Religion takes the front seat in many tourists’ itinerary because Karnataka has so much to offer to the salvation-bound tourist. Every district in Karnataka has both old and new monuments of every religion.
Hinduism in Karnataka
Gokarna: To the Shaivas, Gokarna(in Uttara Karnataka) is an important pilgrim centre where the Atmalinga (Mahabaleshwara) of Shiva, brought by Ravana is believed to have been installed. Nearby is Murdeshwar where a huge modern Shiva temple in Dravidian style has been raised. With both the places located close to the sea-shore,they are also popular beach sites.
Hampi: At Hampi is the famous Virupaksha Temple, venerated by generations of poets, scholars, kings and commoners.
Madikeri: Madikeri is famous for the Omkareshwara temple built by the Kodagu rulers during the 19th century. Its domes and arches make it look like an Indo-Saracenic building.
Dharmasthala: Dharmasthala in Dakshina Karnataka is the most popular Shaiva centre in Karnataka.
Mysore: Nanjangud in Mysore has the huge Shrikantheshwara temple which is more than 1000 years old. The Chamarajeshwara in Chamarajanagar was built in 19th Century by Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in memory of his father Chamaraja. Both these huge temples have fine stucco images.
The Nanjangud temple is a museum for the study of Shaiva Iconography with its fine stone figures. Bangalore has the Ulsoor Someshwara temple of the 16th Century built by the Kempegowda family known for its tall and imposing Rayagopura.
Bur: The Shiva temple in Kudala Sangama in Bijapur district is famous for its association with Saint Basaveshwara. Remarkable pieces of art are the Virupaksha and the Mallikarjuna temples at Pattadakal. Temples at Talakadu and Mudukutore on the banks of the Cauvery are famous as five holy Lingas Panchalingas).
Veerashaiva Pilgrim Sites
The Veerashaivas have many venerated places either associated with Basaveshwara or his contemporaries.
Basavanna Bagewadi was his place of birth and Kudala Sangama the place of his spiritual practices – both in Bijapur district.
Basava Kalyana, the ancient Chalukyan capital in Bidar district was the place where he conducted his socio-religious movement.
Ulvi in Uttara Karnataka, a quiet place amidst forests, has the `samadhi’ of Chennabasavanna, Basaveshwara’s nephew.
Belgami (Balligavi), the famous Chalukyan art centre in Shimoga district is identified as the birth place of Allama Prabhu and Udugani near Belgami is the native place of Akkamahadevi.
The Mahadeshwara Betta in Mysore district is associated with a Veerashaiva Saint ascribed with many miracles. Yediyur in Tumkur district has the `gadduge’ of Tontada Siddhalinga yati, another renowned saint. Balehonnur in Chikmagalur district and Ujini in Bellary district are the two among the five (Pancha) major important Veerashaiva Peethas of India.
Athani has the `samadhi’ of the famous Veerashaiva Saint Shivayogi. Some of the outstanding Veerashaiva Mathas are seen at Naganur near Bailhongal and Kalmatha in Belgaum district.
Durudundeshwara Matha at Arabhavi(Belgaum district), Mahantaswamy Matha at Murgod in Belgaum district, Murugha Matha (Dharwad district), Annadaneshwara Matha (Mundargi), Tontadarya Matha at Gadag,Moorusavira Matha at Hubli, Murugha Matha and Hukkeri Matha (Haveri,Dharwad district) Taralabalu Matha at Sirigere, Murngharajendra Matha at Chitradurga, Banthanala Shivayogi Matha at Chadachan and Mahantaswamy Matha (Ilkal) in Bijapur district are equaly notables.
The `samadhi’ of Sharanabasappa Appa at Gulbarga, the Belimatha in Bangalore, Siddhaganga Matha near Tumkur and Jagadguru Shivaratreeshwara Matha at Mysore and Suttur are equally important.
Kolar District has Nidumamidi Matha. These places and many more of the Veerashaiva Mathas are visited by pilgrims in thousands.
Gudda Guddapur in Ranebennur taluk, Mannetti Mailara in Bellary district and Khanapur are other popular centres of pilgrimage.
Buddhism in Karnataka
Buddhist shrines at Belgami,near Shiralkoppa (Shimoga dt), Koliwada and Dambal, (both in Dharwad dt) are some of the prominent landmarks of Buddhist pilgrimages. Remains of razed Stupas and a large number of Buddhists plaques at Sannatti in Gulbarga were unearthed recently.
9th century Buddhist bronze images in the Manjunatha temple at Kadri in Mangalore provide a glimpse of the past. Buddhist stupas with artistically painted prayer halls can also be found in the Tibetan Settlements at Mundgod in Uttara Kannada and Bailukuppe in Mysore district .
The Mahabodhi Society in Bangalore has a magnificent Buddhist stupa; a huge temple on the model of the Bodhagaya temple is being raised inside the compound.
Vaishnava Pilgrim Centres
Lord Krishna at Udupi was installed by Acharya Madhwa and he founded eigth Mathas to help conduct services of the Lord at Udupi. The Madhwa Vaishnavas have their own holy places like Sonda in Uttara Kannada where Vadiraja Swami’s `Brindavan’ is seen.
Srivaishnavism was preached by Ramanujaacharya during the 12th century and he stayed at Saligrama (Mysore district where there is the Bhashyakara Temple in his memory), Tonnur and Melukote in Mandya district. At the last places he is believed to have renovated the Cheluvanarayana to others. There is the Parakala Matha at Mysore and Jeeyar Yatiraja Matha at Bangalore (Malleshwaram).
Temples of Vishnu and his incarnation are found all over the state. Reference is made to Udupi, Melkote, Biligiri Rangana Betta and Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta. Ranganatha has two famous centres of worship in the Cauvery delta- at Srirangapattana and Sivasamudra.
The famous Ranganatha temple at Anegondi in Raichur district. The Chennakeshava at Belur, Keerti Narayana at Talakad, Veeranarayana at Gadag are famous Vaishnava pilgrimage centres. Chunchanakatte in Mysore District and Hiremagalur near Chikmagalur have very old Rama temples.
Hanuman as a popular Vaishnava deity has his temples in Hampi, Bannur (Mysore), Banaswadi near Bangalore, Yalagur in Bijapur dt., Mulbagal in Kolar district., and a host of other places. Muttatti on the bank of Cauvery in Mandya district also has a famous Hanuman Temple.
Subramanaya, son of Shiva has his own centers of worship at Sandur in Bellary district (Picturesque hill resort), Ghati Subrahmanya in Bangalore district and Subrahmanya in Dakshina Kannada.
Sikhism in Karnataka
The Sikhs have their famous Nanak Zhira in Bidar, a place supposed to have been visited by Guru Nanak. There is a modern Gurudwara at Ulsoor, Bangalore, built in white marble. The Parsees have their fire temple in Bangalore.
Islam in Karnataka
One of the oldest mosques in Karnataka is present in the Gulbarga Fort, built in 1367, by the Bahmani ruler Muhammad Shah. The mosque resembles the mosque at Cardova in Spain in design. The Jamiya mosque in Bijapur is another wonderful huge monument built by Ali Adilshah (16th century).
Bidar has the famous Solaha-khamb mosque with 16 cylindrical pillars and was raised in 1423.
Raichur has Ekminar mosque and Lakshmeshwar (Dharwar dt) has artistically raised mosque in the style of a Hindu temple;built during the time of Adilshahi.
At Bhatkal is the magnificent ‘Chinnada Palli’ and Mangalore’s Bunder mosque is known for its fine wood work. The city mosque located in the market area of Bangalore is a large modern structure in marble with a series of windows crowned by arched canopies and rows of minaret-like pilasters.At the Asar Mahal palace of
Bijapur, Hazrat Bal, a hair of the Prophet, is believed to be preserved in a casket.
Christianity in Karnataka
Some of the best churches in Karnataka can be found at Bangalore and Mangalore.Mangalore has the magnificent Saint Rozario Cathedral church with its tall frontal towers. The original building was of 1526, rebuilt in 1910. Milagres Church with beautiful tall facade accommodating many artistic images on its parapet reminds one of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Equally notable is Our Lady of Sorrow church at Kodialbail built in 1857. It has a frontal tall wall facade divided into four rectangles of equal size with a pediment atop them.
Mangalore has the Shanti Cathedral of the Basel Mission (now C.S.I) raised in 1862 which is a beautiful simple structure with its complex well-planned layout.Virajpeth in Kodagu has a Catholic Church built in the Gothic style.
The small Anglican Church in Madikeri in Kodagu district now houses the Government Museum and has beautiful glass paintings.The St. Mary’s Church in Belguam is a huge granite structure built in 1869 in the Camp area with fine piers in the prayer hall and gorgeous stained glass windows.
The St. Philomina Church at Mysore with its two tall towers of imposing size is the pride of Mysore. The oldest St. Mary’s Basilica in Shivajinagar supposed to be raised around 1600,and rebuilt in 1832,is in Bangalore.
Another imposing church in Bangalore is the St. Marks Cathedral built in 1927.With North-South alignment and built in Greeco-Roman style, was originally built for Irish soliders in 1844 and rebuilt in 1898. The Trinity Church in the Mahatma Gandhi Road was the official Anglican Church of British times. It has fine Ionic pillars and a majestic portico. Its nave is 90 feet long,with fine wooden carvings on the back- wall.
Also see about tourism in Karnataka.