Monuments And Conservation

Museums and Archives in Karnataka; Preservation and protection of historical monuments – work of Archaeological Survey of India – World Heritage Sites in Karnataka.

The concept of museums in India may be traced back to the historic times, in which references to the chitrasala (picture gallery) do occur. The earliest necessity to house objects of antiquarian remains dates back to late 1796 AD when the Asiatic Society of Bengal felt the need to house the enormous collection of archaeological, ethnological, geological, zoological pursuits. However, the first museum by them was started in 1814. The nucleus of this Asiatic Society Museum later provided to the Indian Museum Calcutta.                                   

Museums are the storehouse of manuscripts, sculptures, statues, art, artefacts and everything that is related to the erstwhile past of Karnataka. Karnataka has been an epicentre of South India’s economy and culture since the ancient rule. Karnataka has been ruled by so many great dynasties like Kadambas, Gangas, Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas, Hoysalas and great kingdoms Vijayanagara and Mughal. Gallery like Archaeological Museum in Hampi, Jaganmohan Palace and Art Gallery in Mysore and Indira Gandhi Manav Sangrahalaya are home to some of the most spectacular pieces of the art. The Folklore Museum in Mysore exhibits elements of folklore, dance, drama and music.

Mysore and Bangalore are two important towns in Karnataka where museums are in abundance. Other than the art museums that speak about historical sculptures, there are some galleries which tell about science and defence development as well. Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum in Bangalore is an interactive science centre, dedicated to the different science disciplines like space gallery, science centre for kids, engine hall, etc. In short, all the museums of Karnataka portray the history, civilization, culture and heritage of Karnataka.

Famous Museums in Karnataka

Karnataka Government Museum which was opened in 1866 in Bangaluru, is one of the oldest museums of India. It has a painting section called Venkatappa Art Gallery and houses a significant collection of conventional Mysore paintings. The museum contains Halmidi inscription, which is the earliest Kannada inscription dating back to 450 AD. The museum is dedicated to the founder of Bangalore city, Yelahanka Chieftain Kempegowda.  

Archaeological Museum (Hampi)- The Archaeological Museum is located at Kamalapura is dedicated to the ruins of Hampi and the Vijayanagara Empire. The Museum in Hampi is the first museum established by the Archeological Survey of India. The museum houses a collection of sculptures and artifacts. It beautifully captures the history of Hampi.

The Jaganmohan Palace, built in 1902 to mark the coronation ceremony of Krishnaraja III, was converted into the Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery. The museum exhibits the genealogical table of the Mysore kings from 1399 till today, painted in a leaf form in the Mysore style of art.

Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum (Bangalore) is named after Sir M. Visveshwaraya, one of the greatest Indian engineers. The museum is a tribute to his relentless efforts to bring science and technology to the common man.

The museum has a great wealth of folk art and folklore articles on display and is well known as one of the biggest of its kind in Asia. The Tradition museum has one of the most important ethnographic Museums of South Indian toys, puppets and household things.

Railway Museum (Mysore) which established in 1979. This is the second museum of its kind in India. The first one is in Delhi.

Other famous museums are Warship Museum (Karwar), Cubbon Park and Museum (Bangalore), Indira Gandhi Manav Sangrahalaya (Mysore), Regional Museum of Natural History (Mysore).

The most famous mausoleum of Karnataka is the Bijapur’s Gol Gumbad. Gol Gumbad, a slightly bulbous dome, is the largest in the world after St Peter’s in Rome. It was built in AD 1626 by Mohammad Adil Shah. Another one is the Ibrahim Rauza, often described as the finest Islamic building in the Deccan. This modest edifice is the earliest royal Mausoleum in Bijapur. Ali I constructed his own tomb in the fields of the southwest quarter of the city. The tomb is a low, almost square structure and each of its four walls is being pierced by five arches. The burial ground of Tipu Sultan, Gumbaz at Seringapatam, is one of the prehistoric monuments in the state. The mausoleum was originally built by Tipu Sultan to hold the graves of his father Hyder Ali and mother Fakr-UN-Nisa. Gumbaz at Seringapatam is an imposing architecture, located amidst the manicured Lalbagh Garden.

The  historical monuments in Karnataka consist of temples as well as ancient city ruins, caves palaces, forts and tombs. Whereas the temples in the state are gems of various forms of architecture and sculpture.The monuments depict the saga of Karnataka’s vast history. This can be traced back from the Indus Valley Civilization in ancient Karnataka as evidence of such monuments are present in large amount in the region. It also has several monuments of third century BC when most of the region was the part of Nanda Empire and later came under the Mauryan Empire of Ashoka’s period. Several monuments of Satvahana period had also been unearthed.  The deisintegration of Satavahanas gave way for the native kingdoms of the state. These kingdoms such as Kadambas and Western Gangas emerged as an independent power and helped to develop monuments in a separate architectural style. The contribution of the Kadambas in the architectural heritage of Karnataka is precious which was the foundation of the later Chalukya-Hoysala style.  . 

The most common features of this style is the Shikara or Kadamba Shikara which is pyramid shaped with a Kalasha at its peak and is similar to the Chalukyan style and the Pallava style. The famous Madhukeshwara or Lord Shiva temple still exists in Banavasi city, built by the Kadambas in 10th century. The wonderful carvings of the temple attracts tourist to that place.The contribution of Ganga dynasty certainly deserves recognition. The famous Gomateshwara temple, Jain Basadi’s of Shravanabelagola, Kambadahalli and lots of Hindu temples of south Karnataka are the evidence to their rich contributions. 

In the later period, the other dynasties like Chalukyas of Badami, Western Chalukya Empire and Rashtrakuta Empire of Manyakheta emerged as independent powers which ruled over the major portions of the Deccan. The Western Chalukya rulers developed a unique style of architecture that became popular and was accepted by the Hoysala art of 12th century. The Hoysala dynasty constructed several religious monuments during their reign in the region. This style of architecture was known as the Vesara style. During the the period of Vijayanagara Empire many famous monuments were constructed. 

The architecture and sculpture of Karnataka experienced a major shift with the decline of Vijaynagara Empire in 1565. Islamic sultanates took control of the Deccan and encouraged the Islamic style of building arts. In the late 17th century the Sultanate was defeated by the Mughals. The most famous monument of this period is the Gol Gumbaz. Several monuments were also constructed by the Nizam of Hyderabad in the northern parts of Karnataka, by the Mysore Kingdom in the southern parts, and later by the Britishers during the colonial rule. 

UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites – Several monuments of Karnataka fall under the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. These are the famous groups of monuments at Pattadakal and at Hampi.

Group of monuments at Pattadaka – Pattadakal was the capital-city of the Chalukya dynasty of medieval India. The group of monuments is a collection of ten Hindu and Jain temples and was built during the 7th and 8th centuries and has a harmonious blend of architectural forms of northern and southern India; Rekha Nagara Prasada and the Dravida Vimana styles of temple building. The oldest temple at Pattadakal is Sangamesvara built by Vijayaditya Satyasraya. The other notable temples at Pattadakal are the Kadasiddhesvara, Jambulingeswara both attributed to 7th century A.D. while Galaganatha temple was built a century later in the style of rekha nagara prasada. The Kasivisvesvara temple was the last to be built in early Chalukyan style. The Mallikarjuna temple was constructed by Rani Trilokyamahadevi to celebrate the victory over the Pallavas by Vikramaditya II. She is also credited to have built the Virupaksha temple influenced by the architecture of the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram. The Virupaksha temple later served as a model for the Rashtrakuta ruler Krishna I (757 -783 A.D.) to carve out the great Kailasa at Ellora.

Group of monuments at Hampi – Hampi is situated on the southern bank of the river Tungabhadra. It was once the capital-city of the mighty Vijayanagara empire in 14th century. The famous city had Dravidian style temples and palaces which won the admiration of contemporary chroniclers who came from far off countries-such as Arabia, Italy, Portugal and Russia visited the empire between the 14th and 16th centuries.

A large number of royal buildings were constructed by Krishnadeva Raya, the greatest ruler of the dynasty. The period witnessed resurgence of Hindu religion, art, architecture in an unprecedented scale. Temples of Hampi are noted for their large dimensions, ornate adornment, bold and delicate carvings, stately pillars, magnificent pavilions, iconographic and traditional depictions, which include subjects from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

The Vitthala temple is an excellent specimen. The colossal statues of Lakshmi, Narasimha and Ganesha are noted for their massiveness and grace. The Krishna temple, Pattabhirama temple, Hazara Ramachandra and Chandrasekhara temple as also the Jain temples are other examples.

The religious monuments such as the cave temples and the rock-cut temples constructed at Badami and at Aihole represent the popular Badami Chalukyan style of architecture. UNESCO has also proposed to protect the monuments of the religious Hoysala temples at Belur and Halebidu as the World Heritage sites. Caves in Karnataka are the finest specimen of its history, culture and spirituality. Cave Temples of Badami are an important attraction of Karnataka Tourism. There are four major caves in Badami and every cave is finely furnished with scriptures, sculptures and images of Hindu gods, Mahavir, and other Jain Thirthankaras. Another finest example of caves in Karnataka is the Kavala Caves. Nestled amidst the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, Kavala is amongst the few caves in India and are believed to be formed by the limestone. Exploring caves are gradually becoming one of the most popular activities in Karnataka.

Karnataka has many temples known for a unique style of architecture. Aihole was once the capital of the Chalukya Dynasty, and has great cultural significance as the cradle of Hindu temple architecture. The temples and architecture in Aihole are closely associated with Hindu mythology. The prominent temples at Aihole are divided into two groups, which are Kontigudi and the Galaganatha. Aihole has a great number of famous temples like Durga temple which dedicated to Vishnu, the Ladh khan temple, Meguti Jain Temple, Hucchimalli Temple, Ravanphadi Cave, The Gowda temple dedicated to Goddess Bhagavati is built on similar lines as the Lad Khan temple.

The other most famous temples include Annapoorneshwari Temple, Hornadu, Kuruvathi Basaveshwara temple, Galageshwar Shiva Temple, Kateel Durgaparameshwari Temple, Murudeshwara Temple, Aanjaneya Temple near Anegundi,Marikamba Temple Sagar, Hasanamba temple, Jenukallu Siddeshwara Temple, Gomatheswara at Shravanabelagola, Mahabaleshwar Temple at Gokarna, Chamundeshwari Devi Temple at Mysore, Navagraha Jain Temple at Hubli, Markandeshwara temple, Mookambika Devi Temple at Kollur, Guddattu Mahaganapathi Temple, Sigandur Chowdeshwari Temple, Srikanteshwara Temple at Nanjangud, Keshava Temple at Kaginele, Chandramouleshwara Temple at Hubli, Sadashiva Temple at Nuggehalli, Shambhulinga Temple at Kundgol, Anegundi heritage destination near Hampi, Keladi Lord Rameshwara temple Sagar, Sri Krishna Temple at Udupi and Kadri Manjunatha Temple at Mangaluru.

Forts are the vast monuments of strength and power, which were made by erstwhile leaders to protect their defensive weapon while fighting with enemies. Karnataka has a long history with forts. Many monarchs have ruled over Karnataka, some of them conquered the old forts while others made new forts to expand their kingdom. With the help of forts, one peak into the life of the royal families and witness their spectacular opulence.


Basavakalyan Fort (Bidar)- Earlier the fort was known as Kalyani fort. The capital of Chalukyas was shifted from Manyakheta to Kalyana in the 10th century. The fort, integral to the Basavakalyana town, is also famous as Karmabhoomi of Basavanna (founder of Virashaiva community) and hundreds of other Sharanas (saints of Virashaiva community).

Bellary Fort (Bellary)- It was built on top of a hill called the “Ballari Gudda” or the Fort Hill. It was built in two parts namely, the Upper Fort and the Lower Fort. The Upper Fort was built by Hanumappa Nayaka, a feudatory of Vijayanagara Empire, but the Lower Fort was built by Hyder Ali in later part of the 18th century.

Gulbarga Fort (Gulbarga)- The fort was constructed during the reign of Maharaja Gulchand of the Warangal dynasty. Many mosques, palaces and tombs and various other structures were constructed inside the fort. Some of the structures found inside the fort are Jami Masjid and Tomb of Kwaja Bande Nawaz.

Bidar Fort (Bidar)- Sultan Alla-Ud Din Bahman of the Bahmanid Dynasty shifted his capital from Gulbarga to Bidar in 1427 and built this fort along with a number of Islamic monuments. It was considered one of the most formidable forts of India. The Solah Khamba mosque, the Mahals (Palaces), secular structures, baths, kitchens and pleasure pavilions are notable structures inside the fort.

Chitradurga Fort (Chitradurga)- The history of Chitradurga Fort dates back to around 17th or 18th century which was constructed by rulers belonging to the Rashtrakuta, Chalukyas, Hoysala and Chitradurga Nayaka dynasties.

Raichur Fort (Raichur)-The Fort was built during the reign of Kakatiyas of Warangal, played a major role in the history of Karnataka. The Krishna-Tungabhadra Doab region witnessed many battles fought to capture and control the fort, several battles involving Vijayanagar kings, Bahmanis and Adilshahis.

Some other well-known forts in the state of Karnataka are Manjarabad Fort (Sakleshpur), Mirjan Fort (Uttara Kannada), Aihole and Badami forts (Bagalkot district), Kittur, Parasgad, Belgaum, Saundatti, Ramdurg, Bailhongal, Hooli, Gokak, Shirasangi, Bhimgad and Vallabhgat forts (Belgaum district), Sanduru, Bellary, Adoni, Tekkalakotte, Hampi, Kurugodu,Birala Gudda Kote  and Gudekote forts (Bellary district), Devanahalli and Makalidurga forts (Bengaluru Rural district), Bangalore Fort (Bangalore Urban district), Bidar, Bhalki and Manyakheta Forts (Bidar district), Bijapur Fort (Bijapur district), Skandagiri, Nadhi Hill, Gudibanda and Gummanayakana Kote (Chikkaballapura district),  Hosadurga forts (Chitradurga district), Jamalabad Fort (Dakshin Kannada district), Uchangidurga and Channagiri Forts (Davanagere district), Gajendragad, Korlahalli, Hammigi, Hemagudda, Mundargi, Singatalur, Tippapura and Nargund Forts (Gadag district), Gulbarga, Sedam and Shahpur forts (Gulbarga district).

Palaces are the epitomes of luxury, victory, and chivalry of the rulers who ruled the region. They are gems amongst the various forms of architecture. The official “heritage city” tag is associated with Mysore. One of the finest palaces in the state is the Mysore Palace. The magnificent Mysore Palace is a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world. It was the official residence of the Wodeyars — the Maharajas of Mysore. Some other important Palaces are Jagmohan Palace, Lalitha Mahal, Cheluvamba Mansion and Rajendra Vilas. Apart from Mysore, Bangaluru also has some great Palaces like Bangalore Palace (the exact copy of England’s Windsor Castle) and Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, once the official summer residence of Tipu Sultan, makes it to the top attraction of Bangalore.

Conservation & Preservation

The  Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), as an attached office under the Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the nation. the prime concern of the ASI  is maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance. It also regulate all archaeological activities in the country as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. It also regulates Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.

The entire country is divided into 24 Circles for the maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance. The organization has a large work force of trained archaeologists, conservators, epigraphist, architects and scientists for conducting archaeological research projects through its Excavation Branches, Prehistory Branch, Epigraphy Branches, Science Branch, Horticulture Branch, Building Survey Project, Temple Survey Projects and Underwater Archaeology Wing.

Different legal instruments exist for the protection of the historical sites, including the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Remains and Sites Act, 1958 (AMASR Act, 1958), AMASR (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010 and Rules 1959 of the Government of India and Karnataka Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1961. Recently, the Draft (Bill) of Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority Act, 2001 has been framed to look after the protection and management of the World Heritage Area.

In Archaeological Survey of India also, due to the various explorative investigations that was initiated since the times of its first Director General, Alexander Cunningham, vast quantity of antiquarian remains were collected. The creation of site museums had to wait until the arrival of Sir John Marshall, who initiated the founding of the local museums like Sarnath (1904), Agra (1906), Ajmer (1908), Delhi Fort (1909), Bijapur (1912), Nalanda (1917) and Sanchi (1919).
The concept of site museums is well elucidated by Hargreaves, one of the former Director Generals of ASI: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is vested with responsibility of identification, documentation, conservation, maintenance and management of such heritage sites and monuments. Karnataka is among most popular state in the country for heritage sites and monuments. It is home to 608 of the 3600 centrally protected monuments in India; The State Directorate of Archaeology and Museums protects an additional 758 monuments and another estimated 25,000 monuments are identified. In 1885, constitution of an exclusive Department for this purpose paved the way for consolidation of earlier efforts made under the patronage of rulers of the time. In recent years the State is attracting large number of tourists-both national and international, who frequent well known tourist destinations comprising World heritage centers, historical locations like Chalukya, Rashtrakuta, Gangas Kadamba dynasties, Deccan Sultanate Rattas, Forts, Places of worship such as Jain Basadis, Buddhist temples, Shiva temples, Shakti Sthal & Temple tanks (Pushkarnis). The Tourism Department also is promoting tourism by educating prospective visitors about the heritage and culture of the state.

The Karnataka Archaeology Department (KAD) is vested with the task of identification of new monuments and sites, and their conservation and maintenance. The GOK has a policy for conservation of such monuments by allocating resources and also by drawing upon assistance from other sources and GOI. Public Private Partnership in conservation and maintenance also is gaining momentum.






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