The 11 day Karaga Festival officially flagged off on 29 March 2023 on the auspicious day of Chaitra Poornima and will culminate on April 8th. Over 6 lakh people are likely to participate. We at Heritage Beku are agog to know more about this wonderful city festival,
We invited our fellow member, and famed Historian, author and artist Suresh Jayaram to take us through this most vibrant and well known cultural heritage of Bangalore and the 800 year tradition of the Karaga Jatre or Festival. An expert on the Karaga and as part of the Thigala community, he add a unique insight into an ancient and vibrant jaatre. The Jatre procession and map (courtesy Varsha Raju) is below
Restarted in 2022 after a 2 year Covid hiatus, the rich, colourful and energetic festival resonates with all Bangaloreans, as it winds it way through the Pete. It's interesting that the eleven day festival worships water , the mother goddess and quietly celebrates harmony as well.
The stories and history behind this extraordinary age old, annual event and the community of Thigalas that have carried on tradition, merits repeating. Would you care to listen ?
Then click link below and tune in !
The Karaga Route
An illustrative map of the pete area indicating the Gange puje locations, karaga procession route and the locations where the Karaga stops on the Pete Karaga night Map courtesy: Varsha Raju
Citizen Matters : Manasi Paresh Kumar on the flow of the 11 day festival
Day 1: Choosing the flag pole
The eleven Day festival begins with what the community call the ‘patta kurisdo’ in Kannada. A flag is hoisted to mark the beginning of the festival in the premises of the Dharamrayana gudi, the 1800-year-old temple built by the Ganga dynasty. The most important ritual is the erecting of flag pole which is a single bamboo which is called Pattada Maara. One family, which lives in the Jaraganhalli (the man wouldn’t reveal their identity) is entrusted with finding the greenest and sturdiest bamboo which is usually sourced from the Bannerghatta Forest. It needs to have 32 knots (markings) or more on it in an even number.
They identify it a few weeks before, conduct pujas, before bringing it to the temple that morning. The flag represents Lord Krishna, who Draupadi had prayed for help. After a procession is taken out with the statues of Arjuna and Adi Shakti in the night, the Bamboo stalk that is brought in that morning is erected in the premises.
Day 2: Gange Puje at Kanteerava Stadium
The first Gange Puje happens at noon at the Karagada Kunte or Koti Bavi near sports academy in Cubbon Park. It was also called the Uppinaneerina Kunte because the water was salty and was massive water body that spread across acres at one time. Today you have look for it because there is no water, though the horticulture department maintains the surroundings well. Previously the water came to it through the kaluves which have now been built upon so there is no inflow of water. So a cement tank was built near it, to continue the tradition.
Says Devendra: “My family is incharge of the logistics of the puje here. The second Gange Puje happens at a pond near Pallavi theatre, known as Hasi Karaga Da Kana. The original spot for this was at Yellamma Temple behind Woodlands hotel, which was earlier surrounded by agricultural fields and wells. But when the temple was closed for renovations for years, it was moved to Hasi Karagada Kunte. We still go back to the Yellamma temple for the symbolic significance it holds but there is only one well in the premises today. We then go to the yelusuttina kote near Corporation before heading to the main temple for the talige or prasada which is pongal. The visit to the Yelusuttinakote happens everyday except the day of Gange Puje at Gavipuram.”
Day 3: Gange Puje at Shantinagar
The current BMTC depot near Shantinagar was once home to Ammachammana Bavi and surrounded by fields that was owned by members of the community grew vegetables. The Gange Puje on the third day would happen there. But since it was closed down, it has now moved to a place called Huvina Thota near Purnima Theatre. After that it goes to the Mahabaleshwara temple, before going to the Dharamarayana Gudi.
Day 4: Gange Puje at Mavalli
Before it all turned into nurseries, Siddapura near Lalbagh was also filled with agricultural lands and wells to irrigate it. But as the city grew, this changed and now the Gange Puje of the fourth day is done at Mavalli. The Maramma Temple is where it begins before moving on to a well in a private house in the area to perform the Gange Puje. Mercifully the well is still full of water, says Devendra.
Day 5: Gange Puje at Gavipuram
On the fifth day, the Gange Puje is done at Gavipuram. The Khoday family which manages a kalyana mantapa in the area have maintained a pond, or a kalayani in its premises where the Karaga Gange puje rituals are allowed.
Day 6: Gange Puje at Majestic
The Dodda Annamma Temple opposite Kapali Theatre at Majestic used to have two or three ponds in its premises where Gange Puje was conducted. Today there nothing but a man-made cement tank with a tap. Devendra says: “Not much can be done. We can’t let go of our customs so we had to adapt. But it definitely hurts to remember the kalayanis that I had gone to as a boy during these prayers.” In the evening, the Aarti Deepa is conducted for the women of Thigala community at the Dharamarayan gudi. Since this is a festival celebrating divinity of women (though most of the rituals are done by men) there are a few worhsips that are entirely the ladies bastion.
Day 7: Gange Puje at Hasi Karagada Kunte, Sampangirama Nagar
The Gange Puje is done at the Hasi Karagada Kunte again in preparation for the evening when the Hasi Karaga actually happens at around 3 am in the morning. This is one of the most protected secrets of the Karaga though there is a crowd of thousands who gather to see it. A pot of water is brought to the temple from here, decorated with a red cloth and kept at the Dharamrayana Gudi which eventually becomes the Karaga.
There are many legends associated with the ritual. Some say that at one time, the pot contained water from the seven kalayanis and kuntes where the Gange Puje was done. “But if we were to follow that today, all the water comes from tankers, so we may be getting it from just one source,” laughs Devendra. They also have another ritual called “gaavu hidiyodu” which is a symbolic ritual of sacrifice (not an animal sacrifice) to ward of evil spirits.
Day 8: Gange Puje at Kalasipalya
The Mariswamappa Mutt at Kalasipalya which now houses the new vegetable market is home to the family to who Pehlwan Lakhman and Narayana belonged to. They organise the Gange Puje at the Mutt which has a well in its premises. The Puje happens under the Sampige tree in the premises. Then they head to the Muneshwara Temple which is also in Kalasipalyam. This space holds a special space in the community because all the last rites for Thigalas after a death are conducted here.
Day 9: Hasi Karaga
The Gange Puje is back again at the Hasi Karaga Kunte for the third time in the morning. In the evening is the main Huvina Karaga procession. So Gange Puje is very special that day. “The reason we go there three times is because it is the doorway to the city through which Adi Shakti came to us. It is a called oorina bagilu. It is the most sacred spot for Karaga and we go back there before before the main procession of the night that most people come to see,” says Devendra. The procession goes on till the wee hours of the morning before the Karaga returns to the temple having gone through the route where it visits temples and a mosque en-route.
Day 10: Final ‘Karaga’
The Huvina Karaga goes on till the wee hours of the morning and returns to Dharamrayana Gudibefore sunrise. (The controversy this year over the change of the Karaga bearer was amplified because the Karaga started at 3.45 am and could not complete the journey before the sun rose). After the procession is done, the community then ends it with “gaavu” or sacrifice that starts on Day seven. There is a Vasanthothsava that follows that evening.
Day 11: It’s curtains down