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The word "Dharwad" means a place of rest in a long travel. Dharwad acted as a gateway between Malenaadu and Bayalu seeme and it became a resting place for the travelers. One of the theory is, during Vijaya Nagara rule of Dharwad, there was a ruler by name of "Dharav" (1403 AD) and Dharwad got its name from him. Some inscriptions that refer to Dharwad as Kampa Na Sthana. The inscription found by the Durga Devi Temple, in Narendra (near by a village). Dharwad existed in 12th century it is now atleast 900 years old.
Dharwad was ruled by Chalukyas in 12 th century. A stone of inscription indicates that the ruler by the name of Bhaskara Deva in 1117 AD. Later Dharwad became a part of the Vijayanagara empire. Then the fall of the Vijayanagara empire (1453 AD), Bijapur's Adil Shah captured Dharwad and built a fort. The area of the fort was called Manna Kille, and later became Nazartabad. Within this fort, the strategic importance of Dharwad increased and became part of everyone's empire, Auranjeb, Shivaji, Auranjeb's son Mu Azam, Peshwe Balaji Rao, Hidar Ali, Tipu Sultan and finally British.
During 19th century, the British were expanding their kingdom, they faced a lot of opposition from the rulers. To mention two of them, Baba Saheb of Naragund and Kittur Rani Chennamma. Dharwad was peaceful for much part in the 19th century.During those times, the British started English Medium school in Darwad in 1848 and in 1856, started town municipality. In 1863, the Bassel Mission started another school, and in 1867 British opened another school, Varmal school, which later became known as Training college. In 1883, the area of municipality included Lakamanhalli, Bagtalan, Sidapur, Haveri Pete, Madihal, Galaganjikop, Malapur, Kamalapur, Narayanpur, Saptapur, Atti kolla and Hosayellapu. In 1888 the British government established the Railway Station.