- Oldest and most important festival in
18 days, chronicles of the Mahabharat, the Pandavas and the
Kauravas fought heroically on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
spring an echo of that grim struggle is heard in Bangalore
during Karaga, the metro’s oldest and most important
festival. Infused with mythological theme and a rich seam of
folklore, Karaga is in a sense a celebration of India’s
rich cultural and religious heritage.
The roots of Karaga go back over five centuries, and to the
Tigala community which has kept the festival alive over the
centuries. Mystery shrouds the origin of the Tigalas. By
one account, the Tigalas sprung form the lions of the sage
Angirasa whose progeny were the founders of most of the dynasties
of South India. Yet another account attributes the origin
of the Tigalas to Agani, the Goddess of fire in the Hindu
pantheon. The Puranas (scriptures) say that Draupadi emerged
as the embodiment of an ideal woman. The Tigalas, who hold
Draupadi as their principal deity, believe that Draupadi
Shakti (power) brims over during the Karaga festival.
Truly there is a power, indefinable but nevertheless pulsating
furiously as the Karaga festival, particularly the night
long procession gets underway to the throbbing of drums and cries
of dik-dhi and Govinda from the surging crowds of devotees.
The Karaga, after which the festival gets its name, is a
symbolic pyramidical floral structure, which is carried on
the head of a person selected to be the Karaga carrier. The
Karaga carrier is taken from his home by the members of the
Dharmaraya Temple, Ulsoorpet. Immediately after that, his
wife takes on the role of a widow. Her mangal-sutra (necklace
symbolizing marriage) and bangles are worn by her husband,
and she is not to see him or the Karaga until the conclusion
of the festival.
Traditionally, the festivities begin with the recitation of
mantras (incantations) and the hoisting of a ceremonial flag
on the banks of Bangalore’s Sampangi tank. On her seventh
day the Hasi-Karaga (tender Karaga) is brought from a salt
water pond near the Dharmaraya Temple. Legend has it that
the Karaga carrier while in deep meditation in the waist
deep water in the pond suddenly feels a weight on his head.
Holding the object like he would have a baby, he goes to
the Sampangi tank. Then the object is brought back to the
and placed next to the Dharmarya Temple and placed next to
the idol of Dharma. At this point it becomes the Karaga.
The festival of the Karaga is awaited by hundreds of bare
chested, dhoti-clad and turbaned veerakumaras (brave youth)
named swords. Only a member of the Tigala community can be
a veerakumara. Fire-walking, these young men dance around
while striking their blades against their bare chests. If
blood should ooze out, it is considered an indication of
the veerakumara’s failure to adhere to the ritualistic
formalities required for the occasion. Amidst fire walking
and frenzied dancing, the Karaga carrier emerges from the
temple, surrounded by the these men the Karaga balanced on
his head. For the Karaga carrier, the swords have a menacing
significance because by tradition they are supposed to stab
the Karanga carrier if he loses balance and falls. Fortunately,
this has never happened in the long history of this festival.
One of the distinctive features of the Karaga is the participation
in this festival by people of all creeds and communities.
An eloquent testimony to the secular character of this festival
is seen just before sunrise when the Karaga procession halts
before the Dargah-e-Shariff of Hazrat Takwal Mastan, the
18th century Muslim saint. According to legend, Mastan was
once hurt when he rushed to have a glimpse of the Karaga
procession. The temple priests applied kumkum (vermilion)
to his wounds. An overjoyed Mastan prayed to Draupadi that
the procession should halt at his dargah (grave) after his
death. This tradition has been maintained over the years,
giving a distinct secular flavour to the festival.
Kadalekeya Parishe (Nov-Dec)
It is celebrated at the Bull temple includes a ground nut competition.
It marks the harvest and the farmer's first collection is
offered to the Nandi.