Karnataka is as famed for its many shrines, temples, mosques, churches and jain basadis as it is for its natural grandeur. At these architectural wonders, legend blends freely into history and vice versa- giving them an evocative ambience and cultural significance that brings to life the richness of the state’s heritage.

Karnataka’s religious circuit fascinates pilgrims and visitors alike as the enigma that is Indian philosophy unravels itself in itself in all its architectural, religious, cultural and historic splendour.

This coastal town draws Hindu pilgrims, Sanskrit scholars, and beach buffs alike. Apart from its famed beaches and the Centre for Sanskrit Learning, it is home to ancient Temple of Mahabaleshwar with its Atmalinga, the Venkatramana Temple, the Ganapathi Temple and the Koti Teertha, a large temple tank where pilgrims perform their ablutions. Other must-sees in Gokarna are the enormous chariots, which are dragged in a procession along the main street between February and March.

Approximately 60km from Mangalore is the Vaishnavite pilgrimage town of Udupi. This was the sanctum of Madhwacharya, the great Sanskrit Philosopher. It is as much renowned for its chefs, cuisine and restaurants as it is for its Krishna Temple and various mutts. The main attraction at this temple is the ‘kanakana kindi’- a small window through which Krishna is believed to have given darshan to his ardent devotee, kanakadasa, a saint-minstrel.

The colorful Paryaya festival held every alternative year, when officiating priests hand over their responsibilities to another pontiff attracts thousands of devotees from all over the country.

Mookambika Temple
In the village of kollur located 130km from Mangalore and nestled amid the green canopy of the Western Ghats is the Mookambika Temple. One of the seven most sacred Spots of the Costal regions, It is dedicated to the Goddess of Emotional Power and Strength. The temple has a Gold-Plated crest and copper roofs. Adi Shankaracharya, the great philosopher, is said to have visited this temple to perform penance.

Dharmastala, situated 65km east of Manglore, in Belthangady taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, is a remarkable example of communal harmaony and cultural tolerance.

Besides the many Jain basadis and a museum, the centrepeice of this templetown is a 39ft monolith statue of Lord Bahubali. The Jain Tirthankara and Lord Manjunatha (Shiva) are worshipped on the same consecrated ground.

Here religious charity is a way of life. The Manjunatha Temple, a prominent Shaivite centre, is administered by a benevolent Jain Heggade, whose charity and concern for social welfare have become legendary. Irrespective of caste, creed, or religion, pilgrims are given free meals and lodging. During the festival of Laksh Deepotsava, 100,000 oil lamps light up the night with their tiny flames.

Located on the main Mangalore-karwar highway, Murudershwar is sandwiched between the picturesque Western ghats and the Arabian sea. Its main attractions are its beach, an awesome Shiva statue and a Shiva Temple built with chalukya and kadamba sculptures in the Dravidian style of architecture. The temple is located on a hillock, which offers a magnificient view of the sea.

ISKCON  Temple (International Society for Krishan Consciousness)
This extravagantly ornate and internationally renowned temple is just 10km west of Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore. Built on a hillock with granite, marble and Korean glass, this huge cultural complex was established to promote Vedic culture and spiritual learning. It houses various deities, including Krishna, Balaram and Radha. The annual Rath Yatra (Chariot procession) of Krishna and Balaram draw millions.

This prominent Jain pilgrimage centre in Hassan district is located 148km from Bangalore. Shravanabelagola is home to Asia’s largest monolithic statue –Lord Gomateshwara here towers 58ft high, looming atop the picturesque Vindyagiri Hill.

Every 12 years, Jain pilgrims from the world over gather here to participate in the colourful Maha Masthakabhisheka of the Lord, the splendid head-anointing ceremony. From specially erected scaffolding, priests pour hundreds of pots of curd, milk, honey, vermilion, coconut water, turmeric paste, and even gold and precious jewels over thee statue’s head.

Mudabidri / Moodabidri is known as the ‘Jain Varanasi’ of south India. There are 18 Jain basadis in Mudabidri- the oldest of them is the 15th century Chandranath Basadi, also known as the Thousand Pillar Basadi. The main entrance opens onto a superb monolith pillar in front of the doorway.

The temple boasts of a valuable collection of jewel-encrusted metallic images of Jain Tirthankaras and superb monolithic columns in the Jain tradition, each with a different carving. The Jain Mutt near the main temple entrance has a library containing several beautiful 12th and 13th century palm leaf manuscripts.

The town is famed for its eight basadis and the ruins of a Mahadeva Temple. An 11m high Bahubali statue, dating back to 1604, stands on the southern bank of the Gurpur River.

The towering 42ft monolith of Gomatshwara standing atop a granite outcrop on the outskirts of the town is the main attraction in karkalla. The Chaturmukha Basadi, completed in1586, has four identical Jain Tirthankara images facing in four directions.

It is believed that Sringeri was named after Rishyashringa, who appears in the Indian mythological epic, Ramayana as the chief priest at the sacrifice of King Dasaratha. Sringeri, where the founder of the Advaitha Philosophy, Adi Shankara, is said to have discovered a cobra sheltering a frog from the torrential rains, has its spiritual centre on the banks of the Tungabhadra River.

The Vidyashakar temple located here amid the evergreen forests of Chickmagalur is an architectural marvel. Its 12 sculpted pillars, each representing a sign of the zodiac, are placed so that the sun’s rays fall on ach successively in the order of their solar months. A second temple, built in the Dravidian style, is dedicated to Sharada, the goddess of learning. The Tungabhadra River flows past the temple where devotees congregate to feed the scared fish.

Inam Dattatreya Peetha
The Inam Dattatreya Peetha shrine venerated by Hindus and Muslims alike is situated on the Baba Budangiri hill range. The range is also called Chandra Drona Parvatha as it resembles a crescent. Located just 28km north of Chikmagalur town and 24 km from Kemmanugundi, baba Budangiri (1895m) takes its name from Muslim saint Baba Budan who resided here and is credited to have brought the first seven coffee seeds into the region after a visit to Yemen.

A laterite cave here is believed to have been sanctified by the residence of Dattatreya Swami as well as Hazath Dada Hayath Mir Kalandar. The worship here is conducted by a fakir and the annual jatra or urs is attended by both Hindus and Muslims.

Set amidst the picturesque Brahmagiri Hills is the source of the Cauvery River with the Talacauvery Temple built around it. On the Tulasankramana Day, in October,thousands of piligrims block to the river’s birthplace to witness the miraculous rise of the fountainbed, when water gushes up from a spring at a predetermined moment, Steps lead from the spring to the summit of the hill, commanding a breathtaking view of the valley.

Nestled deep in the forests of the Western Ghats on the border of Uttara Kannada and Shimoga districts, this temple town is located on the Vardha River and is known for its rice, sugarcane, areca nut, spices and the famous Banavasi pineapple.

The capital of the kadambas, the first kingdom of ancient Karnataka, this is where the eminent poet Pampa found inspiration for his poems. The Madhukeshwara Temple, famed for its architecture, derives its name from the honey-colored lingam in the inner sanctum of the temple. An imposing Nandi faces the lingam.

Khwaje Bandhe Nawaz Durgah
The tomb of the great sufi saint Khwaja Bande Nawaz in Gulbarga is a magnificient building in the Indo-Saracenic style. It holds a very special place in the hearts of Muslim devotees. Thousands of Hindus and Muslims visit the Durgah each day to pay homage to the saint. It is the venue of an annual urus (festival) attended by nearly one hundred thousand people-from both communities.

At festivals that are held on the 15th day of every lunar month, devotees spontaneously burst into a dance similar to the dervishes in the Sufi shrine at Konya in Turkey. The Durgah Library houses nearly 10,000 books on various subjects in Urdu, Persian and Arabic.

Sharanbasaveshwara Shrine
Dedicated to the Hindu saint and reformer Basaveshwara, this shrine is a popular year- round pilgrim centre for Hindu devotees. A Chariot Festival, which draws thousands of pilgrims, is held in Basaveshwara’s honour near the Gulbarga Tank.

Once the capital of the Kalyana Chalukyas and the centre of great social and religious upheaval in the 12th century, Basavakalyan in Bidar district is famed for its cultural heritage. Duringthe time of the social reformer Basaveshwara, it became a seat of learning and an abode of spiritual wisdom.

Basavakalyan is renowned for the aints who made the city their home Basaveshwara, Akka-Mahadevi, Channabasavanna and Siddarama.

Gurudwara Nanak Jhira Sahib
Legend has it that Guru Nanak halted at Bidar at a time when the area was reeling under a severe drought. The Muslim saints requested him to invoke the blessings of the divine in order to obtain water. A crystal clear stream that still flows out of a rock near the Gurudwara is believed to be God’s answer to the Guru’s prayers. This place came to be known as Nanak Jhira (Jhira means ‘a spring of water’) and is used to posses’ medicinal properties. Every year, thousands of Sikhs from across the country visit the site of this miracle.

En route to Badami is a quant hamlet that takes its name from the goddess Banashankari. Built in the Dravidian style, the temple is dedicated to Banashankari- the powerful eight-armed goddess seated on a snarling lion, a form of Parvati highly revered by the weaver community.

The annual temple festival in Banashankari is more than a religious splendid. During this time, the streets around the temple are taken over by a huge fair, marked by colour and gaiety, and attended by thousands of devotees.

Situated at the confluence of the rivers Krishna and Malaprabha

In Bagalkot district, this pilgrim centre is famed for tits Chalukyan-style Sangameshwara temple. Koodalasangama is associated with sthe great 2nd century poet and reformer Basaveshwara. Basavana Bagewadi, 30km from Koodalasangama is a well-known pilgrimage centre and the birthplace of Basaveshwara.

Yellamma Temple
Situated atop a hill near Soundatti in Belgaum, the Renuka Devi Temple, popularly called the Yellamma Devi Temple, is revered by pilgrims from Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradhesh.

The famous Yellamma Jatra festival takes place on the full moon day known as the ‘Bharat Hunnime’.

Siddaganga, one of the most famous pilgrim centre in Southern India, has a hilltop temple dedicated to Siddhalingeshwara. At the entrance of this temple stand six shrines.

This four faced hill (1368m above sea level) resembles a Nandi from East, a Ganesha from the West, a Linga from the South, and a Cobra from the North. A steep climb leads to the two main shrines, Gavi Gangareshwara Cave Temple and Honnadevi Temple. Midway between the two at Patalganga, is a natural spring.

Set amidst green hills and dense forests, Devarayanadurga is dotted with hilltop temples like Yoganarasiha and Bhoganarasimha. It is also famed for Namada Chilume, a holy natural spring and the Mahalakshmi Temple at Goravanahalli.

An important religious centre on the banks of the Kapila River, Nanjanagud is famous for the massive Nanjundeshwara Temple. Built in the Dravidian style, this temple is one of the biggest in Karnataka. The town takes its name from the temple.

At Melkote stands the Cheluvarayswami Temple, built in the 12th century. The temple gopuram is rose-coloured and has lion’s heads facing North, South, East and West. The Vairamudi festival is held between March and April, when the temple deity is adorned with jewels belonging to the former Maharajas of Mysore.

Situated on the banks of the river Cauvery, the Kritti Narayana Temple, also known as the Vaideshwara Temple is completely buried beneath sand dunes. The temple comes to life when it is excavated once every 12 years during the Panchalinga Darshan.