DANCE of KARAGA to the rhythmic chorus song from Veerakumaras.
Bengaluru Karaga is one of the oldest festivals that involve Hindus, Muslims, Jains and Weaver community. The festival is celebrated on Chaitramasa Purnima (Today). It is a festival pertaining to TIGALA (“Ti” in Tamil is fire) community who are the decedents of Draupadi. They are called Vanniyakula Kshatriyas (Vanni means fire) Draupadi is born out of fire. Karaga is a Shakti Upasana.
Video of the KARAGA leaving Dharmaraya Temple
Here is a narration of history of birth of Draupadi and how Karaga originated. Lord Shiva sat in solitary meditation in Himalayas after the Sati episode. Meanwhile Sati was born as the daughter of Himavanta and wished to marry Lord Shiva. In order to achieve the goal she sat and meditated upon Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva was please by her penance and appeared before her and asked her to request for a boon. Stunned Parvati repeats her request “Patim Dehi” (Give me Husband) five times. Lord Shiva blesses her. Now it was that she would have five husbands.
Parvathi gets to know that in her boon she has in fact asked for five husbands. She asks Lord for a solution. Lord Shiva tells her, “Marital relations are for earthly beings and hence only for Earth. I have granted you your wish, now it is up to you to decide whether you want to spend Five birth with five husbands or to accept the trials and tribulations of being the wife of five husbands in one birth.
Parvathi replies, “Instead of being away from the Lord's presence for five births, I prefer one birth with five husbands, but I want my husbands to be in the righteous and duty bound who perform righteous tasks while I am on Earth. Lord Shiva grants her the wish.
There after King Drupadha peforms a Yagnya. From the Yagnya fire, Draupadi emerges. Later she weds the five Pandava brothers, Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Sahadeva and Nakula and rest is Mahabharata story that we all know.
Now what is this story got to do with the significance of Bengaluru Karaga?????
After the great war of Kurukshetra and passing away of Lord Krishna and Balabadra and all the Yadava Clan, Yudhisthira crowns Parikshit, the grandson of Arjuna. The Pandavas along with Draupadi go to Himalayas. As they walk on Draupadi is let back and is alone seizing this opportunity an asura named Timara try to disturb her. Taking offence on the behaviour of the asura, Draupadi created warriors from different parts of her body.
She made Yajamanas from her head, Ganachari from the forehead, Gowda from the ears, Gante Poojari from her mouth and Veerakumaras from her shoulders. These men fought against Timara and his warriors and won the war for their Mother Draupadi.
To depict the victory even today this festival is celebrated by this community in Bengaluru. The festival is held at the Dharmaraya Swamy Temple just after dusk and goes on till day break. The main priest dresses as Draupadi in female attire leads a spectacular procession accompanied by dazzling sword play by the Veerkumars. On his head, he carries a Kalasha decked with Jasmine flower. The priest takes a marathon walk in the streets of the old city surrounded by Veerakumaras who chant “Govinda Govinda” while walking briskly and the devotees waiting for Draupadi shower Jasmine flowers on her.
A unique feature of the Karaga is the unbroken tradition of visiting the tomb of an 18th century Muslim Saint Hazarath Tawakkal Mastan Shah every year - this custom has become a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. According to legend, Mastan was once hurt when he rushed to have a glimpse of the Karaga procession. The temple priest applied Turmeric to his wounds. Overjoyed by this gesture of the priest, the Mastan prayed to Draupadi and requested that the procession should halt at his dargah (grave) after his death. This tradition has been maintained over the years, giving a distinct secular flavor to the festival. The priest carrying the karaga goes to the dargah, where he circumambulates thrice and gives a lemon to the Haji and takes one from him. He walks the first round, goes around on his knees on the second, and dances around the dargah on the third. To experience of watching the dance is spectacular. The Veerakumars sing in chorus and the priest dace to the rhythm.
Hindus and Muslims enthusiastically participate in this ritual. This interaction among them is possible through this very old tradition. The Jain and Weaver community distribute Panaka (Lemon Juice) and Butter milk to the Veerakumars and devotees and in this way join the celebrations. Friendly co-existence is important when people of different cultures share geographic space closely. Such rituals even though seem to be ridicules for some has a fulfillment in bringing about social interactions that are symbolic — here the interactions are an expression of the shared interest that all cultures have. Along with the rituals it is the interest of all communities to maintain friendship. The religious rituals symbolise communal amity.
I feel fortunate to be born in this unique land of cultural diversity .............. what else should i yearn for ?????????