Sunday 10 February 2013

Behind the scenes of the Karaga

The Karaga is one of the most famous festivals of Bangalore. Its roots date back to the times of the Mahabharata. This is one of the native festivals of Bangalore.
While much has been written about the Karaga and its procession, not many are aware of the traditions and customs that go behind it. Take a look into them……..
Karaga begins with the flag raising ceremony called Dhwajarohana and on the first day, the Veerakumaras (men wielding swords) and the priest wear janivara (sacred thread worn as a band over the left shoulder) and kankana (sacred thread tied on the wrist).
Prayers are offered by the priest, the Veerakumaras and the Chakridaararu.
Then comes the elaborate rituals associated with the Karaga. Arthi is performed from the second day to the sixth day at evenings at the almost extinct Sampangiramanagar tank in Cubbon Park.
This is the Shakti Peeta of the Karaga and arthi is also performed at eight other sources from where water is used for the Karaga.
Women in large numbers pray to Draupadi on the sixth day and also perform arthi for her. This is called as the festival of lights.
The seventh day of the festivities is called Hasi Karaga. On this day, Draupadi is symbolically readied for marriage. She emerges from the lake, decorated as a bride and carries the kalasha (pot). The Veerakumaras pay  obeisances to her and escort her to the Sri Dharmarayaswamy Temple.
On the eighth day, Pongal prepared by the wives of the Veerakumaras is offered to the goddess. On full moon day, the marriage of the goddess is performed and the utsav murthis are taken in a procession.
This procession is at night and this is the famous Bangalore Karaga procession. The procession does not stop anywhere and is always in a dynamic state. The Prasada of lime received from the goddess is said to bring relief from ailments and misfortunes.
Interestingly, the Karaga priest has to perform severe austerities for six months before the Karaga. He has to wear his wife’s Mangala sutra during this period.
The Mangala sutra is returned to the wife during a symbolic marriage ceremony on the tenth day of Karaga. However, the wife will not be seeing her husband from the time of Vijaya Dashami as he will reside in the temple till the Karaga is over. So when the Karaga procession stops in front of her house, unlike the other devotees, she cannot come out to be blessed.
The Karaga stops at the Mastan Sab Darga during the procession. This testifies to the secular nature of the festival.
Only people from the Gowda, Ganacharya and Chakridaararu communities are permitted to carry on the tradition of conducting the Karaga. Chakridararu are those who perform the various pooja activities at the time of Karaga.
The Chakridararu comprise the ghante poojaris ( they are the gurus and carry out the temple rituals), the family of the Karaga priest, the descendants from the clan of Potaraja, Banka dasayya (announcers of the Karaga) and Kolkararu (messengers). These five families have a Kula purohita (clan priest), who should be a Brahmin.
This Brahmin priest performs rituals as per the shastras (sacred texts). All the rituals are steeped in secrecy and the overall management and supervision of the Karaga is undertaken by Ganacharyas. All these categories of functionaries are supervised by the Gowdas, who ensure smooth functioning.

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