by Hyder Ali. It is home to numerous centuries-old trees, lotus ponds, lakes and some very rare species of tropical plants. The Glass House in the centre of Lalbagh, is inspired by the Crystal Palace, London and is the venue of the annual flower shows.

The even bigger (121 hectares) Cubbon Park, full of beautiful flowering and shady trees, lies right in the heart of the city. It is a favourite haunt for many residents providing them solitude from the hectic pace of life. And close to the park, on Kasturba Road, are the Government Museum & Venkatappa Art Gallery as well as the Visveswaraya Industrial and Technological Museum both well worth visiting.

The city's most spectacular modern building, the four storeyed Vidhan Soudha, lies on the northern side of Cubbon Park. It houses the State Legislature and Secretariat. Built of granite in the neo-Dravidian style in 1956, its largest central dome is crowned by India's national symbol of four lions. Its Cabinet room is famous for the massive door made of pure sandalwood. The building presents a truly enchanting sight when floodlit in the evenings.

The Bangalore Palace, an unusual granite structure inspired by the Windsor Castle, was built by the Wodeyar rulers in the 19th century and is a popular monument among tourists and filmmakers. Another popular spot is the 16th century Bull Temple, dedicated to Nandi, the celestial Bull. An excellent example of Dravidian architecture, the temple has a gigantic 15-foot high sacred bull carved in grey granite.

Indian States:

» North India - Jammu and Kashmir - Himachal Pradesh - Punjab - Uttaranchal - More...
» West India - Rajasthan - Gujarat - Goa - Maharashtra - Madhya Pradesh - More...
» East India - Sikkim - Assam - West Bengal - Arunachal Pradesh - Orissa - More...
» South India - Karnataka - Andhra Pradesh - Kerala - Tamilnadu - Pondicherry - More...