This year, the temple will use LED lights and also webcast the festival

How Bengalurus Karaga festival is adapting with time while remaining true to its roots
news Culture Saturday, April 16, 2016 - 14:40

One of biggest and most historical festivals in the city, Karaga in Bengaluru is a tradition of pride for the Tigala community of the region, where the prowess of Draupadi is hailed in a glorious 11 day affair.

Having hosted the ceremony for over hundreds of years now, the Dharmaraya Swamy temple of Thigalarpet has yet again opened its door for the annual custom, starting from the April 14, till the first full moon day of the month which falls on April 22. Though Karaga and the city go way back, with a triple digit history behind it, the temple, being at the heart of the city, is trying to adapt to the changes that come with Bengaluru's growth.

Having a very strong presence in over 90 villages in the state, the Tigalas are known for their expertise in horticulture as the community is known to comprise gardeners of flowers and vegetables. Commissioned by Sultan Hyder Ali, the Tigalas also have the origins of Lalbagh to their credit. 

However with urbanization slowly creeping in, buildings overtook gardens and commercialization overtook horticulture. This in turn led the community to migrate, with the population in the pettais soon dwindling. “While over 5 lakh people came to attend the Karaga festival in the very same temple in 1921, the number has come down these years, with people of the community migrating into the urban city,” reminisces R Jagadish, a member of the festival’s committee, to The News Minute. 

 A crowd of over 10,000 is usually seen at the festival in the past few years.

"A lot has changed over the years. I don't have the time to come here every year, but I make sure I attend a few of them," says a 65-year-old man, who was showing around the temple to his Delhi-based daughter. He has been living in the area for over 35 years and speaks about how his family shifted farther into the city, as the metropolis grew.

The crowd might have abated, but the temple is following the same culture, while going the extra mile. Saving a whopping 85% of power consumption compared to its earlier stints, the 800-year-old temple is now looking at sustainability, while keeping its roots intact.

“In this time and age, consumption is ever-increasing, while the production is under deep waters. This time around, we are trying to save power by using the electrically efficient LED bulbs instead of the traditional incandescents,” says former Mayor of the city P.R. Ramesh, who currently presides over the Bengaluru Karaga Festival Committee, to The News Minute. The temple would be using around 1360 LED bulbs in place of its fluorescent counterpart. "Karaga may be a festival of lights. But this time around, we are giving the people what they want, while conserving energy," he continues. The temple will also be replacing the use of firecrackers with bigger cultural programs like ‘Kathi Varse’, ‘Kombu Varse’, ‘Musti Yuddha’ etc.

                         

The festival was inaugurated on Thursday with the hoisting of a turmeric dipped flag, on a 65-feet bamboo pole. Taking roots from one of the final episodes of the pan-Indian epic, Mahabharata, Tigalas in this festival, celebrate Draupadi, who took the form of Shakthi Devi to create an army of soldiers (Veerakumaras). With the community identifying their ancestral ties with that of these Veerakumaras, it is believed that the Panchali goddess visits them every first full moon of the first month in the Hindu calendar.

Running for over 11 days, the Karaga Shakthiyothsava is all set to be celebrated on 22nd April, which will now be web casted from their newly launched site www.bengalurukaraga.com.

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