This is possibly the most important North Karnataka’s contribution towards Karnataka; the movement for statehood began in Dharwad, North Karnataka. Except for the Mysore kingdom, none of the current districts of North Karnataka belonged to a province where Kannada was given its due respect. The movement for a Kannada-speaking state began in the North where people were desperate to protect their language. Most of the leaders of the movement were from the North — chief among them was Aluru Venkata Rao.
Aluru Venkata Rao was a student of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and a contemporary of Veer Savarkar. Now both Lokmanya and Savarkar are national figures, but Aluru Venkata Rao is not very famous outside Karnataka. But this doesn’t matter, since he is one of the greatest Kannadigas of all time who fought for Kannada. His work Karnataka Gatha Vaibhava is a masterpiece which instilled a feeling of pride in Kannadigas who had fallen into a slumber after the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire.
Okay, enough with the sweets. Let’s sample some some mirchi (chilli) bhajji. Although not exclusive to this region, the variant found in North Karnataka is very delicious — particularly in the Hyderabad Karnataka region. Try the Gulbarga cut bhajji once — you’ll never feel the same way about this dish again.
I probably should have included this before the food… but the thought of Dharwad pedha carried me away. North Karnataka is rich in history — most of the larger and more powerful empires ruled from this area. The Kadambas ruled from Banavasi (coastal, but still part of the North), the Chalukyas from Badami.
The Rashtrakutas ruled from Manyakheta (modern-day Malkhed in Gulbarga district), the Western Chalukyas ruled from Kalyani, and the most glorious of them all — the Vijayanagara Empire — ruled from Hampi.
Apart from these, the Deccan Sultanate and the Bahmani Sultanate also left their mark on the North. Some architecture from this time includes the Gol Gumbaz of Bijapur, the Jama Masjid of Gulbarga, and the Bidar Fort.
Karnataka is famous for Carnatic music. The Northern part of the state has given us some outstanding musicians — in both the Carnatic and Hindustani styles. The legendary Dasas and Sharanas have included the likes of Purandara Dasa, Vijaya Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa, Kanaka Dasa, and Basavanna.
North Karnataka is possibly the literary hub of the Kannada language, with Dharwad being its literary capital. The legendary Pampa, Ronna, and Ranna were all from the North, as was the great Kumaravyasa. More recently, D. R. Bendre, V. K. Gokak, Girish Karnad, and Chandrashekar Kambar are all from the North.
Yashwant Sardeshpande is a famous theater artist and playwright; his plays have had more than 500 shows across Karnataka. He wrote all the dialogue for Kamal Hassan in Rama Shama Bhama. Radhika Pandit is also from Uttara Kannada district. Atul Kulkarni is from Belagavi.
The famous writer and lyricist Jayant Kaikini is from Uttara Kannada. Also, although famous director, lyricist, singer, and master of all trades Yogaraj Bhat (Bhatru) is from Udupi, he spent a large part of his life in Dharwad. Even in Telugu cinema, North Karnataka has contributed a lot. Telugu actor Srikanth is originally from Gangavati. The famous director S. S. Rajamouli was born and brought up in Raichur.
Sunil Joshi was a boy from Gadag who used to run 40 km from his village just so he could play cricket. His dedication paid off; he represented India regularly in international cricket from 1996 to 1999. Sunil Joshi is also one of the most decorated players in the Ranji Trophy and has many records to his name.
Kittur Rani Chennamma and Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna are two famous freedom fighters from Karnataka. Lieutenant General Ramesh Halagali from Bagalkot is the Deputy Chief of the Army Staff and a recipient of the Param Vishisht Seva medal.
These are just some of the contributions of North Karnataka to Karnataka and India. If you asked me the biggest contribution, I would have to say the state of Karnataka itself — the North was the backbone for the Karnataka Ekikarana Movement, and Aluru Venkata Rao was the undisputed leader of the movement.