Dharwad dazzles

Deemed the cultural and academic capital of the state, Dharwad is more than just its ‘pedha’. It’s an up-and-coming tourist hub that demands the attention of every traveller, writes A Varsha Rao

Karnatak University

When one says Dharwad, all anyone can think of is the famous sweet of Dharwad pedha. But while this delicious treat is certainly Dharwad’s most famous export, the city also has many other distinctive qualities. It’s the academic and cultural hub of Karnataka, it is an up-and-coming tourist hub, and it has a history that few other cities in the state can boast of. Spread over just 200 sq km and situated at a height of 800 metres above sea level, Dharwad is where you can unearth priceless nuggets of history, stumble upon places that are not really found on any tourist’s map, indulge in some delicious jolada rotti oota, and learn about all the great singers, writers and academicians who have sprung from this beautiful city.

Where travellers rest

Thanks to its ideal location, Dharwad has always been hailed as the ideal resting place for travellers. The name is derived from the Sanskrit words: ‘dwara’, which means door, and ‘wata’, which means town. Over time, ‘Dwarawata’ became Dharwad. History suggests that Dharwad was the connecting point between Bayalu (plains) and Malenaadu (western mountains) in the state. Historically, Dharwad has been occupied by people from the early Paleolithic Age! Over time, Dharwad came to be ruled by many iconic kingdoms — Badami and Kalyani Chalukyas, Rastrakutas, Vijayanagar, Adil Shahi empire, Mysore kingdom, and the Peshwas of Pune. It was during the British rule that the city transformed into an educational hub.

Begin your Dharwad sojourn with a visit to the legendary Karnatak University. Established in 1949, this is the second-oldest university in the state, right after Mysore University. Spanning 750 acres that are dotted with lush gardens, the university’s main building is every photographer’s delight. The stone building with red domes is quite imposing and leaves one breathless with its sheer magnanimity. You could also spend a quiet evening in the garden opposite the main building in the company of students and colourful flowers, and read a book or two.

Right after SDM College is the famous Nuggikeri Hanuman Temple, about 14 km from the main city. Dedicated to Lord Hanuman, this temple has recently been renovated. The story goes that the idol of Lord Hanuman here was installed by the son of King Parikshit Maharaj, which was later destroyed by Muslim invaders. It was King Krishnadevaraya who dreamt about this demolished temple, found the idol in the Nuggikeri Lake, and reinstalled the idol. This temple is regarded as one of the oldest in the region wherein worshippers from Karnataka and Maharashtra visit throughout the year.

By the inspirational lake

Poet Da Ra Bendre's house in Dharwad
Poet Da Ra Bendre's house in Dharwad

For a cool break, head to Sadhankeri, a serene lake which also has a well-manicured garden, an amphitheatre, a toy train, a food court, and fascinating artworks. Take a boating break in the lake or just relax in the garden. Sadhankeri is also said to be the inspiration for the celebrated poet Da Ra Bendre whose house is located just opposite the lake. Even today, his house, ‘Srimata’, stands intact. Flaunting a bright orange hue, this traditional house is surrounded by a beautiful garden dotted with a memorial that holds poems Da Ra Bendre wrote for his wife. The front room of the house has all of Da Ra Bendre’s artefacts, including his Jnanpith Award. Adjacent to his home is Bendre Bhavan, a museum noteworthy for its detailed collection of rare photographs of Da Ra Bendre, a library with his books, and even a research centre. You could spend hours here, marvelling over the prolific poetry of Da Ra Bendre. Don’t forget to pick up Bendre’s works here.

Jolada rotti oota
Jolada rotti oota

To satiate your hunger pangs, head to any khanavali (mess) in the city. While the city is home to many khanavalis, Basappa Khanavali is the most popular one. With a kitchen running since 1930, Basappa Khanavali offers mouth-watering North Karnataka fare such as jolada rotti (jowar roti), ennegayi palya (brinjal curry), hesarukaal palya (sprout curry), mixed greens salad along with a variety of spicy chutneys and powders such as agasi pudi, shenga pudi, and more. 

For those who love art and architecture, Dharwad is home to many temples and forts.  Take Dharwad Fort, for example. While most of this 12th-century structure is destroyed, even its remnants have many a story to tell.

Noteworthy structures

But the real attractions of Dharwad are situated outside the city. In the Amargol town between Dharwad and Hubballi is a stunning temple dedicated to Banashankari, an avatar of Goddess Parvati. Exhibiting Nagara influence, this temple has two shrines, one housing Goddess Banashankari, and the other housing a shivalinga. Don’t miss out on the eye-catching mantapa here as it has many skillfully sculpted figures of Vishnu, Narasimha, Shiva, Parvati, and more.

Nuggikeri Hanuman Temple
Nuggikeri Hanuman Temple

Located right in the vicinity of this temple is Chandramouleshwara Temple, right on the banks of Unkal Lake. Said to be more than 900 years old, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Legends suggest that the Chalukyans built this temple overnight in order to show off their architectural prowess. However, since they couldn’t complete it by morning, the temple was left incomplete. Nevertheless, the temple is unique because of a four-faced shivalinga called Chaturmukha Linga.

After your visit to the temple, spend your evening watching the sunset at Unkal Lake, which has boating facilities, too. This popular picnic spot, spread over 200 acres, is said to be over 100 years old and also has a statue of Swami Vivekananda bang in the middle of the lake. 

If art and architecture don’t interest you, then Attiveri Bird Sanctuary is where you should be. Situated in Mundgod taluk, about 60 km from Dharwad, Attiveri Bird Sanctuary is a birdwatcher’s delight. Around 80 species of birds arrive here every year, including green bee-eater, Indian egret, little cormorant, black-headed ibis, rose-ringed parakeet and Indian pond heron. For perfect sightings, visit this bird haven between November and March.

Since Dharwad district encompasses a host of talukas such as Hubballi, Kalghatgi, Navalgund and Kundgol, there are plenty of tourist attractions to explore. There’s  Ulavi Channabasaveshwara Temple in Ulavi, Nrupatunga Betta and Siddharoodha Swamy Matha in Hubballi, Amriteshwara Temple in Annigeri,
Dattatreya Temple, and so on...

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