In the midst of communal tensions in Bangalore, the 300-year-old Karaga Utsava is ready to return.
Bangalore’s Karaga festival in Dharamaraya Swamy Temple will be back in full splendor after a two-year gap owing to Covid-19.
“The festivities will begin on April 8 which will stretch for 11 days. The Karaga will be carried by V Jnanendra this year,” said Satish, president of the Dharmaraya temple.
Member of Legislative Council, PR Ramesh who is also a member of the Karaga committee, said, “Karaga festival is the heritage of Bangalore which takes place in the heart of the city. The purpose of this festival is for the well being and prosperity of the people in Bangalore.”
The Karaga festival is held yearly in the Chaitra month (March/April) and is one of the oldest celebrations in the state of Karnataka. The name ‘Karaga’ refers to an earthen pot that holds a floral pyramid and a Goddess idol. The Karaga is worn on the bearer’s head without being touched. The bearer is dressed as a lady, with bangles, a mangal-sutra, and vermillion on his brow.
On the full moon night, this procession is done in honour of Goddess Shakti and begins at the temple about midnight. The procession returns to the temple after travelling through various roads and byways. Devotees splash turmeric water on each other to signify the end of the festivities.
Though the government relaxed the Covid-19 restrictions for other festivals, celebration of Karaga was restricted to the temple where devotees cannot participate, Ramesh added. “Now that we are free to celebrate it, people should take precautionary measures as well as government should take actions but it cannot stop the festival.”
He was not too worried about the Covid-19 scare. Satishe said, “There will be no issues as devotees won’t gather in a particular place. They will be scattered across 20 kilometres.”
The Karga also visits the Hazrat Tawakkal Mastan Dargah in Cottonpete. “Hinduism is not a caste or religion. It is a way of life. People are trying to exploit Hinduism and people who love humanity are Hindus. So this festival will not create any communal drift or any sort of problems, ” he said.
Sarita, a flower vendor, said, “For the past two years the government has not allowed any kind of business near the premises of the temple due to Covid-19. This year we are looking forward to the Karaga and the people who come from nearby villages.”
The Karaga festival should happen as it brings prosperity to the temple and city and that is the reason why the temple authorities carried on with the festivities within the premises even at the times of Covid, she said.
Vishwanath, BBMP Chief Engineer, said, “The festival of Karaga is a historic one and the devotees participating walk barefoot and there should be no garbage, stones and any other things which may harm them. We are doing a route inspection and checking the potholes and cable wires on the roads.”
According to reports, the festival is expected to attract six lakh devotees from around the city and neighboring states.