Karnataka consists of 34,000 temples, some of them are still existing, going back to the 7 century CE. The Badami Chalukyas were the builders of rock cut caves and ancient temple complexes. At Pattadakal, there are temples in the Dravidian style along with temples in styles that were later adopted in Eastern and Central India. The sculptural quality in these temples is outstanding. The Badami Chalukyas were succeeded by the Rashtrakutas and the Kalyani Chalukyas. In Southern Karnataka, the Hoysalas reigned supreme. The Hoysalas (12th century CE) were great builders and they built great temples at Halebidu, Belur and Somanathapura. The subordinate rulers of the Chalukyas were the Gangas and the Kadambas. The colossal monolithic statue of Gomateswara was built by the Gangas in the 10th century CE. The Hoysalas built temples on raised star shaped platforms. There is a profusion of sculptural work in the Hoysala style of temple building. Also in Southern Karnataka, are temples which benefited from the patronage of the Chola rulers of Tamil Nadu. A notable example is the Kolaramma Temple at Kolar.
Next, the Vijayanagar Empire founded in the 14th century CE marks the period of great temple building activity in Karnataka and these temples are characterised by the building of pillared mandapas and lofty entrance towers. Vijayanagar temples have several of the features exhibited by the temples of Tamil Nadu , such as a covered pradakshinapatha (circumambulatory path) around the sanctum, and a mahamandapam in front. The ornate pillars are a distinctive mark of the Vijayanagar style. Several of the monuments in the capital Vijayanagar – now in ruins at Hampi are attributed to Harihara II, Sadasiva and Krishna Deva Raya. The Mysore Maharajas (Wodeyars) who ruled from around 1400 CE through the British period, with the brief lapse during Tipu Sultans rule, have also made contributions to temples in this State.
The temples of the southern coastal/ghat region of Karnataka (such as Kollur) are markedly different in architectural styles and they resemble the temples of Kerala to a larger extent. Temples of southern Karnataka have the practice of not allowing ordinary clothing to be worn inside. People can drape a cloth over, or wear a Lungi.
Many temples in Udupi represent the Dvaita philosophy, and are mostly run by priests of the Ashta Matha monasteries. The Sri Krishna Temple, also in Udupi, features the Kanakana kindi or Kanaka’s Window, a small peephole in the wall of the temple through which a statue of the great Indian saint Kanaka Dasa maybe viewed.
Temples in Sringeri represent the Advaita Vedanta philosophy of Adi Shankara. Being one of oldest institutions of Sanskrit learning, Sringeri Shaarada Peetha is seen as abode of Saraswati, the Goddess of learning, and holds a very prominent place in the history of learning and in the hearts of Kannadigas.
North Karnataka temples represent the old glory of long ago kingdoms, with some rituals still practised. Many of the magnificently sculpted temples include shaasanas (inscriptions) which depict various important historical periods.
Some of the important temple of Karnataka are as follows:
Vidyashankara Temple at Sringeri is considered to be the abode of ‘Sarada Peetham’ and founded by Adi Shankaracharya. The Vidyashankara Temple, Sringeri is built to commemorate Guru Vidyashankara with some much needed assistance from the emperors of Vijayanagar. The image of Sharada that was personally inaugurated by Adi Shankaracharya is constructed from sandalwood although it was substituted by another image that was made from pure gold later with the advent of the 14th century. The image of Ma Sharada is indeed a spectacle to watch as she is resting on the Sri Chakra Peetham with a Japa Mala and a parrot enhancing the beauty of both her arms.
Dharmasthala Manjunatha Temple is in the Belthangadi taluk of Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka houses the shrine of Shiva, Manjunatha, Ammanavaru, Chandranath and the Dharma Daivas (Guardian Spirits of Dharma) namely Kalarahu, Kalarkayi, Kumaraswamy and Kanyakumari. The temple is unusual in that it is run by a Jain administration and poojas are conducted by Hindu priests of Madhva order. A mechanised kitchen provides free food for all pilgrims and there are guest houses with modern amenities.
Dharmasthala represents religious tolerance. A Jain Tirthankara is worshipped beside Daivas and Lord Manjunatha (Shiva). The priests are Vaishnavite Brahmins and the guardian of the temple a Heggade (Jain). To those who come here for justice, the Heggade dispenses judgements that are said to represent the will of the deities.
Marikamba Temple is located in Sagar city of Karnataka. It features the image of the Goddess Marikamba, a form of Durga or Parvati. The temple was built in the centre of the city during the reign of Venkatappa Nayak who ruled over Keladi and Ikkeri kingdom during the 16th century. Marikamba was the family deity of the Nayaka dynasty.
Annapoorneshwari Temple is located at Horanadu 100 km from Chikmagalur in the thick forests and valleys of the Western Ghats of Karnataka.. This ancient Hindu temple of Goddess Annapoorneshwari has been restored and renamed as the Adi-Shaktyatmaka Shree Annapoorneshwari. The single image is of the Goddess Annapoorneshwari standing on a Peeta with Shanku, Chakra, Sri Chakra and Devi Gayathri in her four hands.
Mahabaleshwar Temple is a Hindu temple located in Gokarna, a Hindu religious pilgrimage centre in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. A Pranalinga also known as Atmalinga or Shiva Linga is deified in the temple, which is facing the city beach of the Arabian Sea in Gokarna. The Shiva Linga has a hoary legend. It is said to bestow immense blessings to devotees who even glimpse it. The temple is considered as pious as the Shiva Temple at Varanasi or Kashi in North India on the banks of the Ganges River and hence is known as the Dakshin Kasi (South Kasi).
Polali Rajarajeshwari Temple is a temple located in Polali, Dakshina Karnataka. The primary deity of the temple is Sri Rajarajeshwari. The temple was constructed in the 8th century AD by King Suratha . The idol of Sri Rajarajeshwari is completely moulded from clay with special medicinal properties. The temple portrays Hindu architecture with roofs adorned with wooden carvings of gods and copper plates.
Chamundeshwari Temple is located on the top of Chamundi Hills about 13 km from the Palace City of Mysore . The temple was named after Chamundeshwari or Durga, the fierce form of Shakti, a tutelary deity held in reverence for centuries by Mysore Maharajas. The Chamundeshwari Temple is considered as a Shakti Peetha and one among the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas.
Sri Radha Krishnachandra Temple has deities of Krishna and Radha located at Rajajinagar, in the North Bengaluru. It is one of the largest ISKCON temples in the world.
Sri Krishna Temple Udupi is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to God Krishna located in the town of Udupi. The temple is first among the seven places of pilgrimages. The unique feature of Sri Krishna Mutt temple is that the Lord is worshipped only through a window with nine holes called the Navagraha Kitiki. It has been a tradition in this temple to worship the Lord only through this window.
— Aniket Raja
(With inputs from Karnataka Tourism)