After the introduction of Palace on Wheels by RTDC, the era of luxury trains started in India. Building on the success of the pioneer in the industry, Karnataka State Government was inspired to build a similar train to express the pride and beauty of the state. This led to the first luxury train of Southern India, The Golden Chariot.
In 2002, the idea of the Golden Chariot train came into development by a MOU signed by KSTDC (Karnataka State Tourism and Development Corporation) and Ministry of Indian Railways. The train was named as Golden Chariot after the iconic stone chariots of Hampi, the ancient city of Vijayanagar reign.
The developers and creators of Palace on Wheels was the Integral Factory coach of India, ICF. They were chosen for designing and manufacturing Golden Chariot, too. The design task was overlooked by KSTDC. The experts came up with 900 different design layouts and one design was chosen out of the lot. It took around four months for Kusum Pendse, the head architect to design the coaches along with the crew of more than 200 carpenters. The entire process of the manufacturing was kept away from media. The project was under veil and the public were not made aware of the color or even the logo of the train, until 60 days prior to the launch.
The train was taken out on the tracks on 23rd of January, 2008. The train came out with a vibrant combination of purple and gold. The logo of the train was a mythological character, which has the head of an elephant and the body of a lion. The color purple represented the elegance and refinement of the culture of the land and the gold represented the 50th anniversary of Karnataka (Golden Jubilee).
The traditional ceremonial flag-off was given to the train on 2nd Feb, 2008. The presidential flag-off was presented by Pratibha Devi Singh Patil, the then-president of India. The train rolled out of Yashwanthpur Railway Station. Today, it is the starting and ending points of the signature itinerary of Golden Chariot.
The maiden journey started on 10th March, 2008. The train's first voyage started in Bangalore and ended in Goa, connecting numerous cultural and historic destinations along the way. The hospitality service inside the train was outsourced to Mapple Group, a leading chain of hotels and resorts in India.
The maiden itinerary took a lot of changes and two special itineraries were introduced, namely the Pride of South and Splendor of the South. These two itineraries covered numerous attractions in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, and Pondicherry. Later, in the end of 2019, a single signature itinerary was proposed covering Karnataka and Goa. The signature itinerary was named, ‘Pride of Karnataka’.
Today, the train is run as a joint venture of IRCTC and Karnataka State Tourism and Development Corporation. It serves a signature itinerary of seven days and six nights covering eminent destinations like Bandipur, Mysore, Chikmagalur, Halebidu, Badami, Hampi, and Goa. The itinerary starts and ends in Bengaluru.