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KARNATAKA A state in South India, Karnataka has an area of 74,051 square miles (191,791 square kilometers). In 2001 its population was 52.7 million. Its capital is Bangalore, and the language is Kannada, which belongs to the Dravidian family of languages. The name of the state means "highland," which refers to its Deccan plateau, though Karnataka also has a coastline of about 185 miles (300 kilometers). The state in its present form was established in 1956, but its name was changed from Mysore to Karnataka only in 1973. It consists of two areas: the former princely state of Mysore and the Kannada-speaking districts of the erstwhile Bombay presidency, which were merged with Mysore to form a unified linguistic state. The maharaja of Mysore had signed the treaty of accession to India immediately after the attainment of indepedence. The legislature of the Bombay presidency had decided as early as 1938 that the Kannada-speaking districts should be merged with a future linguistic state. There was a dispute concerning the Belgaum and Karwar districts later on, since they had a sizable Marathi-speaking population, but they remained in Karnataka.

The state has many ancient monuments. The Mauryan emperor Ashoka had some of his famous inscriptions installed there in the second century b.c. Later, this area became a stronghold of Jainism. The huge statue of a Jain Tīrthānkara at Sravanbelgola is an impressive example of this tradition. In the northwestern part of the state, the Chalukya dynasty of Badami (Vatapi) created several beautiful temples in the seventh and eighth centuries a.d., which were influenced by the style of the Northern Gupta dynasty. Pattadakal, one of these temple towns, has been recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a World Heritage site. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Hoysala dynasty established the beautiful temples of Belur and Halebid. From the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries, the Vijayanagar empire dominated the region. Its capital, Vijayanagar, (City of Victory) is located near Hampi, about 185 miles (300 kilometers) north of Bangalore. Bijapur, in the northwestern part of the state, houses one of the most impressive monuments of Muslim architecture, Gol Gumbaz, the seventeenth-century mausoleum of Sultan Muhammad Adil Shah of Bijapur, which has the widest cupola in the world.

Karnataka is a stronghold of the Congress Party. It does not have a state party like its neighbors Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, though the Janata Party had played this role and ruled the state for some time after it had lost its importance as a national party. In the assembly elections of 2004, the Congress Party lost many seats while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) captured 79 seats, an unprecedented party success in a southern state. Even though the BJP won the largest number of seats of any party in the assembly, the Congress Party (with only 64 seats) managed to form a new government with the help of other parties.

With the exception of Bangalore, Karnataka has no big industrial cities. There are only two other major urban centers in this state: Mysore and Hubli-Dharwar. The latter consists of two separate towns that have formed a joint municipal corporation. Dharwar is a university town, and Hubli is a major trading center. In addition, there are some important district towns, such as Belgaum, Bellary, and Mangalore. As far as per capita income is concerned, Karnataka is close to the national average.

Dietmar Rothermund


Desai, P. B. History of Karnataka. Dharwar: Kannada Research Institute, 1970.

Diwakar, R. R. Karnataka through the Ages: From Prehistoric Times to the Day of the Independence of India. Bangalore: Government of Mysore, 1968.

Gururajachar, S. Some Aspects of Economic and Social Life in Karnataka (AD1000–1300). Mysore: Prasaranga, 1974.

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