Ancient capital towns of dynasties in Karnataka – Part one
Mysore, Coorg, Hampi, Badami, Bijapur, Belur , Halebeed – what do they have in common ? They are not just historical places of Karnataka but also capital towns of ancient dynasties.
I have often asked myself if there is one aspect of travel that I am partial to. I love the wilds, enjoy the solitude of a quaint town, love to listen to the soothing sounds of the waves, feel the energy of a big city and listen to stories of people . But if there is something that gets me all excited , it is heritage towns and destinations – more so, the ruins of a town .
A lot of people tell me history is boring. It is in a way if you just perceive it the way we study in our classrooms , full of facts and figures, battles fought and won. But if you sit amidst a ruins and lose yourself in a world of imagination, you realize that there is nothing boring about history. It is romantic in its own way, mysterious and melancholic . It becomes a story with real people and real lives and with different endings , laced with truth, versions of truth, legends and myths. And that is probably why I would drop everything and head to ancient towns because the crumbling walls tell me a story, the proud tower is now a victim to the sands of time and our kings and queens a testimony to Shelley’s Ozymandias.
India is a land of so many dynasties that I often wonder how we even came together as a country . In Karnataka alone, I traced about ten dynasties and visited some of their ancient capital towns to see if they carry any tales about them . And each one of them had a little story to say, a tale of erstwhile glory lost and dusted away. Some of them live in the garb of a tourist town, others have withered away, waiting to be discovered. Almost every town has a river that flows through it, although the Cauvery seems to be the most prominent.
I am dividing this into two parts for now, probably there will be a third as I explore more towns. So lets visit some of these historical places of Karnataka
Talakadu of the Western Gangas
On the banks of the Cauvery is the town of Talakadu that is literally buried by the sands, not just by time. The capital of the ancient Ganga dynasty is filled with legends and curses even as temples lie buried below the ground.
However we hear a tale filled with greed and lust for power which is set much later. It was the time when Talakadu and Srirangapatna were under the Vijayanagar empire . The death of the last Viceroy , Srirangaraya provoked the Wodeyars of Mysore to declare war. As Srirangapatna fell, the Wodeyar ruler sent his soldiers to covet the jewels of the late Viceroy’s widow, Alamelamma. As she fled from her pursuers, she is supposed to have jumped into the Cauvery , uttering the curses. My guide gets all dramatic as he proclaims the curse…” May Talakadu be always covered with sand and may the kings of Mysore always remain without heirs. “ The locals fear the curse as they say that it has come true. Talakadu is mysteriously engulfed with a sea of sand and the family tree of Mysore rulers show a large number of adopted heirs .
Read the story here – Talakadu, buried under the sands of time
Srirangapatna – the capital of Tipu and Hyder Ali
History is filled with stories of Tipu and his father Hyder Ali who ruled Mysore from their capital, Srirangapatna, on the banks of the River Cauvery. Athough pilgrims and tourists flock to the Ranganathaswamy temple here, Srirangapatna is filled with monuments that take you down to Tipu’s era. His mausoleum, the palace , the mosque are just some of the attractions here. Tipu left his mark everywhere and if you have the time, then visit his birthplace , Devanahalli on the outskirts of Bangalore where the airport is located. Another of the many historical places of Karnataka.
Mysore of the Wodeyars
The Kingdom of Mysore may have had several dynasties ruling over it, but it is the Wodeyars who are synonymous with the city, having ruled it over for 200 years. The city still has the royal stamp on it, with everything centred around the royalty. Even today, the Dussehra procession is a tradition laced from the Wodeyar era. It is not just the palaces but several trails around the city take you down the eras. Mysore, one of the historical places of Karnataka is my all time favourite getaway from Bangalore especially when the latter gets on my nerves. I can go there anytime, even tomorrow if I wish , but you should head there during the Dussehra to get a feel of the royal era
Madikeri – The land of the Haleri kings
Everybody gushes about the natural beauty that Coorg is endowed about, but hardly a few know that Madikeri the capital was ruled by the Haleri Dynasty for over 250 years. Several stories echo from the old fort in Madikeri, the palace at Nalknad and the tombs near the capital and Madikeri is not just a beautiful destination but one of the historical places of Karnataka .
The origin of the Haleri dynasty is traced to Veeraraja, a nephew of Sadashiva Nayaka of the Ikkeri Dynasty. Disguised as a “jangama” or a priest with healing powers, he established a small group of followers in Haleri and overthrew the local Nayaks, including the chieftains of Bhagamandala and Talacauvery, and went on to become the lord of Kodugu with Haleri as his capital. His grandson, Mudduraja, later changed the capital to Madikeri.
Madikeri Fort is today one of the few remnant symbols of this powerful dynasty and it houses a palace, a temple, a chapel, a prison and a museum where you can see hero stones or virakkals among other artifacts.
Read more – The Haleri trail of Coorg
Besides the Gaddige or the Raja’s samadhis, which are the tombs of the kings Doddaveerarajendra and Lingarajendra, there is also the Nalknad Aramane which has had its share of stories in the reign of the Haleri kings.
Dwarasamudra – the Hoysala town
My personal favourite. The Hoysalas will always be close to my heart and the Malenadu region is filled with historic places of Karnataka. My entire tryst with travel as a career started with these kings who set up their capital in two towns – Velapuri and Dwarasamudra, which we popularly know as Belur and Halebeed. I explored more than 30 temples with my cousin, in small towns and villages, searched for some with a map in hand, stumbled upon some which have been converted in cow sheds…sigh ! thats a different story.
But let me tell you the story of how Dwarasamudra became Halebeed. The Hoysalas were ruling from Velapuri or Belur from the banks of the Yagachi river. When one of the kings shifted the capital Dwarasamudra in the 11th century ,he built a canal to channelize water from Yagachi to the new capital. A tank was built and the Hoysaleshwar temple was later constructed on its bank. “ And then , it was renamed as Halebeedu, meaning old abode. Today you can still see the ruins of the old town behind the main temple.
Coming up soon – Part two of the ancient dynasties that includes Hampi, Anegundi, Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal
Part three coming up soon will include Banavasi of the Kadambas, Malkhed or Manyakheta of the Rashtrakutas, Bijapur of the Bahmani Sultanate. Add Bidar and Belgaum as well besides Hubli and Dharwad which had their own history as well. I am yet to visit the others and probably they will feature soon.