The ancient Buddhist movement in Karnataka left behind some of its finest archeological remains here though the movement itself was short-lived in comparison with that of the rest of South India. Buddhism reached Karnataka in its very early phase itself, as most of Karnataka was under the direct rule of Emperor Ashoka. Two stupas built by Ashoka with the relics of the Buddha and many Ashokan rock edicts adorned this land. Many of the early dynasties in Karnataka such as Satavahanas, Chutus, Badami Chalukyas, Western Gangas, Pallavas, Kadamabas and Rashtrakutas were supportive of the Buddhist movement. Remains of some Mahayana monasteries from the Ganga period were discovered in South Karnataka recently. Chalukyas were also supportive at least during their initial period, and the structure of an ancient monastery stands even now in Aihole, North Karnataka. Alupas of coastal Karnataka also patronized Buddhism.
The main schools of Buddhism in Karnataka were Mahiśāsaka (a Sanskrit-school of Hinayana, a sub-school of Sarvastivadin), Mahayana and Vajrayana. Buddhism declined in Karnataka by 7th Century CE during the later part of Chalukya rule. However, Vajrayana Buddhism continued in pockets till the 12th Century, as is evident from the inscriptions and some fine sculptures obtained from the Coastal and Central Karnataka.
Soon to come
- Sannati Stupa
- Ashokan sites of Karnataka