Trayaan - Travel, Wander, Live - A unique travel experiences and perspectives blog
Thank You for printing! Visit for more!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Ruins of Barkur, the ancient capital of the Tulu kingdom

Near Udupi and Kundapur, in Karnataka

Kattale Basadi in Barkur, near Udupi, an ancient Jain temple, or basadi in Karnataka, Udupi district - One of the ancient ruins and structures in Karnataka, India

We visited Barkur, the ancient capital of the Tulu kingdom or Tulu Nadu, which has a glorious historical background, and one of the several places where only a fraction of the ancient structures still remain.

It was one of those days when you have some free time on your hand but not a clue what to do with it. Having a camera in our hands, having nothing better to do that day, we set on a photographic road trip right away. Old temples carved out of rock or historic ruins are often picturesque and are of some interest to me as they have a heritage and cultural significance. Riding along NH 17 (new number: NH 66), I remembered being to Barkur very long back in my childhood, but could not remember much about the temples there.

A long drive on NH 17 (new number: NH 66) and a right turn at Brahmavar led Shrihas and me to the small town Barkur, after crossing River Seetha. Getting some nice snaps for my photoblog Prachitra was the actual intention of this road trip. Just as we entered the small town, we came upon a very old mandapa (a pavilion) made of granite slabs, at the main crossroads in the town.

Barkur, the ancient capital of the Tulu Kingdom

Barkur was an ancient city, and was the ancient capital of the Tulu kingdom. It was known as Barakanur, and was once a major trade and commercial centre around 2nd century CE. Barkur was a capital of the Alupa Kings and also a provincial headquarters during the Vijayanagara period. It was a capital city in those times, which was developed much before Mangalore and Udupi. All that remain now of that historical city are just some ruins scattered all around Barkur.

Kattale Basadi Group of Temples

Enquiring the locals, we came to the place with the old temple with a sign board of Kattale Basadi, literally meaning the Dark Temple. A Jain Temple is also called as a Basadi. We entered the temple group, with the Kattale Jain Basadi in the front, and two small temples behind it, one a Shiva temple and another a Vaishnava temple. There is a small Nandi carved out of granite, before the Shiva temple. Nandi is the guardian deity of Kailasa, Lord Shiva's abode. These are declared as National Monuments by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Carvings on the 20-feet monolithic pillar before Kattale Basadi
Carvings on the 20-feet monolithic pillar before Kattale Basadi

Kattale Basadi, Barkur, Udupi, Karnataka, India
Kattale Basadi

These monuments are dated to sometime around 12th century CE, according to the Archaeological Survey of India. [1]

All three temples are in a walled compound built around it for its protection, along with some other structures inside, and a 20 feet monolithic stone pillar at the entrance. These temples are not architecturally very orante and have minimal carvings, designs or ornamentations on the stones. The exterior walls are mostly plain with minimal carvings. But they are of historical significance as Barkur was an ancient city, and was the ancient capital of the Tulu kingdom.

The sad part is, there was no one to look after these national monuments, and some people were even playing cards, hiding behind one of the temple structures. There was a compound made all around, some little restoration works on the temples, but the grass grown interiors did not see maintenance since months (or years). There was grass and moss grown on Kattale temple too. This may be a very small place with small ruined temple structures, not very picturesque, but it is still a national and cultural heritage with thousands of years of history, and truly deserves better maintenance.

We came out after getting some snaps of the temples and other structures in there. Then, we sat by a small lake, or rather, a pond for some time. There is a carved stone pillar just beside the pond (see image below), but no information whatsoever about it. This is the Chaulikeri Ganapathy temple pond.

After having some paan* at the small shop opposite to this pond, we visited the Chaulikeri Ganapathy temple nearly opposite to the pond. This ~900 year old temple has very interesting slanted stone roofing. This temple is functional even today.

*Paan is a something which is chewed and consumed prepared with betel leaf and areca-nut with some chuuna (slaked lime). There are many varieties and flavours of paan, some of which include tobacco.

“There is a temple in ruin stands, Fashion'd by long forgotten hands: Two or three columns, and many a stone, Marble and granite, with grass o'ergrown!”
- Lord Byron (in: Siege of Corinth)

The Fort that wasn't there!

We then randomly asked people around for any more worth visiting places of heritage; one person mentioned of a fort, and said it was visible on the left side of the road. Some good pictures, I thought, as forts make quite good pictures. But it was somewhat a wild goose chase, as we couldn't actually find it as per the directions given by that fellow.

Finally, after searching for the fort upto three to four kilometers, disappointed, we came all the way back. Just as we were nearing the town, we asked another fellow and grabbing more accurate location, zeroed in on the “fort” location. There was quite a large grass grown land, which looked like some local unmaintained cricket ground, only without a pitch. But we still couldn’t see any fort or any ruined structure where the guy said the fort was.

As we stood there wondering about the fort, one guy who walked past us said that we were standing right inside it! So, this local cricket ground with overgrown grass filling it was the “fort”! It might have been a fort in some age, but now if anyone simply goes and stands there, it wouldn’t appear as a fort even in his wildest dreams.

There seemed to be a ruined wall or something surrounding this huge “ground”, below that thick shroud of grass, which had to be walls of the fort. Even the stones of the so called walls were not visible, or were perhaps hiding underneath the thick grass (see it on the google map satellite imagery below.

When seen from the satellite-eye perspective, it does appear there had been some fort in its place which is now totally ruined). No wonder we couldn’t make it out even though we went past it a couple of times. Well, so much for the “fort”, we thought, wasting around half an hour searching for it. If you happen to be at Barkur, and someone refers you to the “fort”, avoid it, unless you are an investigative archaeologist unearthing or restoring totally ruined structures, or someone that interested in historical ruins. But jokes apart, there should have been some effort to do some restoration; at least a sign board could have been put. This is caertainly not the way to maintain any place with such historical significance.

This wasn’t a planned trip anyway. We just went there without knowing anything about that place. As Marlon Brando once said, “We don’t go anywhere. Going somewhere is for squares. We just go!” These setbacks on our so called photographic road trip didn’t stop us, and we decided to head to some beach. It was nearly 5, and was just enough time to make it to Maravanthe beach around sunset, where NH 17 (new number: NH 66) passes between a river and the sea. All that next time, until then, over and out!

Tips for travellers


Barkur is of historical significance. If you are passing by NH17 (new number: NH 66) between Udupi and Kundapur, and are interested in ancient ruins and the history and legacy of the region, this place might be of interest to you.

Temples like the Chaulikeri Ganapathi Temple (~900 year old), and the Mudikeri Someswara temple (~700 year old) still exist, with ongoing worship even to this day, and they're worth the visit, if you like visiting places of heritage and cultural significance. We did not visit the Mudikeri Someshwara temple, as we didn't know about it on the day of our visit.

Barkur is near to the town of Udupi, which is about 19 kilometers away. When you're in Udupi, you could plan for a brief visit to Barkur if you can spare some time. There are some small restaurants here. The town of Udupi has a variety of choices for food and accommodations.

This place and the surroundings are full of Coastal Karnataka's lush greenery, and you wouldn't be disappointed if you love natural surroundings and fresh air.

You can choose to visit Barkur on the way to Kundapura, or the famous Trasi - Maravante beach, as Barkur is situated almost between Udupi and Kundapur.


There isn't much for sightseeing here. Out of the ~365 temples that once existed according to history and legends, most of them are completely ruined and nonexistent today, due to negligence and natural calamities.

The small temples in the Kattale temple group are the only ruins well preserved compared to the other ruins, and as for the grass grown fort, you wouldn’t know it even if you are standing right inside it (see how it looks on the map below).

This place is listed in several tour guide books of places of interest around Mangalore and Udupi. Of course, this place has much historical legacy and significance, but there isn’t much to see here if viewed from a regular tourist's perspective, unless you've got an authetic guide along with you. Not worth a long journey unless you are really interested in history and ancient ruins. You won’t get any guides here.

Except the Kattale temple group, we did not see any sign board accompanying any of the artefacts or ruined structures scattered elsewhere. As of now, this is certainly not a place for the leisurely sightseeing tourist, unless one is already at Udupi, and has some interest and time to spare.

Location Map

View Barkur, Udupi district, Karnataka, India in a larger map
Get Directions to Barkur from your place of choice
Note: The directions will open up with Google Maps in a new tab.

External Links:
Below are links to a short and nice video documentary on Barkur, with more information, that we found on Youtube. It comes in two parts and contains additional information:

[1] Barkur a forgotten chapter Part 1 of 2 on Youtube
[2] Barkur a forgotten chapter Part 2 of 2 on Youtube

References and useful external links for further reading

Related Stories about Barkur on other Web Sites:

Cite This

"Ruins of Barkur, the ancient capital of the Tulu kingdom", by Pradeep Hegde, on Trayaan ( . Published on Tuesday, January 15, 2013.
Permalink :

The Latest from Trayaan, in your Inbox
Subscribe to Trayaan by e-mail

Follow us on