The chasm between the values, outlook and prosperity of rural Karnataka - the source matter for novelist R K Narayan's Malgudi Tales - and the cosmopolitan high-tech metropolis of Bengaluru (Bangalore), is at times shockingly wide. While the city takes huge strides on the global software and biotechnology stages, switchboards hum with outsourced call centre traffic, world-class medics perform miracle heart and brain surgeries, and roads grind to a halt in rush-hour traffic, much of Karnataka remains as if frozen: its red and black earth rocky and covered with scrub, its villagers' concerns wholly agrarian.

Wealth has always come and gone here: the state's interior, home to some of the earliest settlements in peninsular India, bears chastening witness to the ravages of time. The state has been seat to a roll-call of dynasties, both alien and homegrown - Hindu, Muslim, Jain, British - whose once-great cities and civilizations now stand largely in dusty ruins. As a result, it is brimming with architectural and archaeological riches: the still-emerging Vijayanagara kingdom capital of Hampi in the north; Chalukyan and Hoysala temples throughout Pattadakal, Belur and Halebid; the Islamic palaces of Tipu Sultan in the south; the onion-dome tombs of his Turkish and Persian antecedents in the far northeast; the British boulevards of Bengaluru; and the wondrous palaces of the Hindu maharajas at Mysore.

Karnataka's three great rivers, the Kaveri, Tungabhadra and Krishna, originate in the beautiful, forested hill country of the Western Ghats, the state's natural and hugely biodiverse border. Here awesome waterfalls - Jog Falls being one of the world's highest - stud the Malnad's wildlife parks. The little-visited coastline is emerald lush with river estuaries feeding unique mangrove swamps that rival Kerala's famous backwaters.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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