Karnataka stretches from the western coast on to the Deccan plateau and the language spoken here is Kannada. It used to be called Mysore state with Mysore city being the cultural heart of the state. Now the state capital is Bangalore.
Karnataka has rich and varied architecture. The three cities of Gulbarga, Bijapur and Bidar in the north have many structures reflecting South Indian Islamic architecture. Among them Bijapur is worth an intensive visit; not for nothing is it called the ‘Agra of South India’.
Much further south (except for Srirangapatnam, or as the British called it, Seringapatam) was the Hindu cultural centre of the 18th century. Aihole, Badami and Mahakuta in the north, were the hub of construction activities during the Middle Ages. The Nagari style of the North in the later period and the Dravidian style of the south (early period) co-existed here. These were built by the early Chalukyas in the 6th~8th centuries. The later Chalukyas built temples that were a blend of the north and south styles with a star-shaped plan. James Fergusson, the first historian to chronicle Indian architecture, called it a “Chalukya style which is a blend of Aryan and Dravidian styles. It later came to be called the ‘in-between style’”. Generally however, even now it is referred to as the Chalukya style.
This in-between style was developed by the Hoysala dynasty further south and was called the Hoysala style. The three temples in Belur, Halebid and Somnathpur, adopt the star plan and have highly decorated walls with exquisite carving. In Vijayanagar (Hampi), the capital of the last Hindu empire in South India there are many ruins. The effect of Islamic architecture is heavy in the fort and palaces. The temples in the capital look traditional except for the Vitthala temple which is different from the Hoysala style and could be called the Indian rococo style with its fantastically decorated interiors. The kingdom extended from Tamil Nadu to Orissa and in every area a Vijayanagar style temple was constructed.
Jain temples were built on the west coast. Buddhism and Jainism spread to South India from Bihar. It is a wonder that on the east coast one finds largely, ruins, while on the west coast there are numerous shrines and many temple towns. The west coast separated from the interior by the Western Ghats receives a lot of rains and hence the wooden constructions have steep roofs like that of the temple in Muda Bidri. The same style continues in Kerala too, which has a similar terrain.