Most of the area is a plateau (alt. 1,000–3,000 ft/305–915 m) traversed by the upper Kaveri, Tunga, and Bhadra rivers, flowing east. These plus its many other rivers are used for irrigation and hydroelectric power generation. Coffee is the major crop, but cotton, millet, sugarcane, rice, and fodder are also grown. The state has the most valuable sandalwood forests in India. Karnataka produces nearly all of India's chromite and has considerable deposits of iron ore and manganese. The gold mines at Kolar are now closed, but some gold is still mined near Hutti. There is an excellent road and railway system, and the state manufactures steel and steel products, computer components and software, automobiles, and airplanes. At Karwar is a major modern Indian naval base. The population is largely Hindu and speaks Kannada (Kanarese). The linguistic uniformity of the state and its excellent education system contribute to one of India's highest literacy rates. Karnataka is governed by a chief minister and cabinet responsible to a bicameral legislature (with one elected house) and by a governor appointed by the president of India.
The region was part of the empire of the Mauryas (c.325–185 BC). From the 3d to the 11th cent. it was ruled by the Kadambas, Western Gangas, Chalukyas, and others. In 1313 it was conquered by the Delhi Sultanate, but it was soon lost to the Vijayanagar kingdom. The area was the site of some the earliest European settlements in India. In the late 18th cent. the Muslim leaders Haidar Ali and his son, Tippoo Sahib, conquered the Hindu rulers of the kingdom of Mysore, but were defeated in 1799 by the British, who restored the Hindu dynasty and thereafter provided protection. In 1947 the state of Mysore acceded to the Indian Union. For centuries Kannada-speaking peoples had been fragmented by division into different regions; in the 1950s Mysore was granted additional territories, doubling its area and largely consolidating the linguistic group. In 1973 the state was renamed Karnataka.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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