Vidhana Soudha which houses the Karnataka state Legislature and Secretariat is the most magnificent and majestic stone building in Bangalore and perhaps in Karnataka itself. It is said that when a Russian delegation felt that Bangalore was full of European buildings and asked the then chief minister Kengal Hanumanthaiah, “Have you no architecture of your own?”
This inspired Hanumanthaiah to plan a building and the result is the Vidhana Soudha, an epitome of Hindu architecture and a synthesis of Dravidian, Hoysala, Chalukya, and Vijayanagara architectural features. Its construction began in 1952 and was completed in 1956 at an estimated cost of 1.75 crores under a team of experts headed by the chief architect B.R. Manikam. More than 5000 laborers and 1500 skilled sculptors worked on this prestigious project.
The entire structure covers an area of 720 x 360 ft. In the center is an open quadrangle measuring 260 x 250 ft. It is an imposing three storied building with a cellar. Though the building can be approached from all the four sides, the eastern entrance is majestic with 40 ft.-tall columns and flight of steps. The western side has a facade of Rajasthan palaces. The four corners have four towers supporting domes topped by glittering metallic kalashas (inverted pitcher pots.) The main dome is very elegant and has the Indian National Emblem of four Asiatic lions standing back to back mounted on a circular base on the kalasha. Though grey granite is used for exterior, green, bluish, pink and black stones have been used for decoration. The interior of the Vidhana Soudha consists of a banquet hall, Legislative Assembly Hall, Legislative Council Hall, and Cabinet meeting hall in addition to many rooms for the ministers and high officers.
The wood work is another great attraction of this building. Particularly noteworthy are the carved doors of the office of the chief minister, cabinet hall and legislature hall. They show the Karnataka School of wood work at its best which is still a living tradition. Thus Vidhana Soudha is a proud heritage building built in the 20th century testifying to the architectural and sculptural tradition of ancient Karnataka. This building is an eloquent testimony to the continuation of ancient architectural and sculptural tradition of Karnataka as practiced by the Chalukyas, Hoysalas and Vijayanagara rulers. Thus this is a modern building in ancient style of Karnataka. That is the uniqueness of this elegant building.
Any visitor to Bangalore cannot afford to miss this magnificent building, a proud heritage structure of Karnataka, particularly when it is illuminated.
The Bangalore fort was an ancient one with contributions from Chikkadevaraja Wadeyar, Haidar Ali, and others. Tipu Sultan dismantled some parts of it after 1792 but Dewan Poornaiah rebuilt the fort in 1800 A.D. Tipu’s palace is here within the fort area by the side of fort Venkataramana temple and actually it is very close to the Bangalore Medical College now.
It is said that this palace was begun by Haidar Ali in 1781 and Tipu made use of it later. Though the original facade and the frontal portions are not available now, the palace still makes a lasting impression as an elegant and magnificent structure worthy of the palace. The palace is basically built of wood, except for the peripheral outer walls built of mud and bricks.
The superstructure is of wooden frame with two stories with minute wooden carving decorations. What now remains is a frontal corridor with an upper balcony. Wide cusped arches are very conspicuous by their presence and they add a great majestic appearance. The wooden pillars with tapering design are very tall and this adds majesty to the entire structure. The walls and ceilings are of great attraction as they contain paintings of the contemporary period, consisting mostly of geometric designs and floral decorations.
Originally the upper story had four halls each comprising of two balconies and some rooms. The balconies faced parts of the office and was also used by the prince. At times it served as an audience hall also. At the end of the balconies were some rooms which were used for private purposes of the family of the Sultan. Though they look small from the present standards, with high roof they were cool and convenient for the people to live. There is a Persian inscription to the left of the verandah which calls it abode of happiness and envy of heaven. Its construction was started in 1781 and was completed in 1791 A.D.
After the death of Tipu Sultan it was used by Krishnaraja Wadeyar III to give audience to the citizens of Bangalore in 1808. Subsequently it was temporarily used by the British army. The Karnataka State Secretariat also worked from here. Finally it was taken over by the Archaeological Survey of India which has made it a protected monument. Thus it is a rare and elegant wooden palace at Bangalore.
The statue of Gommateshvara at Shravanabelagola, the tallest free standing stone sculpture in the world has given a unique and international cultural status to Karnataka.
Shravanabelagola is the most sacred religious centre of the Jains. It has a hoary antiquity dating back to the third century B.C., when Bhadrabahu along with the Maurya king Chandragupta came and settled down here. From then on many Karnataka dynasties like the Gangas of Talakad, the Chalukyas, the Hoysalas, the rulers of Vijayanagara and others patronised this Jaina sacred place.
However, it was during the period of Ganga king Rachamalla IV (973–999 A.D.), the place became famous because his minister Chamundaraya consecrated this image of Gommateshvara on the summit of the hill commanding a picturesque view of the whole area. A large number of Jaina temples were built here at different periods by various dynasties which have made this center an open air museum of Jaina art.
The real attraction of Shravanabelagola is the colossal image of Bahubali also known as Gommateshvara. Its height is 57 feet and is the tallest stone sculpture in the world. The image is nude and stands facing north; in an erect yogic posture. The serene expression of the face is remarkable. The hair is curly and the ears are long, the shoulders being broad and the arms hang down straight with the thumbs turned outwards. The lower portion adds majesty and grandeur. The entire image stands on a pedestal which is in the form of a lotus. The foot measures nine feet in length; the toes are 2 feet 9 inches; the middle finger is 5 feet 3 inches; the forefinger is 3 feet 6 inches; third finger is 4 feet 7 inches; the fourth finger is 2 feet 3 inches.
The face of Gommateshvara is most artistic and is a commentary on the success of the skill of the sculptor who carved it. The eyes are half open and the eye balls appear as if real. This also symbolizes the pensive mood of the saint. The total effect is one of majesty, grace and dignity, and expresses his compassion towards the fellow beings and hence is considered as the best in this type. Gommateshvara has been watching the human beings and their sufferings for the past one thousand years and people are looking at him for guidance for an ethical and religious life. Thus he is inspiring people to follow the path of Dharma. Once in twelve years a special ritual called Mahamastakabhisheka takes place when lakhs of people assemble here to be blessed by the compassionate Gommateshvara.
The Bangalore Palace is one of the most magnificent heritage buildings in the city of Bangalore. Though there are hundreds of heritage buildings in Bangalore, this one differs from all of them both in style and exuberance.
Originally it was a private building belonging to an Englishman by name N. Garrett, who was the first Principal of the Central High School in Bangalore, now known as Central College. It was purchased for the Maharaja in 1884 and the palace was built in 1880 at a cost of 10 lakhs of rupees. The total area of the palace is 45,000 square feet. The construction of the palace was started in 1862 and completed in 1944.
The importance of this palace lies in the fact that it is built on the model of the Windsor Castle, the royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire. It is a two storied granite building with fortified towers and turreted parapets which are the characters of the Tudor architecture of England. The resemblance is so marked that many scholars feel that this is an imitated version of the Tudor’s building as if it was transported to Bangalore. It has Roman pointed arches and bastion-like towers. Its layout is rich in pointed recesses which add majesty to the contour of the building. Another attraction of this structure is a large number of projections which result in pleasing geometric patterns of varied designs. The facade of the palace is exotic with a combination of tall watch-towers, spacious walls with square and arch-type windows and roundish structures, showing different levels of the roof.
Living quarters for the Maharani were added in 1890. But they were built in the Hindu architectural style and were connected to the main building by a covered pathway. The interior of the palace is full of decorations, molded and fluted pillars and large arches, walls decorated with floral patterns, intricately carved capitals, patterned cornices … all of a high order befitting a palace. Gorgeous chandeliers of great beauty have added a grace and charm to the interior.
Another attraction of this palace was the vast garden under the guidance of Sri N Venkatasamiraju, whose life-size statue adorns a niche in the palace. The vast open area round the palace in a heavily populated city, has added a great luxury to the edifice which itself is an epitome of luxury and royalty of the Maharajas of Mysore whose name and fame has spread far and wide including foreign lands. Thus this is one of the finest palaces in India.
Deep in the Aravali hills of the northwestern state of Rajasthan in India, between Udaipur and Jodhpur, stands the stunning fifth-century Jain temple of Ranakpur. Carved exclusively out of white marble and surrounded by green forest, the temple surveys its surroundings in each of the cardinal directions from its chaumukha, or “four faces”. Fortress-solid, great slabs of stone rise out of the ground to hold up the bulk of the temple’s extravagant exterior, a flamboyant edifice of cupolas, domes and turrets of soft grey marble.
In the interior, 1,444 intricately carved pillars hold up the roof, each one unique in its design. Soft light filters through the marble, changing its color from grey to gold, as the sun moves across the sky. Only the saffron and red fabrics of robes brighten up the surroundings as the monks and pilgrims pass between the pillars, through pools of light into shadow.
In the 15th century a Jain businessman named Dharma Shah had a vision that he should build a magnificent temple in honor of Adinath, the first Tirthankara (enlightened being) and founder of Jainism, also known as Rishabhadeva. He approached the local monarch, Rana Kumbha, to ask him for land on which to build. The king obliged him, and the temple was named “Ranakpur” in gratitude for his munificence.
The result is one of the most pleasant religious edifices in India. The temple is still in constant use and visitors are welcome, although, according to the Jain principle of ahimsa (non-violence to all things), they are asked not to bring any leather into the temple, including shoes. As you walk through Ranakpur, past delicate marble carvings and solemnly praying monks, the loving artisanship of so many individual souls is striking, and the atmosphere of devotion utterly absorbing.