Karnataka is a state in South West India, formed on 1 November 1956, with the passage of the States Reorganisation Act. Originally known as the State of Mysore, it was renamed Karnataka in 1973. The capital and largest city is Bangalore.
Karnataka is bordered by the Arabian Sea and the Laccadive Sea to the west, Goa to the north west, Maharashtra to the north, Telangana to the North east, Andhra Pradesh to the east, Tamil Nadu to the south east, and Kerala to the south west. The state has 5.83 per cent of the total geographical area of India. It is the seventh largest Indian state by area and eigth largest state by population, comprising 30 districts.
The diverse linguistic and religious ethnicities that are native to Karnataka combined with their long histories have contributed immensely to the varied cultural heritage of the state. By virtue of its varied geography and long history, Karnataka hosts numerous spots of interest for tourists. There is an array of ancient sculptured temples, modern cities, scenic hill ranges, unexplored forests and endless beaches.
Karnataka has been ranked as the fourth most popular destination for tourism among the states of India. Karnataka has the second highest number of nationally protected monuments in India, second only to Uttar Pradesh, in addition to 752 monuments protected by the State Directorate of Archaeology and Museums. Another 25,000 monuments are yet to receive protection.
The districts of the Westeran Ghats and the southern districts of the state have popular eco-tourism locations including Kudremukh, Madikeri and Aqumbe. Karnataka has 25 wildlife sanctuaries and five national parks. Popular among them are Bandipur National Park, Bannerghatta National Park and Nagarhole National Parki.
The ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire at Hampi and the monuments of Pattadakal are on the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. The cave temples at Badami and the rock-cut temples at Aihole representing the Badami Chalukyan style of architecture are also popular tourist destinations. The Hoysala temples at Belur and Halebidu, which were built with Chloritic schist (soapstone) are proposed UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The Gol Gumbaz and Ibrahim Rauza are famous examples of the Deccan Sultanate style of architecture. The monolith of Gomateshwara Bahubaliat at Shravanabelagola a is the tallest sculpted monolith in the world, attracting tens of thousands of pilgrims during the Mahamastakabhisheka festival.
The waterfalls of Karnataka and Kudremukh are listed as must-see places and among the “1001 Natural Wonders of the World” Jog Falls island’s tallest single-tiered waterfall with Gokak Falls, Unchalli Falls, Maqod Falls, Abbey Falls and Shivasamudra Falls among other popular waterfalls.
Several popular beaches dot the coastline, including Murudeswara, Gokarna, Malpe and Karwar. In addition, Karnataka is home to several places of religious importance. Several Hindu temples including the famous Udupi Sri Krishna Matha, the Marikamba Temple at Sirsi, the Sri Manjunatha Temple at Dharmasthala, Kukke Subramanya Temple and Sharadamba Temple at Shringeri attract pilgrims from all over India. Most of the holy sites of Lingayatism, ike Kudalasangama and Basavana Bagewadi are found in northern parts of the state.
Shravanabelagola, Mudabidri and Karkala are famous for Jain history and monuments. Jainism had a stronghold in Karnataka in the early medieval period with Shravanabelagola as its most important center.
Recently Karnataka has emerged as a hot spot for health care tourism. Karnataka has the highest number of approved health systems and alternative therapies in India. Along with some ISO certified government-owned hospitals, private institutions which provide international-quality services have caused the health care industry to grow by 30% during 2004-05. Hospitals in Karnataka treat around 8,000 health tourists every year.