The Festivities of Karaga

Most of us know that across the country, Bengaluruis the most famous IT hub. Despite that, the locals follow a wealthy lifestyle and traditions that exist even today. It isn’t only that capital, but also a historical metropolitan area of Karnataka. And Karaga is one of thefestivalsthat define the cultural heritage of the city and the relationship of locals with strong native culture. It is one of the oldest community festivals that unites humans across the metropolis. The name of the festival means “Ka” – without using our hands, “Ra” – bear on our head, “Ga” – transferring or moving ahead.

Karaga is the procession of Thigala network which happens in the first month of the Hindu lunar calendar (Chaitra Masa). Vanikula Kshatriya Thigalas is a network who communicates a mixture of Tamil and Kannada language. The majority of Thigala population is found in Bengaluru and other places in Karnataka.The story of the festival originates from the grand epic Mahabharata, as per which it is believed that Draupadi fought a demon known asThimarsura.  It is also believed that while Pandavas are leaving to heaven, their spouse Draupadi collapses because of weakness. Upon waking up, Draupadi sees a demon or rakshasa who tries to kill them.

To shield herself,Draupadi transforms into Adi Shakti (feminine power) and creates an army known as Veerakumaras to kill the demon. Thigalasconsiderthemselves belonging to the bloodline or family of the Veerakumaras. Thus, they worship Draupadi as a goddess.Following the battle of Veerakumaras, Draupadigets ready to head off to heaven. The Veerakumarasappeal to her to live with them. In response to their appeal, she says that she will revisit each year during the time of Karaga and gives them her blessing.

Draupadi is the top deity of Thigala community. She is visible because of the Adi Shakti – the mother of Veerakumaras. It is assumed that Draupadi visits the families of Thigalas at some stage in Karaga andKaraga celebrates the feminine power of Draupadi.Karaga is a large floral cone (pot) that is carried on the pinnacle by the high priest. The high priest who is given the task of carrying the pot has to make sure that it doesn’t drop in the procession. Several rituals are executed before the primary procession of Karaga.

Sri DharmarayaSwamy Temple

This is an exclusive temple devoted to the Pandavas. Though a lot is not known about the development of the temple, it’s far believed to be built by the Ganga Arasu people (Thigalas). It is likewise believed that the Dharmaraya Temple changed into the centre for Kempegowda’s four towers in Bangalore. The temple is stated to be 800 years old and a primary area for the Karaga competition.The priest who has to perform the rituals of the Karaga festival is chosen six months in advance. The complete ritual is executed by men. The chosen priest should be in good physical form as he has to carry the Karaga and also dance in the procession throughout the ceremony.

Preparation

The priest who acts asKaragaought to stay away fromhis relatives for the duration of six months. He must put on the Mangala (sacred thread) of his wife and shouldn’t see her until the occasion is over. This ritual means that the priest will take the female form.Karaga starts with a flag hoisting ceremony within the DharmarayaSwamy Temple in Bengaluru. Before the start of the festival, various events take place in the temple like HasiKaraga, where the central pot is taken from the Sampangi water tank, the lamp lighting, mantras chanting, PongaluSeve, Vasanthotsava, etc. On the main day, the Karaga bearer wears a saree and dresses in all the jewellery like a goddess. The floral pot is placed on the head and the Veerakumaras (four men) keeping the swords follow the priest through the procession.

The Veerakumaras chant ‘Govinda..Govinda..Di..Di..Di..’ for the duration of the procession. They chant this to celebrate the day on whichAdi Shakti destroyed the demon.The main priest keeping the Karaga on his head dances around during the entire course of the procession, which begins in the night. Many tourists and locals come here to see this extravaganza.

Some Interesting Facts

The procession first goes to the Mastan Saab Dargah and from there, it goes around town visiting different temples on the way.The Karaga demonstration visits many temples on its way around Chikkapete, Thigalarapete, Balepete, etc., the districts of Bengaluru. In the end, it comes to Sri DharmarayaSwamy Temple.To witness this magnificent event, many tourists and locals from across the nation come to Bengaluru regardless of their caste or religion.        

- Krishna