It is part of a nine-day Tigala festival
C.M. Lokesh will be the karaga bearer`We celebrate Draupadi'
Bangalore: The city is all set to celebrate what has come to be Bangalore's most important and oldest festivals, "Karaga Shaktyotsava". Karaga, which is part of the nine-day festival, is carried on the full moon day of the first month of the Lunar Hindu calendar (Chaitra masa), said Chalakari Narayanaswamy, treasurer and management committee member of the Dharmaraya Temple.
He told The Hindu on Sunday that the Karaga festival began on March 25.
"We attach importance to the way we celebrate the festival. By celebrating the festival, we are also celebrating womanhood.
"For the Vanikula Kshatriyas, also known as Tigalas, this is an important festival. It has high ritualistic significance and we celebrate Draupadi, as we believe she is an ideal woman," said T.M. Manohar, president, management committee of the Dharmaraya Temple.
Mr. Narayanaswamy said that the secular tradition of the karaga is well known. According to legend, Hazrat Takwal Mastan, a Sufi saint, and Dharmaraya were good friends, who also respected each other.
It was the saint's dying wish that the karaga stop at his dargah first after leaving the temple.
"We have been following this tradition. The carrier of the karaga first goes to the dargah, where he circumambulates thrice and gives a lemon to the Haji and takes one from him," Mr. Narayanaswamy said.
Haji Nissar Ahmed, Mujawar, Mastan Shah Dargah, said that the tradition has been followed for over 300 years, during the time of Tipu Sultan.
"This was an example set by Mastan baba and Dharamaraya on communal harmony. We follow the same and allow people of all faiths to come and pray here. It is a story of mel (union), milap (friendship) and mohabbat (love)," he said.
A unique feature of the karaga festival is that a man, dressed as a woman, carries the karaga (a metal pot with floral decorations) on his head. While a few say that it is a celebration of womanhood and femininity, a section claims that it is the result of Draupadi's curse. It is seen as an insult to Yudhistira, who let the Kauravas humiliate Draupadi in court.
Mr. Manohar said that the karaga bearer this time is the 36-year-old C.M. Lokesh, a first-timer. Many groups of Veerakumaars wielding swords go along with the karaga carrier.
Bare-chested, the Veerakumaras perform "Alagu sevae' (striking themselves on the chest with the sword) nine times.
"If we get hurt, it means we have sinned. Otherwise, nothing happens to us," said one of the organisers.
The Veerakumaras also have the privilege of beheading the karaga carrier, if the karaga falls from his head. "But that has never happened. The karaga carrier is trained to ensure that such a thing does not happen," Mr. Manohar said.
During the nine-day festival, the entire Tigala community has to ensure that its surroundings are clean, symbolising "Shuddi", and is devout ("Samarpane" and "Sadbhavane"), Mr. Narayanaswamy said.
Such festivals have had an impact on the city, ensuring religious harmony among the different communities.