Located about 380 km from Bangalore, Karkala is a small town in the southern state of Karnataka. It is the headquarters of Karkala Taluk, which is part of the Udupi District in the state of Karnataka. Karkala lies near the Western Ghats and has an average elevation of 81 m.
The existence of Karkala dates back to the 10th century when it was ruled by the Alupas. In the following years, Karkala was passed on to the Santaras, Bhairarasa Odeyas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagaras, Bhairavas and Pandyas. The Pandya kings ruled over the town of Karkala for more than 300 years.
During the reign of the Pandyas, the town was named as Pandya Nagri. Afterwards, the name was changed to Karikallu, which is derived from the Tulu term kari-kal, meaning black stone. It was named so as this area had black granite in abundance. Over time, the name changed to Karla, Karkal and then Karkala.
A town of historical importance, Karkala has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It also holds religious importance as one of the holiest Jain teerthas and a major centre for Hindu pilgrims. Another major attraction of Karkala is the famous Mahamastakabhisheka festival, which is held once every 12 years.
The culture of Karkala is characterised with folk arts like Yakshagana, which is a night-long dance and drama performance. Other unique folk dance forms of Karkala are Hulivesha (Tiger Dance) and Karadi Vesha (Bear Dance), which are performed during Dussehra. Bhoota Nrutya is also an essential part of Karkalas culture.
The nearest airport to Karkala is in Mangalore, which is located 52 km away. Those travelling by train can get down at the Indrani station (29 km) in Udupi, which is the closest railhead to Karkala. Roads also link Karkala to other parts of the country. The best time to visit Karkala is from September to March.