The fascinating fairs and festivals of Karnataka are a celebration of life in all its infinite variety. Reverberating with color and gaiety, many of them are exclusive to the state. In fact, nearly every hamlet and village, every town and city has its own calendar of events to be celebrated.
This festival commemorates the victory of Godess Chamundi over the demon Mahishasura. In Mysore, the parade of caparisoned elephants and soldiers in ceremonial attire winding their way from the brightly illuminated Mysore Palace gates to Bani Mantap, together with the pomp and music, creates a wondrous kaleidoscope of color and sound. The highlight of the Dussehra festivities in Madikeri, Coorg is a procession of beautifully-lit temple cars vying for the coveted prize of best-decorated car.
Hampi Festival (Vijaya Utsav)
Ever year, the ruins at Hampi come alive with the strains of classical music and dance when it hosts the Vijaya Utsav to recreate the grandeur of the erstwhile Vijayanagar Empire. Similar festivals are held at Halebid, Pattadakal. Karavalli and Lakkundi.
It is believed that during this festival, Goddess Cauvery appears in the form of a sudden upsurge of water in a small tank in Coorg to give darshan to her devotees’ gathered there. This event is known as Theerthodbhava.
The sleepy town of Melkote comes alive during the annual Vairamudi festival when the deity at the hill shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu is adorned with a legendary diamond-studded crown brought from the Mysore-Palace. This event is part of the 10-day long Brahmaotsavam festivities.
Kambala (Buffalo Race)
The kambala buffalo race in rural southern coastal Karnataka originated as a royal pastime and was later continued by the feudal lords of the Tulu Region. The event features water buffalos racing down a slushy track, egged on by a farmer balancing precariously on a wooden plank trailing behind the beasts. A riot of color and frenzied cheering mark this annual sporting event where the prizes go to the swiftest.
Buffalo racing season: From November to March in Baradi Beedu, Bolantur, Kolatta Majalu, Bajagoli, Puttur, Kamalakatte, Uppinangadi and Kolakebylu.
Vasantha Habba (Spring Festival)
Each year, Nrityagram Dance Village, founded by the late Odissi dancer, Protima Gauri Bedi, comes alive during Vasantha Habba. This is a nightlong celebration of dance and music featuring some of India’s most renowned performing artists.
This is a 9-day tradition started and sustained by a Tamil-speaking community of gardeners called Thigalars. Karaga is held at the Dhamaraya Swamy Temple in Bangalore. Just after dusk on the karaga day, a priest dressed in female attire leads a spectacular procession to the accompaniment of dazzling swordplay by dhoti-clad, bare-chested Thigalars. On his head, he carries a flower-bedecked pyramid. A unique feature of karaga is the unbroken tradition of visiting the tomb of an 18th century Muslim saint every year.
Popularly known as the ‘Groundnut Festival’, the Kadalekayi Parishe welcomes the first yield of the groundnut crop. Karnataka’s farmers congregate at the Bull Temple each year to seek blessings for a good harvest. Heaps of different varieties of groundnuts spring up in the area surrounding the Bull Temple, the Dodda Ganesha Shrine and the Bugle Rock Park in Basavanagudi, Bangalore.
Month: November/ December.
This harvest festival, literally meaning ‘new rice crop’, is celebrated in Coorg when the paddy is ready to be harvested in the months of November or December. The ceremonial cutting of the new paddy crop by the head of the family falls on a full-moon night and is accompanied by chants of “ Poli. Poli Deva” (increase, increase, O God!). A single gunshot is fired to summon Lord Iguthappa, the presiding deity of the Kodava people.
Month: November/ December.
The annual temple festival at the village temple in Banashankari is more than a religious event. During this time, the streets around the temple are taken over by a huge fair thronging with vibrant colors, gaiety and thousands of devotees.
Month: February- March.
Once in 12 years the tranquil jain pilgrim centre in Shravanabelagola is transformed into a throbbing city with millions of devotees converging to participate in the spectacular ceremonies for the Mahamastakabisheka (sacred head-anointing ceremony).
It is one of the most thrilling acts of worship seen anywhere in the world with devotees bathing the magnificent 18m high statue of Lord Bahubali atop of the th Vibdhyagiri hillock with hundreds of liters of milk, sugarcane juice, pastes of saffron and sandalwood, followed by a torrent of coconut, turmeric, saffron and vermillion powder. Offerings also include showers of precious gems, coins and gold and silver petals. In a fitting finale to the grand proceedings, a helicopter flies over the statue showering the choicest flowers on Lord Bahubali.
This event commemorates the first Mahamasthakabhisheka performed in 981 A.D., by Chavundraya- Prime Minister of the erstwhile Ganga kingdom.