History of Karnataka

The recorded history of Karnataka goes back more than two millennia. Several great empires and dynasties have ruled over Karnataka and have contributed greatly to the history, culture and development of Karnataka.

The impact of kingdoms of Karnataka origin have been felt over other parts of India also. The Chindaka Nagas of central India, Gangas of Kalinga (Odisha),[1] Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta,[2] Chalukyas of Vengi,[3] Yadava Dynasty of Devagiri were all of Kannada origin[4] who later took to encouraging local languages.


Inside the old Badami cave Temple

The credit for doing early extensive study of prehistoric Karnataka goes to Robert Bruce-Foote and this work was later continued by many other scholars.[5] The pre-historic culture of Karnataka (and South India in general) is called the hand-axe culture, as opposed to the Sohan culture of North India. Paleolithic hand axes and cleavers in the shape of pebbles made with quartz and quartzite which have been found in places such as Lingadahalli in Chikkamagaluru district and Hunasagi in Yadgir district, and a wooden spike at Kibbanahalli in Tumkur district are examples of old stone age implements.[6] There are reports that a polished stone axe was discovered at Lingasugur in the Raichur district[7][8] Neolithic sites (new stone age) of importance are Maski in Raichur district, Brahmagiri in Chitradurga district etc., with abundance of evidence that man begun to domesticate animals such as cows, dogs and sheep, use copper and bronze weapons, wear bangles, rings, necklaces of beads and ear-rings and have burial chambers. To the end of the Neolithic era, during the Megalithic age, people in Karnataka began to use long swords, sickles, axes, hammers, spikes, chisels and arrows, all made of iron.[9]

Scholarly hypothesis postulates contacts between the Indus Valley (3300 BCE - 1300 BCE) cities of Harappa and Lothal, citing the discovery of gold found in the Harappan sites that was imported from mines in Karnataka.[10][11][12]

Evidence of Neolithic habitation of areas in modern Karnataka and celts dating back to the 2nd century BCE were first discovered in 1872. There are reports that a polished stone axe was discovered at Lingsugur in the Raichur district; however the authenticity of these reports remains unverifiable.[13] Megalithic structures and burial grounds were discovered in 1862 in the regions of Kodagu and Moorey Betta hills, while Neolithic sites were discovered in north Karnataka.[13] Scholarly hypothesis postulates of contacts between the Indus Valley city of Harappa in 3000 BCE, citing the discovery of gold found in the Harappan sites that was imported from mines in Karnataka.[14][15][16][17]

Early history

Main articles: Satavahanas and Kadambas
Hoysala Empire architecture in Belur

Karnataka was the part of the Maurya Empire, the first Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta Maurya died in Shravanbelgola in Hassan District around 298 BCE where he spent last days of his life as Jain ascetic.[18]

Around 230 BCE, the Satavahana dynasty came to power and its rule lasted nearly four centuries till the early 3rd century CE. The disintegration of the Satavahana dynasty led to the ascent of the earliest native kingdoms, the Kadamba Dynasty of Banavasi in modern Uttara Kannada district with Mayurasharma, a Brahmin native of Talagunda in modern Shivamogga district as the founding king,[19][20][21][22][23][24] and the Western Ganga Dynasty in southern Karnataka,[25][26] marking the birth of the region as an independent political entity. These were the first kingdoms to give administrative status to Kannada language as evidenced by the Halmidi inscription of 450, attributed to King Kakusthavarma of the Kadamba Dynasty.[27][28] Also, recent discovery of a 5th-century copper coin in Banavasi, ancient capital of the Kadambas, with Kannada script inscription on it, further proves the usage of Kannada at an official level.[29]

Medieval history

Bahubali statue in Shravanabelagola

They were followed by large imperial empires, the Badami Chalukyas, Rashtrakuta Dynasty and Western Chalukya Empire, who had their regal capitals in modern Karnataka region and patronised Kannada language and literature.[30][31][32][33][34][35][36] Parts of Karnataka were conquered by the Chola Empire in the 11th century.[37]

Natives of the malnad Karnataka, the Hoysalas established the Hoysala Empire at the turn of the first millennium. Art and architecture flourished in the region during this time resulting in distinctive Kannada literary metres and the construction of temples and sculptures adhering to the Vesara style of architecture.[34][38][39][40][41] The expansion of the Hoysala Empire brought large parts of modern Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu under their rule.[42][43][44][45]

In the early 14th century, the Vijayanagara Empire with its capital at Hosapattana (later to be called Vijayanagara) rose to successfully challenge the Muslim invasions into the South. This empire was established by Harihara I and Bukka Raya who many historians claim were commanders of the last Hoysala King Veera Ballala III and the empire prospered for over two centuries.[46][47] The Bahmani sultans of Bidar were the main competitors to the Vijayanagara empire for hegemony over the Deccan[48] and after their fall, the Bijapur Sultanate took their place in the dynastic struggle for control of the southern India.[49] After the defeat and disintegration of the Vijayanagara Empire in battle at Talikota in 1565 to a confederacy of Sultanates, the Bijapur Sultanate rose as the main power in the Deccan before their defeat to the Mogul Empire in late 17th century.[50][51] The Bahamani and Bijapur rulers encouraged Urdu and Persian literature and Indo Saracenic architecture, the Gol Gumbaz being one of the high points of this contribution.[52] Parts of Karnataka were conquered by Marathas, earlier under Chhatrapati Shivaji and later on after the War of 27 years.

Modern history

Main articles: Wodeyar and Tipu Sultan

The Wodeyars of Mysore, former vassals of the Vijayanagara Empire, leased the state from the Mughal king Aurangzeb in the 15th century. With the death of Krishnaraja Wodeyar II, Haider Ali, the Commander-in-Chief of the Mysore Army, assumed control over the region, until the rule of the kingdom was passed to Tipu Sultan, after Haider Ali's death. In attempting to contain European expansion in South India, Tipu Sultan, known as the Tiger of Mysore fought four significant Anglo-Mysore Wars, the last of which resulted in his death and the incorporation of Mysore into the British Raj.

Unification of Karnataka

Territories before unification

After Indian independence, the Wodeyar Maharaja acceded to India. In 1950, Mysore became an Indian state, and the former Maharaja became its rajpramukh, or governor, until 1975. The Ekikarana movement which started in the latter half of the 20th century, culminated in the States Reorganisation Act of 1956 which provided for parts of Coorg, Madras, Hyderabad, and Bombay states to be incorporated into the state of Mysore. Mysore state was renamed Karnataka in 1973. The state of Mysore was formed on November 1, 1956 and since then November 1 of every year is celebrated as Kannada Rajyotsava / Karnataka Rajyotsava.



  1. Dr. Suryanath U. Kamat, Concise history of Karnataka, 2001, MCC, Bangalore (Reprinted 2002)
  2. Dr. B.R. Bhandarkar argues that even the viceroys (Dandanayaka) of the Gujarat line hailing from the Rashtrakuta family signed their Sanskrit records in Kannada, examples of which are the Navasari and Baroda plates of Karka I and the Baroda records of Dhruva II. The Gujarat Rashtrakuta princes used Kannada signatures as this was the mode of writing in their native country, meaning Kannada country says Dr. Bhandarkar, A Concise History of Karnataka, Dr. Suryanath U. Kamath
  3. Dr. Suryanath Kamath, Prof. K.A.N. Sastri, Arthikaje
  4. Dr. Ritti has argued thus. Even though the Seuna or Yadava ruled from Devagiri (850-1315), literature in Kannada was prolific in their kingdom along with Sanskrit, coinage with Kannada legends have been discovered and most of their inscriptions are in Kannada, indicating that they were Kannadaigas who migrated north due to political situation. Marathi literature started from around 1190 C.E., Dr. Suryanath U. Kamat, Concise history of Karnataka, 2001, MCC, Bangalore (Reprinted 2002)
  5. Scholars such as R.V.Joshi, S.Nagaraju, A.Sundara etc. (Kamath 2001, p15)
  6. Discovered by Dr. K. Paddayya in 1974 (Kamath 2001, pp15-16)
  7. The hand axe was discovered by Primrose (Kamath 2001, p15)
  8. "`First-ever celt was found near Madikeri'". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 2005-01-10. Retrieved 2007-05-06.
  9. Kamath (2001), p18
  10. S. Ranganathan. "THE GOLDEN HERITAGE OF KARNATAKA". Online webpage of the Department of Metallurgy. Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
  11. "Prehistoric culture of Karnataka". ourkarnataka.com. Retrieved 2007-05-06.
  12. "Trade". The British Museum. Retrieved 2007-05-06.
  13. 1 2 "First-ever celt was found near Madikeri". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 2005-01-10.
  14. http://metalrg.iisc.ernet.in/~wootz/heritage/K-hertage.htm
  15. History of Karnataka by Mr. Arthikaje: Pre Historic Culture
  16. Ancient India - Staff Room
  17. http://www.hindunet.org/saraswati/html/artefacts.htm
  18. http://www.lonelyplanet.in/articles/4614/short-escape-from-bengaluru-shravanabelagola-karnataka
  19. From the Talagunda inscription (Dr. B. L. Rice in Kamath, 2001, p30)
  20. Moares (1931), p10
  21. From the Talagunda inscription of 450 Kamath, (2001), pp 30-31
  22. Ramesh (1984), p6
  23. Arthikaje, Mangalore. "History of Karnataka-Kadambas of Banavasi". 1998-2000 OurKarnataka.Com,Inc. Retrieved 2006-11-28.
  24. Dr. Jyotsna Kamat. "Kadambas of Banavasi". 1996-2006 Kamat's Potpourri. Retrieved 2006-11-28.
  25. Adiga and Sheik Ali in Adiga (2006), p89
  26. The Gangas were sons of the Soil - R. S. Panchamukhi and Lakshminarayana Rao Arthikaje, Mangalore. "Gangas of Talkad". 1998-2000 OurKarnataka.Com, Inc. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
  27. From the Halmidi inscription (Ramesh 1984, pp10–11)
  28. Kamath (2001), p10
  29. "5th century copper coin discovered at Banavasi". Deccan Herald. 7 February 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-06-14. Retrieved 2006-08-17.
  30. Considerable number of their records are in Kannada (Kamath 2001, p67, p73, pp88-89, p114)
  31. 7th century Badami Chalukya inscriptions call Kannada the natural language (Thapar 2003, p345)
  32. Altekar (1934), pp411–413
  33. Even royalty of the Rashtrakuta empire took part in poetic and literary activities (Thapar 2003, p334)
  34. 1 2 Narasimhacharya (1988), p68, p17–21
  35. Reu (1933), pp37–38
  36. More inscriptions in Kannada are attributed to the Chalukya King Vikramaditya VI than to any other king prior to the 12th century, Kamat, Jyotsna. "Chalukyas of Kalyana". 1996–2006 Kamat's Potpourri. Retrieved 2006-12-24.
  37. A Brief History of India by Alain Daniélou p.177
  38. Kamath (2001), pp132–134
  39. Sastri (1955), p359, p361
  40. Foekema (1996), p14
  41. Kamath (2001), p124
  42. The Tamil city of Kannanur Kuppam near Srirangam became the second capital of the Hoysalas during the rule of Vira Narasimha II. During the time of Veera Ballala III, Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu had been made an alternate capital. The Hoysalas were arbiters of South Indian politics and took up the leadership role (B.S.K. Iyengar in Kamath (2001), p126
  43. Keay (2000), p252
  44. Sastri (1955), p195
  45. The Hoysalas dominated of Southern Deccan as a single empire, (Thapar 2003, p368
  46. P. B. Desai (History of Vijayanagar Empire, 1936), Henry Heras (The Aravidu Dynasty of Vijayanagara, 1927), B.A. Saletore (Social and Political Life in the Vijayanagara Empire, 1930), G.S. Gai (Archaeological Survey of India), William Coelho (The Hoysala Vamsa, 1955) and Kamath ( Kamath 2001, pp157-160)
  47. Karmarkar 1947, p30
  48. Kamath (2001), pp190-191
  49. Kamath (2001), p200
  50. Kamath (2001), p201
  51. Kamath (2001), p202
  52. Kamath (2001), p207


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