By Sreelatha Balasubramanian December 2003 Currently drawing global attention for its technological advances, Karnataka, the cradle of many faiths and the hotbed of cultural confluence, continues to satiate the seeker and the aesthete Known as ‘the priceless gift of indulgent nature’, Karnataka is a land of startling contrasts, with culture and tradition blending beautifully with modernity and technology. The old world charm of the villages and towns, the misty mountain ranges, cascading waterfalls and breathtaking architecture co-exist with the marvels of modern engineering and biotechnology. The state capital, ‘Garden City’ Bangalore, is also the forerunner of information technology in India, hence rightly referred to as the ‘Silicon Valley of India’. With its salubrious climate all year round, ample social, education and health facilities, Karnataka draws to itself people from all over the world. The only state in the country where you find goldmines (Kolar), Karnataka is also known for its silk and sandalwood, coffee and cardamom. Here’s the story of the birth and growth of Karnataka. Many great dynasties left their imprint upon the aesthetic, cultural, social and political development of the state. Prominent among them were the Chalukyas, the Hoysalas and the mighty Vijayanagara Empire. Karnataka’s historic period that began with the Satavahanas from 300 BC ended with the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1565 in the decisive battle of Rakkasathangadi. Later, the Wodeyars of Mysore gained prominence until 1971. Haider Ali, one of the generals in the army, challenged the Wodeyars and eventually succeeded in gaining control of the state. Then came Haider Ali, Tipu Sultan and the Peshwas, and finally the British rule. With the introduction of English education by the Christian missionaries, there was significant and swift development of the state. The Mysore dynasty contributed to the cultural growth and industrialisation in the state. The Freedom movement was followed by the unification of Karnataka. The state was renamed as ‘Karnataka’ in 1973. Cradle of stone architecture The architectural wonders of Karnataka hold the key to its spiritual and cultural development. Says Dr P.N. Narasimha Murthy, the famous archaeologist of the coastal belt: “Karnataka has been called the cradle of Indian temple architecture because all the styles found throughout the country can be found here.” After the Chalukyas of Badami came the Rastrakutas, who further enhanced the Chalukyan style. The caves of Elephanta, Ajanta and Ellora are the contributions of the Rastrakutas. The Mahadeva sculpture and the rock-cut Kailashanatha temples at Ellora are some world-renowned creations. The Hoysalas gave one more style to the world of art. Some of the best examples of the Hoysala style can be found at Halebid, Belur and Somnathpur. The entire district of Hassan, Mandya and Tumkur are filled with the temples of this style. The Chennakeshava temple in Belur is one of the finest pieces of Hoysala architecture that has still remained intact, its beauty surpassing even that of the Hoysaleshwara temple. Its Vaishnavite inspiration is evident in its beautiful pillars and sculptures. Not content with the creation of this gem at Belur, the king is said to have commissioned an even larger and more magnificent temple in his new capital city of Halebid. The architect here has laid out two identical temples and then connected them together as a superlative example of India’s finest architecture replete with rich sculptures. According to Percy Brown: “The Halebid Temple and the Parthenon are probably the two extremes of the architectural art of the world. The one revels in the cold purity of its form and the other in the warm complexity of its sculptural architectonics.” The Vijayanagara emperors continued this tradition. Endowed with ample space, time, wealth and energy, the Vijayanagara rulers built giant temples in the Dravidian style. Said Abdul Razzak in 1442 during his visit to Hampi: “The pupil of the eye has never seen a place like it and the ear of intelligence has never been informed that there existed anything to equal this city in the world. It is built in such a manner that seven citadels and the same number of walls enclose each other… The outer citadel has a fortress, of round shape, built on the summit of a mountain and constructed of stone and lime.” Situated amidst a boulder-strewn landscape on the banks of the river Tungabhadra, this town, 12 km from Hospet, is an awesome sight. Once described ‘as large as Rome’ and ‘the best provided city in the world’ by the Persian ambassador Domingo Paes, Hampi is a World Heritage site. The beautiful stone chariot in the Vittala temple and the monolithic statue of Narasimha at Hampi are some of the finest pieces of architecture of the Vijayanagara period. The Vijayanagara style had Rajagopuras to reinforce the City of Victory and the Kalyana Mantapas and the pillared house where elaborate rituals took place. Today the ruins of the empire, with its haunting beauty, beckon travellers from around the world. Spiritually enriching Sadhakanam Hitharthaya Brahmano Rupakalpanam. (For the benefit of the worshipper, the great immanent being condescends to assume an imaginative form) According to ancient Vedic ideas, the infinite cannot be rendered in a finite form or body. Though the infinite cannot be visualised, it can certainly be symbolised in a way the devotee can reach him. Karnataka’s spiritual foundations were laid by great personalities who imparted their wisdom to the common man in the state’s villages. Foremost among them is the temple town of Udupi. The seat of Dwaitha philosophy, Udupi attracts people from all over the world. Traditional accounts say that Sri Madhawacharya (1238-1317), the exponent of the Dwaitha philosophy was seated in meditation near Malpe when he saw that a ship at sea was in great distress. He waved his saffron cloth informing the captain of the ship of the nearness of the shore and thus saved the lives of the people onboard the ship. In gratitude, the captain begged him to choose anything on the ship upon which Madhawacharya chose three lumps of clay. During his transit to Udupi, one lump fell and out came the statue of Balarama that was installed at Odabandeshwara. The second lump had the idol of Lord Krishna as a child and is called ‘Bala Krishna’. It is believed to have originally come from Dwaraka. Lord Krishna himself is said to have created the idol from a shalagram-shila with the Vishwakarma. The third idol was of Janardhana and was installed at Adi Udupi. Located in a picturesque spot in the Western Ghats along the banks of the river Tunga is Sringeri, the seat of Adi Shankara. Although he was born in Kaladi, in Kerala, he spent a major period of his life propounding the Advaita philosophy in this land. It is said that in his quest for a holy place to establish his matha, he came to Sringeri. On the banks of the river he saw an unusual sight-a cobra spreading his hood to protect a pregnant frog from the scorching sun. Struck by the sanctity of the place, he decided to establish his matha in a place that infused love between natural enemies. According to historian Will Durant: “In his short life span of 32 years, Shankara achieved that union of sage and saint, of wisdom and kindness, which characterises the loftiest type of man produced in India.” Destination Soukya Founded by Dr Issac Mathai, Soukya, the international holistic health destination, helps restore the natural balance of your body by combining modern medical advancements, ancient medical techniques and complementary therapies. This residential state-of-the-art facility is at Whitefield, a serene place 24 km from Bangalore, at an elevation of 900 m above sea level. One can choose from a number of facilities like ayurveda, homoeopathy, naturopathy, detoxification, nutrition, natural packs and many more. The aim of the team at Soukya is to help its guests calm the mind, balance the body and nurture the soul so that the body is fortified and the mind strengthened, making it possible for one to renew his vigour for life. This is achieved by the fusion of the charm of traditional healing skills, the precision of modern medicine and the bounteous gift of the self-healing powers of the individual. The power to heal is within oneself and is waiting to be tapped. The team at Soukya adhere to the motto ‘Healing is essentially spiritual in origin and we hope to facilitate that at Soukya’. Adi Shankara’s period witnessed a spiritual enlightenment that led to the rise of a consciousness in the South. It became a centre where ideas met and were nurtured. People from all walks of life came to this seat to gain knowledge. Pujyaya Raghavendraya Satyadharmarataya Cha! Bhajatam Kalpavrikshaya Namatam Kamadhenave! Durvadidhvantaravaye Vaishhnavindivarindave! Shri Raghavendragurave Namo. Atyantadayaluve! (I worship as the Kalpa-vrksha, and salute as the Kamadhenu the esteemed Raghavendra who is always engrossed in the true dharma; He is a brilliant sun who destroys the false arguer, and a moon that casts a mellow light upon the Vishnu bhaktas; salutations to that Guru Shri Raghavendra; salutations to the one of extremely kind disposition). Devotees from all walks of life irrespective of caste and creed, flock to Mantralaya from all over the country to have a glimpse of the Brindavan of the great saint Sri Raghavendra. As a propagator of Dwaitha philosophy, in 1621 he became the head of what was then known as Sri Vijayeendra matha or Sri Kumbhakona matha. It is believed that Sri Raghavendra chose a remote spot with a black rock to build his Brindavan. When questioned, he replied that it was the s
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