Karaga Festival is one of the most important and oldest festivals of Bangalore. It thrives with rich history and unites people from different religions for the celebration. It’s a traditional festival for the Thigala community in Karnataka and the festival is always led by men in the community.
History of Karaga Festival
The history of Karaga festival dates back to five centuries and is a festival in honor of Adhisakthi Draupadi. According to ancient stories, it is believed that Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas took the form of Shakthi Devi to kill the demon Tripurasura. She created Veerakumaras that was a huge army of soldiers to defeat the evil demon. The soldiers made a request to Shakthi Devi to be with them and she gave them the promise that she would come before them and stay with them on the first month of Hindu calendar at the period of first full moon. And, the Thilagas consider them as descendents of the soldiers and hence celebrate the day as Karaga. Karaga is a derivation of KA (without touching in hand), RA (bearing on the head) and GA (moving ahead) which means the participants of the festival take the deity on their heads without touching it.
Karaga Festival Highlights
Karaga is celebrated as women power and the carrier of karaga dresses up as a female and it is taken as a symbolization of Draupadi. The Karaga starts from the Dharmaraya Swamy Temple and devotees follow through the night offering prayers. Also, people sing devotional songs and mantras waiting in the temple for the return of the Karaga. People in the community follow an 11 day Vratha and different rituals are performed on these days.
Dwajarohana – The karaga festival starts with hoisting of a yellow flag inside the temple on a bamboo pole on the night of Saptami. The Sampangi Tank in Bangalore is chosen for taking the sediment needed for making Hasi Karaga. The chief of the community brings the karaga to the temple and the priest starts the Utsava of Arjuna and Draupadui after Shuddi Kaarya. Following this, the devotees wear a holy band called Janivara and a sacred thread called Kankana to start the religious practice. Days 2 to 6 have the aarti’s in the evening time.
Shuddi Karya – It is a purification act to receive the Goddess with a Holy bath and Trishula, Kalasha and Ghante accompany this practice.
Aarathi Utsava – This takes place on the 6th day of the festival and is called the festival of lights. The entire place is made sacred by taking idols of Potha raja and Trishula with number of poojas.
The aarathi is prepared by ladies and the vessel is decorated with flowers and has lamps with rice and jiggery placed on it. Women take this on their heads and move to the temple. On the 7th days, women get to the temple by 3AM and perform Pradakshana. Following this, children exhibit their talents and around 6AM the Maha Mangalarathi takes place.
The 7th day of the festival features the goddess completely ready for the marriage. On this day the Hasi karaga is brought to the temple and kept next to Dharma idol and it is considered as the karaga. The Wives of karthas do Pongal Seve on the 8th day.
Karaga Shakthyotsava – The goddess and the murtis are taken from Shakthipeeta to temple and prayers are offered by the karthas.
On the 10th day, Draupadi, Arjuna and Potharaja are taken and devotees chant mantras. Recitation to potharaja is done till 3 AM and the poojaris chant mantras. On the 11th day, the carriers balance the karaga on their head and go to the house of veerakumaras for pujas and finally returns to the temple and in the morning the veerakumaras return the thread and the band marking the completion of the vratha.
It’s a trademark in Bangalore and unites people from different religions and communities.