Antiquity of Karnataka

Antiquity of Karnataka


The Pre-history of Karnataka traced back to paleolithic hand-axe culture. It is also compared favourably with the one that existed in Africa and is quite distinct from the Pre-historic culture that prevailed in North India.The credit for doing early research on ancient Karnataka goes to Robert Bruce-Foote. Many locales of Pre-noteworthy period have been discovered scattered on the stream valleys of Krishna, Tungabhadra, Cauvery, Bhima, Ghataprabha, Malaprabha, Hemavathi, Shimsha, Manjra, Netravati, and Pennar and on their tributaries. The disclosure of powder hills at Kupgal and Kudatini in 1836 by Cuebold (a British officer in Bellary district), made ready for the investigation of Pre-notable examinations in India.


Some of the important sites representing the various stages of Prehistoric culture that prevailed in Karnataka are Hunasagi,Kaladevanahal li, Tegginahalli, Budihal, Piklihal, Kibbanahalli, Kaladgi, Khyad, Nyamati, Nittur, Anagavadi, Balehonnur and Uppinangadi (Lower Palaeolithic Culture); Herakal, Menasagi, Pattadakal, Vajjala, Tamminahal, Savalgi, Salvadgi, Naravi and Talakad (Middle Palaeolithic Culture); Kovalli, Yadwad, Ingaleshvara and Maralabhavi (Upper Palaeolithic Culture); Begaumpur, Vanamapurahalli, Sringeri, Hingani, Ingaleshwara, Tamminahal,  Jalahalli, Kibbanahalli, Sanganakal, Brahmagiri, Uppinangadi, Mani and Doddaguni (Mesolithic Culture); Maski, T. Narasipur, Banahalli, Hallur, Sanganakal, Srinivasapura, Hemmige, Kodekal, Brahmagiri, Kupgal, Tekkalkote, Kurnal, Beeramangala, French rocks (Pandavapura) and Uttanur (Neolithic and Chalcolithic Culture); Aihole, Maski , RajanaKolur, Badaga-Kajekaru, Bachigudda

Southern facade

, Konnur, Terdal, Hire Benakal, Kumaranahalli, Tadakanahalli, Banahalli, Belur, Borkatte, Konaje, Kakkunje, Vaddarse, and Hallingali (Megalithic Culture).  Discoveries have revealed the existence of Gold in Harappa was found to be imported from mines in Karnataka. Thus many scholars believed that of ancient Karnataka was known to the people of Indus Valley Civilisation. Use of iron was known to the early inhabitants of Karnataka far earlier than the people of North India. The Iron tools dating back to circa 1500 B.C, found at Hallur in HirekerurTq. of Haveri district.

References to Karnataka are found in the SabhaParva and the BhishmaParva of the Mahabharata and inŚūdraka’sMrichchakatikaand Kathasritsagara. Panini mentionedKarnadhaka as the Gotra of people. Karnataka is pre-eminently mentioned also in the old Sanskrit texts like MarkandeyaPurana, Bhagavatha, and Brihathsamhitha of Varahamihira.


Scholars believed that Karnataka was the part of the Nanda and Maurya Empires. According to Jain accounts, Chandragupta, first Mauryan emperor, renounced his throne and followed Jain teacher Bhadrabahu to  south India. He is said to lived at Chandragiri hills in Shravanabelagola for several years before fasting to death.

Among the fourteen Rock Edicts of Ashoka which have been excavated in Karnataka, 10 are Minor (two each at Nittur and Udagolam in Ballari area; one at Maski in Raichur region; one each at Gavimutt and Palkigundu in Koppalregion; one each at Brahmagiri, JattingaRameshwara and Siddapura in Chitradurga region) decrees, and Four are Major (viz., thirteenth and fourteenth declarations found at Sannati in Kalaburagi region) Rock orders.They testify to the fact that the Mauryanruled over Karnataka also.  It is interesting to note that, Emperor Ashoka’s personal name “Ashoka” occur for the first time in his Maski minor rock edict.

Satvahanas also controlled northern Karnataka and with the disintegration of the Satavahana dynasty led to the rise of the earliest native kingdoms, the Kadamba Dynasty of Banavasi in modern UttaraKannadadistrict with Mayurasharma as the founding king and the Western Ganga Dynasty in southern Karnataka. These dynasties made the region as an independent political entity.  The earliest use of Kannada in administration was started by kingdoms, as evidenced by the Halmidi inscription and a fifth-century copper coin discovered at Banavasi. These dynasties were followed by imperial Kannada empires such as the Chalukyas of Badami, the Rashtrakuta Empire of Manyakheta and the Western Chalukya Empire and Hoysalas, Vijaynagar empire on the banks ofTunbhadra river, later on the Bahmani kingdom and the kingdom of Mysore which ruled over large parts of the Deccan and had their capitals in what is now Karnataka. the Hoysalas gained power in the region at the turn of the first millennium. Literature also flourished during this time, which prompted the development of particular Kannada scholarly meters, and the construction of temples and sculptures adhering to the Vesara style of architecture.Jainascholars, and warriors from Karnataka during the period gained great regard.




Kannada Language and Literature


The origin of the Kannada language can be traced back to 3rd century BCE, as found in the Ashokan inscriptions. It is the second oldest of the four major Dravidian languages with a literary tradition. The Geography written by Ptolemy, a scholar from Alexandria, during the first half of the second century A.D. Ptolemy speaks of many places in Karnataka such as Kalgeris (identified as Kalkeri), Modogoulla (Mudugal), Badamios (Badami) and so on. All these are not only places in Karnataka, but are also names of Kannada origin. The Kannada script originated from southern varieties of the Ashokan Brahmi script. In the 150 CE Prakrit book GaathaaSaptashati, written by Raja Haala,also contained Kannada words. But written evidences are available only from 5-6 century AD., like a stone inscription in brahmi characters, resembling Tamil, as was found in the early periods of other Dravidian languages. The language is classified as Old Kannada. Halmidi, Chitradurga, and Chikkamagaluru inscriptions are some examples. The copper plates of 8th century, and palm leaf manuscript of 1478 pages of 9th century, giving milestones of the language’s march forward. three Jain writers, Adikavi Pampa, Sri Ponna (939-966 AD) and Ranna (b. 949 AD), collectively called ‘Three Gems of Kannada literature’, are credited to have introduced the age of classical Kannada in the 10th century. Pampa, the author of Adipurana (941 AD), is considered one of the greatest of Kannada writers. Vikrmarjunavijaya, another contribution from Pampa, is based on the epic Mahabharata. AkkaMahadevi, who lived in Karnataka around 1100 was a great poet. Her poems, written in Kannada, in free verse style, were all dedicated to Shiva.

Kannada language is divided by linguists into three distinct phases: Old (850-1200 AD), Middle (1200-1700) and Modern (1700 onwards). These stages speak to the phases of its phonetic advancement. But from the literary point of view, scholars identify three different ages such as Jain, Veerashaiva and Vaishnava. Starting with the Kavirajamarga (of about 850 AD.), the oldest literary work in Kannada, through the middle of the 12th century, all the literary activities in Kannada were undertaken by the Jains. After the Veerashaiva movement, another phase of literary movement came up under the patronage of Vijayanagara rulers, and this is known as the kaivalya, which followed the advaita line of Sankara. The most prominent in the Kaivalyaschool of writing was Shivayogi. During this period, the two noted philosophers who influenced the life and thinking of the region, were Ramanujacharya and Madhvacharya. They were instrumental in converting the Jainists into Vaishnavites. Even the king was converted into Vaishanavism. The period of the Vijayanagara Empire recognized as the  golden era for Kannada literature. Kumara Vyasa, of this period was one of the most influential of the Vaishnava poets of the time. He was a master of metaphors, and this earned him a title – RupakaSamrajyaChakravarti (‘The Emperor of the domain of Metaphors’). He wrote KumaravyasaBharatain the typical Vyasa tradition. Kumara Valmiki (1500), the writer of Torave Ramayana, an adaptation of the epic Ramayana, and this work inspired the folk theatre of Karnataka like the Yakshagana. During the 15th century, the development of the Vaishnava Bhakti movement which spread the message of the vedantinMadhvacharya to the common man.The main advocates of this movement were Naraharitirtha, Jayatirtha, Vyasatirtha, Sripadaraya, and PurandaraDasa. A wandering poet, PurandaraDasa (1484-1564) is known as Karnataka SangeetaPitamaha (the Patriarch of Carnatic Music) and is believed to have composed some 475,000 songs in Kannada and Sanskrit languages.

After the decline of the Vijayanagara Empire, Kannada literature was vigorously supported by the Wodeyar rulers of Mysore. Not only did they encourage writers, but some of the rulers themselves were writers and composers. The most prominent of them was King ChikkaDevarajaWodeyar, the author of the famous treatise on music, GeethaGopala. King KanteeravaNarasarajaWodeyar Ii who authored 14 Yakshaganas. MummadiKrishnarajaWodeyar was another author with more than 40 writings to his credit.

The development of modern Kannada literature can be traced to early 19th century, marked by KempuNarayana’s novel Mudramanjusha. The advent of Christian missionaries, introduction of Western education system and the printing press strengthened the development and growth of modern Kannada literature. The first Kannada newspaper, Mangalore Samachara, saw the light in 1843. The first Kannada-English dictionary also came out in 1894. Translations from not only English, but other Indian languages like Bengali and Marathi became available. All this resulted in the influx of novel, essays, dramas and literary criticisms in Kannada language.

  1. M. Srikantaiah is considered as the ‘Father’ of Modern Kannada literature. He was the one who called the writers to move away from the archaic forms of writing, but to pursue the original path of writing. The effect was the ascent of ‘navodaya’, another dawn. The impact of Western culture and writing was powerful to the point that Kannada’s books, short stories, plays, abstract reactions, and sonnets encountered a freshly discovered imaginative desire.ShivaramaKaranth (Chomanadudi) and MastiVenkateshIyengar (SannaKathegalu) established frameworks for another style of narrating. T. P. Kailasam (TolluGatti, TaliKattokeCooline) broke another ground for plays. Realistic novels became the in thing during the first half of the last century. MastiVenkateshIyengar, D.V. Gundappa, K.V. Puttappa (Kuvempu), ShivaramKaranth, G. P. Rajaratnam, V. K. Gogak and Gopal Krishna Adiga became the champions of Kannada literature. Short story and ballads turned into the vehicles for the battles for another life. K.S. Narasimhaswamy,ChandrasekharaKambar, D.R. Bindre, Chandrasekhar Patil, P.Lankesh, GirishKarnad (Tughlaq), U. R. Ananthamurthy and K.S. Nissar Ahmed turned out to be the best known writers of the language.




The earliest extant Kannada work Kavirajamarga speaks of contemporary social and political conditions of Karnataka.

The Kannada poem by Pampa – Vikmmurjunavijaya, furnishes certain details regarding the Rashtrakutas.

Ranna’sGadayuddha deals with the history of the Chalukyas of Badami and Kalyani.

ChavundarayaPurana contains information regarding the Gangas.

KeladinripaVijayam discusses in detail the history of Keladi family. In Sanskrit, an encyclopedia by Basavaraja, a Keladi ruler, ShivatattvaRatnakara, throws light on the history of Keladi and also on that of Vijayanagara.

KanthiravaNarasarajaVijayam deals with the endeavorsof KanthiravaNarasarajaOdeyar of Mysore.

ChikkadevarajaBinnapam, ChikkadevarajaVijayam, ChikkadevarajaVamshavali and Apratimaviracharite speaks about the achievements of Chikkadevaraya, the great ruler of Mysore.

Kumara Ramanakathe by Nanjunda contains information on the history of pre-Vijayanagara period.

In Sanskrit the achieve­ments of Vikrama VI of Kalyana are narrated in Bilhana’s Vikra- mankadevaCharitam. Manasollasa or AbhilashitarthaChintamani by Somesvara III of Kalyana also holds valuable information on  cultural history. This prince also wrote Vikramankabhyudyam narrating the exploits of his father.

ChaturvargaChitamani of Hemadriconcerned with the history of the Sevunas (Yadavas). Jalhana’s Suktimuktavali  related to the achievements of SevunaBhillama V and his father Mallugi.

Gadyakarnamritam by VidyachakravartinII  narrates the war between HoysalaNarasimha II and the Pandayas.

MadhuraVijayam by Gangambika, Saluvabhyudayam by RajanathaDindima I, Achyuthabhyudayam by RajanathaDindima III and Varadambikaparinayam by Tirumalamba are most important literary works.

KrishnadevarayanaDinachari is a recently discovered Kannada source.




The Extent of Kannadanadu


The Kavirajamarga, a 9th century Kannada work, describing the extent of Kannada territorywhich  wasextending from the rivers Cauvery and the Godavari. Though Kannada language is not spoken in the Godavari region today, but from sixth to 13th centuries A.D. Kannada dominated major parts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Goa. Many inscription found in all these places testify to the fact that Kannada was the spoken language of the people of those areas. A kannada poet Pampa was from Vemulavada, a place now in Andhra Pradesh. The well known scholar and researcher, N.S.Rajapurohit (born 1887) wrote several articles in Kesari (the Marathi paper of Tilak) about the prevalence of Kannada language in several areas of Maharashtra and also the influence of Kannada on the literary composition of saints like Jnaneshwar.Indeed, even Tilak used to state that sometime in the distant past the people of Karnataka and Maharashtra used to speak a typical dlanguage and that language was Kannada.

With the decline of the fortunes of the Kingdom of the Chalukyan dynasty of Kalyani and its feudatories, the Hoysalas, Sevunas (Yadavas) and Kakathiyas established their independent kingdoms in regions now comprising roughly Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andra Pradesh. This followed in a setback to Kannada as the latter two dynasties began to support Marathi and Telugu respectively. Kannada regions north of the river Krishna received further setback with the establishment of  theBahamani kingdom in 1347. After the defeat of Vijayanagaraempirein the battle Talikota (1565), the areas to the north of the river Tungabhadra came under the administration of AdilShahis of Bijapur. In 1686, the Mughals annexation of Bijapur kingdom and the subsequent decline in the former’s fortunes saw the Marathas supplanting their hold over major part of North Karnataka. After the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799, the territories inhabited by Kannadigas were divided into 20 different administrative units. These units being Mysore state under the Wodeyarsinvolvingmainly south Karnataka, Bijapur and Belgaum districts under Bombay Presidency,Coorg under a Lieutenant Commissioner rule, South Kanara and Bellary districts under Madras Presidency, Dharwad, North Kanara, Raichur, Gulbarga and Bidar districts under the Hyderabad Nizam’srealm and a number of small princely states like Sandur, Jamkhandi, Jatt, etc scattered in North Karnataka.

The pathetic conditions of the Kannada-speaking people scattered in these various administrative units were unaccountable. The medium of instruction at school and the language of local administration had been mostly Marathi In the southern parts of Bombay Presidency. The Kannada speaking areas were called ‘Southern Maratha Country’. In certain Kannada areas such asJatt, Akkalkot and Sangli, Kannada had almost vanished because of their subjection to Marathi rulers. Kannada had been reduced to the position of only a spoken language as Urdu dominated both at schools and government offices in Hyderabad state. In the Presidencies like Bombay or Madras, the Kannada speaking areas did not get their due share of financial aid for the various developmental activities as Kannada regions were very small areas, lying far away from the provincial capital. The Kannadigas had been represented poorly in the Central legislature of India also.


After the formation of separate provinces like Assam, Bihar, Orissa on linguistic basis created a thirst for independence and also Unification of the Kannada-speaking regions. Publication of books on Karnataka’s history, the freedom movement and the inspiring writings of AlurVenkataRao, HuilgolaNarayanaRao, Kuvempu, Bendre and others encouraged this movement. AlurVenkatRao, who was called “Kannada Kula Purohita”, for arousing the awareness of Kannadigas, rendered yeoman service for the cause of Unification. In 1916 AlurVenkataRaoformed the EkikaranaSabha at Dharwad, with unification of Karnataka as its goal. As early as in 1903, Benagal Rama Rao delivered a lecture at Dharwad, stressing the need for the unification of Kannada speaking regions into a single Presidency. A separate Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee was constituted for the Kannada speaking regions in 1920. At the all-India Congress session held at Belgaum in 1924, the Kannada anthem, “UdayavagalinammacheluvaKannadanadu”, calling for the creation of beautiful Kannada state, composed by HuilgolNarayanaRao was sung. The first Karnataka Unification Conference was also held at Belgaum and presided over by Sir SiddappaKambli. The Karnataka EkikaranaSangha was established at the conference and it held its meetings on numerous occasions. In 1926, the Hindustani Seva Dal, founded by Dr.Hardikar conducted a signature campaign in favour of Unification and collected 36,000 signatures. But it was not a simple task to bring people who were under 20 different administrative regions in a single province and it was felt that with the country attaining the freedom, unification could also occure.

After Independence, the President of the Constituent Assembly formed a linguistic provinces committee on 17th June 1948 with S.K.Dhar as Chairman. The Dhar Commission was asked to report how many new provinces were to be created and also state ‘the administrative, financial and other consequences’ of the creation of new provinces. The Commission in its report submitted on 10th December 1948 expressed itself against any reorganization of provinces being undertaken in the then prevailing circumstances.To consider the question of linguistic states and review the position in the light of the findings of the Dhar commission, the Congress appointed another committee known as the J.V.P.Committee consisting of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and PattabhiSeetharamaiah at the Jaipur session of the Indian National Congress in December 1948. After thorough deliberation, the committee came to the conclusion that formation of linguistic provinces should be postponed by a few years. Claims and counter claims over various regions, such as Bombay city being proclaimed by both the Maharashtrians and the Gujaratis or Madras by the Tamils and the Telugus, being considered as main problem. But it conceded the demand for the formation of Andhra province.

On the eve of the first general election in 1951-52, the Congress in its election manifesto claimed that the formation of linguistic provinces was in its agenda. But after coming to power it did not take any step in this direction. The ‘Akhanda Karnataka RajyaNirmanaParishad’ was set up in Karnataka with K.R.Karanth as President. It was formed with a view to pressurize the Central government to concede the demand for the formation of linguistic provinces. In Madras, PottiSriramulu undertook his epic fast on 19th October 1952 to press for the formation of Andhra province and on 15th December 1952 he died. The widespread violence in Andhra region followed after the death of PottiSrirmulu. This led Nehru to announce the formation of the Andhra state. This resulted in the district of Bellary being transferred to Mysore. At a K.P.P.C. meeting held at Hubli during the period an unprecedented scene of violence followed when a crowd trying to demonstrate in favour of Unification turned turbulent.ShankargoudaPatil of Adaragunchi, a Congress worker near Hubli was holding ‘fast unto death’ at the time of the meeting.Finally on December 29, 1953, the Government of India appointed the States Reorganisation Commission with Fazl Ali as Chairman, HridaynathKunzru and K.M.Pannikar as members to investigate the whole question of the reorganization of the states of the Indian union. So that the welfare of the people of each constituent unit as well as of the nation as a whole can be promoted. The Commission submitted its report on 30th September 1955.

The recommendations of the Commission among other things are the merger of the following regions for the formation of a United Karnataka. They involved Mysore state, including Bellary district, the districts of Dharwad, Bijapur, North Kanara and Belgaum (except Chandgadtaluk), South Kanara district (except Kasargodtaluk), Coorg (Kodagu), Gulbarga district (expect Kodangal and Tandurtaluks), Raichur district (except Alampur and Gadvaltaluks) and Bidar district consisting of Bidar, Bhalki, Aurad and Humnabadtaluks. Kollegaltaluk from Coimbatore district of Madras Province was merged with Mysore district. The Commission also recommended the abolition of the post of ‘Rajapramukh’. The new state had 19 districts.

On November 1st 1956 President Rajendra Prasad inaugurated the new Mysore state at Bangalore. Hhereby the big map of the new state of Mysore was brightly lit. After invocation, famous vocalist P.KalingaRao sang the popular Kannada anthem “Udayavagalinammacheluva Kannada nadu”. Huilgol Narayan Rao had composed the song as early as in 1924 and P.KalingaRao who made it to suitable tune and popularised it. Then JayachamarajendraWodeyar, being sworn in as the new Governor of the state and S.Nijalingappa as the new Chief Minister. Thus the long cherished dream of the Kannadigasof a state  was realized. To console the hurt sentiments of the anti-mergers in Mysore, the state was called New Mysore after unification and only in November 1973 it could be renamed as Karnataka.



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