Karaga Festival of Bengaluru: All you need to know

ByYamini C S
Mar 23, 2022 06:35 PM IST

The celebrations will start on April 8 this year, and end with a night-long procession for the first time in three years.Karaga is an annual celebration of Draupadi, the community deity of the Vanihikula Kshatriyas, who honor her as the ideal woman representing woman power.

The Karaga festival is one of the oldest festivals celebrated in the state of Karnataka with a history of over 300 years. It will be held from April 8 to April 18 this year and end with a night-long procession, which was skipped for the last two years amid raging COVID-19 cases. 

Devotees from the Thigala community performing rituals on the occasion of Karaga at Dharmaraya Swamy Temple in Bengaluru. (Arijit Sen/HT Photo)
Devotees from the Thigala community performing rituals on the occasion of Karaga at Dharmaraya Swamy Temple in Bengaluru. (Arijit Sen/HT Photo)

The festival is celebrated annually in March or April, or in the Chaitra month according to the Hindu calendar.

Depicting the cultural and religious heritage of Karnataka, the festival is particularly associated with the Thigala community, a Tamil social group found in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, particularly in the city of Bengaluru and in Southern Karnataka.

However, the Karaga attracts lakhs of devotees and tourists from different parts of the city. The festival runs for 11 days and is a celebration of rituals and traditions that have their origin in the epic Mahabharata, particularly in the stripping of Draupadi, the exile of the Pandavas and the death of Draupadi's sons at the hands of Ashwathama. 

The festival celebrates and honors Draupadi as the ideal woman and the Goddess of Strength (Shakti), as she emerged as a symbol of strong and ideal womanhood after all the trials and tribulations she was put through.

The meaning of 'Karaga' is a mud pot. Therefore, a mud pot is carried on the head of a bearer on which a tall floral pyramid and an idol of the Goddess is balanced. The contents of the pot have remained a secret for centuries. 

The bearer, clad with woman's attire, should balance the Karaga on his head without touching it. His arrival at the festival is announced by hundreds of ‘veerakumaras’, who are clad in dhotis and turbans, bearing unsheathed swords.

The bearer's wife takes on the role of a widow at the festival. Her mangalsutra and bangles are worn by her husband throughout the festival and she barred from seeing him or the Karaga until the end of the festival.

Every year, the festival takes place at the Dharmaraya Swamy Temple in Thigalarpet, Bengaluru. This night-long procession, which is said to be the highlight of the festival, is held on the full moon night and starts from the temple around midnight.

To mark the end of the celebrations, devotees splash turmeric water on each other and immerse the Karaga in the salt water pond from which it was brought the next day.

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