Art and Culture of Karnataka

Karnataka has a rich Cultural heritage. The lineages of Indian rulers, like, Mauryas, Chalukyas, Hoysalas have left behind their embossments in various elements of culture of Karnataka. Diverse religion and languages has added up to the ethnic grandness. Apart from Kannadigas, Karnataka is home to Tuluvas, Kodavas and Konkanis. Minor populations of Tibetan Buddhists and Siddhi tribes plus a few other ethnic groups also live in Karnataka. Karnataka's art forms encompass huge ambit of majestic festivals, music, drama, and royal cuisine. The vivid diversity exists in cultural aspects in terms of Cultural dress, traditional dance forms, social and cultural history, culture food, language and slangs. The traditional folk arts cover the entire gamut of music, dance, drama, storytelling by itinerant troupes, etc. Yakshagana, a classical folk play, is one of the major theatrical forms of coastal Karnataka. Contemporary theatre culture in Karnataka is one of the most vibrant in India with organizations like Ninasam, Ranga Shankara and Rangayana active on foundations laid down by the Gubbi Veeranna Nataka Company. Veeragase, Kamsale and Dollu Kunitha are popular dance forms. Bharatanatya also enjoys wide patronage in Karnataka.

Festivals of Karnataka

The popular festivals of Karnataka are Hampi Festival (Vijay Utsav), Tula Sankramana Coorg Festival, Vairamudi Festival, Hoysala Mahotsava and Hoysala Mahotsava.

Karnataka Rajyotsava:Kannada Rajyotsava (Karnataka Formation Day) is celebrated on 1 November of every year. This was the day in 1956 when all the Kannada language-speaking regions of South India were merged to form the state of Karnataka. The Rajyotsava day is listed as a government holiday in the state of Karnataka and is celebrated by Kannadigas across the world. It is marked by the announcement and presentation of the honours list for Rajyotsava Awards by the Government of Karnataka, hoisting of the unofficial Karnataka flag with an address from the Chief Minister and Governor of the state along with community festivals, orchestra, Kannada book releases and concerts.

Rajyotsava day is celebrated with great joy and vigour all over the state of Karnataka. The entire state wears a festive look on this day as the red and yellow Kannada flags are hoisted at different strategic locations across the state and the Kannada anthem ("Jaya Bharatha Jananiya Tanujate") is chanted. The flag is hoisted at political party offices and several localities even as youth in many areas take out processions on two-wheelers. Religion not being a factor, the Rajyotsava is celebrated by Hindus, Muslims and Christians as well.

Hampi Festival: Hampi Festival is celebrated reminiscing the aura of Vijaygarha kings, in winter month of November. You can also see festivals of similar type in regions of Halebid, Pattadakal, Karavalli and Lakkundi, during the season.

Tula Sankramana Coorg Festival: It is a festival of joy commemorating the worship of Goddess Cauvery. Also known as theerthodbhava and is celebrated in the month of October with enthusiasm especially in Kodagu of Karnataka region. Believing that the Goddess will emerge from water , the 'bhaktas' from all over the world gather in huge number, take dip into the holy water of the Cauvery water and seek blessings from the deity. Pattadakkal Dance Festival This is a festival of dance celebrated in jubilance at the premises of beautiful temples of Pattadakkal, the ancient capital of the Chalukyan kings. It is feted in the month of January. Moreover, other festivals like Holi, Makar Sankranti, Dusshera, Diwali are celebrated in full frolic and vivacity, just like any other state of Indian subcontinent.

Vairamudi Festival: In Melkote, this festival is feted in the month of March when the idol Lord Vishnu is being decked up with precious crown studded with diamond brought out from the palace of Mysore.

Kambala or Buffalo Race: This festival of buffalo racing was celebrated with lots of exuberance by the royal kings and the people of the Karnataka keep up this tradition of royal sport.

Hoysala Mahotsava: This magnificent festival of dance takes place in places like Belur and Helebid .The fantabulous Hoysala temples are perfect embodiment of exquisite work of sculptures, thus making it the perfect locale for this cultural fete. It is famous in the month of March.


Both Carnatic Music and Hindustani music proliferated in this region. Karnataka is a unique place where both Hindustani and Carnatic singers flourish. North Karnataka is predominantly famous for Hindustani music and South Karnataka is well known for Carnatic music.

Carnatic music: With the rise of Vaishnavism and the Haridasa movement came Karnataka composers like Purandaradasa, whose Kannada language works were lucid, devotional and philosophical and hence appealing to the masses. Other haridasas of medieval times were Kanakadasa, Vyasatirtha, Jayatirtha, Sripadaraya, Vadirajatirtha etc., who composed several devara nama. One of the earliest and prominent composers in South India was the saint, and wandering bard of yore Purandara Dasa. Though historians claim Purandara Dasa composed 75,000 - 475,000 songs in Sanskrit and Kannada, only a few hundred of them are known today. He was a source of inspiration to the later composers like Tyagaraja. Owing to his contribution to the Carnatic Music he is referred to as the Father of Carnatic Music (Karnataka Sangeeta Pitamaha) Purandaradasa codified and consolidated the teaching of Carnatic music by evolving several steps like sarali, jantai, thattu varisai, alankara and geetham and laid down a framework for imparting formal training in this art form. Later in the 17th and 18th centuries, the haridasa movement would once again contribute to music in Karnataka in the form of haridasas such as Vijaya Dasa, Gopaladasa, Jagannathadasa who are just a few among a vast galaxy of devotional saints.

Hindustani: Karnataka has achieved a prominent place in the world of Hindustani music as well. Several of Karnataka's Hindustani musicians have bagged the Kalidas Sanman, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan awards. Some famous performers are Gangubai Hangal, Puttaraj Gawai, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur, Basavaraj Rajguru, Sawai Gandharva and Kumar Gandharva.

Dance Art Forms in Karnataka

Beesu Kamsale, Dollu Kunita, Goravara Kunita, Kamsale, Kolaata, Paata Kunita, Puravanthike, Kangilu Kunita, Bolukat, Dappu Kunita, Suggi Kunita, Ummathat, Chitmela and Gumatepong are the popular Dance and Art Forms in Karnataka. Yakshagana a form of dance drama is one of the major theatrical forms in coastal Karnataka. A fusion of folk and classical tradition makes Yakshagana a unique form of art which includes colourfull costumes, music, dance, singing, and most importantly dialogs composed on the fly. Award winning performers include Shambhu Hegde, Chittani Ramachandra Hegde. Yakshagana and Dollu Kunitha are two of the popular dance forms of Karnataka. Gamaka is a unique music form based on Karnakata Sangeetha. 'Boodkali' of Coorg, 'Daasaraata' of North Karnataka etc seems to have lost its value in time. Various dance forms namely Veeragase and Kamsale etc ennoble the culture of Karnataka. Dollu Kunitha is a special dance form practiced by male shepherds of Kuruba community with the accompaniment of coloured drums. Devare Thatte Kunitha, Yellammana Kunitha, Suggi Kunitha and others have derived their names from the deity or the symbol or instruments that are used. Karnataka patronizes Bharatanatyam, the illustrious dance style of South India. Other mainstream classical dances here include Kuchipudi and Kathak.

'Silappadikaram', the Tamil text, refers to a dance of the Kannadigas performed in the court of Chera king Senguttavan. An inscription in Pattadakal reveals that Devadasis were engaged in 'Nritya seva' in temples. Gangas, Rashtrakuta and the later Chalukyas were patrons of Dance. Bhandary Lakshminarayana, the Natyacharya in Krishnadevaraya's court, was called 'Abhinava Bharata'. Dancers were encouraged to perform during the annual Dasara celebrations by the Vijayanagar rulers. The Mysore court also encouraged traditional dance, following the footsteps of the Vijayanagar rulers.

The Exquisite Art Forms of Karnataka

Goravara Kunita
Dollu Kunita
Somana Kunita
Krishna Parijata
Jagghalige Kunita
Beesu Kamsale
Chowdike Mela


The Bengal renaissance influenced the Mysore school of painting. King Krishnaraja Wodeyar III patronised famous painters including Sundarayya, Tanjavur Kondayya and Alasinrayya. King Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV patronised B. Venkatappa, Keshavayya, Nagaraju, Paavanje and Kamadolli. The Chamarajendra Technological Institute, Jaganmohan Art Gallery and Venkatappa Art Gallery are reminders of this heyday. Chitrakala Parishat is an organisation in Karnataka dedicated to promote painting, mainly the Mysore painting style.

Cuisine of Karnataka

The rich heritage of culture of Karnataka makes an ideal tourist spot. Karnataka's richness in culture and tradition, epitomizing through the wondrous monuments, has mesmerized every one from teens to oldies.

Literature in Karnataka

The place is renowned for its classical folk theatre Yakshagana. Contemporary theatres too flourished in full-fledge in Karnataka. Activities of theatre organizations like Ninasam, Ranga Shankara and Rangayana are quite prominent in the state. The highly acclaimed Mysore school of painting, which is rich in Mysore Painting, had its origin in Karnataka. Kannada literature is a well- known name in the world of Indian literature.

Wood Carving

From the ancient times when wood was used as the material for carving sculptures, artisans from Karnataka have been adept at all kinds of woodwork including carving, inlay, painting, lacquering etc. The world famous wooden toys from Channapatna and Kinhal, both quaint little towns in the state, are ample evidences of the beautiful craftsmanship that this state has.

Doll making

Gokak in Karnataka is also popular for doll making besides Kinhal and Channapatna. Since Karnataka celebrates the festival of Dussera on a grand scale, displaying dolls during this nine day period, doll making using many materials such as wood, cloth, clay, terracota, plaster of paris, etc is very famous in Karnataka.

Ivory carving

This is yet another craftsmanship belonging to the state. Ivory is a protected item and hence only government-owned handicraft associations are allowed to use ivory for carving. Delicately carved ivory artifacts can be found in the state emporiums such as Cauvery Handicrafts.

Metal work

Karnataka is also home to artisans carving in different metals such as bronze and brass. The coastal region of Mangalore is known for producing household items in bell metal whereas the Southern district of Udupi and Karkala are known for producing articles used in religious rituals, idols of Gods and Goddesses, besides utility items such as grinding stone, mortar and pestle, etc.


Bidriware is a dying art which is done on an alloy of brass, zinc, copper and tin with a lot of influence from the Mughal period. The motifs, the shapes, the style are reminiscent of the Mughal period and is done by artists from a small town called Bidar in North Karnataka. Bidriware, however is now slowly vanishing with not many in the younger generation willing to take up the work. Mostly ornamental pieces can be found in the state-owned handicrafts showrooms.

History of Karnataka

The earliest history of Karnataka is perhaps as old as the Harappan culture. But the recorded history points to the 3rd century BC when Chandragupta Maurya spent his last years at Sravanabalagola, 96km from Mysore. His grandson Ashoka ruled over a large part of Karnataka. By first century BC, the Satavahanas succeeded the Mauryas. The Kadambas of Banavasi ruled over the modern Karnataka in 3rd century except for the South that was under Gangas. In the 4th century AD, the Gangas built the massive 17m tall statue of Lord Gomateshwara and the Jain temple at Sravanabalagola. The Chalukyas of Badami ruled Karnataka for 250 years from 550 AD. They built cave temples and evolved Chalukya style of architecture.

By the early 8th century, Rastrakutas consolidated their power over Karnataka after defeating the Chalukyas. The Rastakutas were patrons of fine arts and poetry. The Kalyan dynasty that was an offshoot of the Chalukyas overthrew the Rastrakutas in 973 AD and ruled Karnataka till the 12th century when two separate kingdoms emerged. The Northern Kingdom was that of Yadavas of Devagiri and the Southern one was that of Hoysalas of Dwarasamudra who attained fame for their magnificent structures, sculptures and temples. The frequent wars between the two weakened them enabling the Muslim rulers to defeat them in the 13th century. But before they could became real power, the Vijayanagara empire came into being in 1336 AD. It was famed for its great capital at Hampi, fabulous wealth, trade and military supremacy. Gigantic granite temples and monuments were built at Hampi. The empire stood strong for two centuries.

The Bahmani Kingdoms of Bijapur and Bidar, contemporary to Vijayanagara Empire, also added their share to cultural and architectural glory of Karnataka.They built many great structures in Islamic style. The most famous is Gol Gumbaz with its fantastic whispering gallery at Bijapur.

After the fall of Vijayanagara Empire, Karnataka was under many petty rulers. The southern half came under Wodeyar Dynasty and the north came under Marathas.

In 1791 Hyder Ali took over power from the Wodeyars. Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan are notable figures in the history of Karnataka. They expanded the Mysore kingdom and resisted the British to preserve the freedom of their land. They also built tanks, dams, palaces, and gardens in Mysore. After the fall of Tipu in 1799, the Wodeyars were reinstated to power and ruled Mysore until independence. In 1947, Mysore was acceded to Indian Union as Mysore State. In 1956 while reorganizing states, Karnataka acquired additional Kannada speaking territories from Madras, Hyderabad, and Bombay to form the present state of Karnataka with Bangalore as its capital.

Daivadnya Brahmin The Daivadnya Brahmins are a Konkani and Marathi subgroup of the Hindu Brahmin castes native to the Konkan, predominantly residing in Goa and Damaon, Canara (coastal Carnatica), coastal Maharashtra and Kerala. They are commonly known as Shet. This word is a corrupt form of the word Shrestha or Shresthin Most of the older generation from the community in Goa call themselves Setti Baman, which is a corrupt form of Shresthi Brahmana. Shetṭs are often called Suvarṇakara in Sanskrit and Sonar in Marathi.

Their name has many alternate spellings, including Daivajna, Daivajnya, Daiwadnya, and Daivadnea. It is pronounced [d̪aivaɡna] in Karnataka and [d̪əivaʝɲa] in Goa and Maharashtra.

Daivadnya Brahmins are commonly known as Shet. This appellation comes from their guild organisations,during the medieval ages. European documents mentions them as "Chatim" or "Xette",which is corruption of Konkani Shett, or Shetty. The guild or members of the guilds of traders, merchants, and their employees who were mainly artisans, craftsmen, and husband-men in ancient Goa like elsewhere in ancient India, were called Shreni, and the head of the guilds were called Shrestha or Shresthi, which meant His Excellency. Of all the trade guilds,the Daivadnya guild, was highly esteemed in Goa.These guilds enjoyed such a reputation for trustworthiness that people deposited money with these guilds,which served as local banks and also made huge donations to the temples. Gomantak Prakruti ani Sanskruti,a comprehensive work on Goan culture also suggests that they called themselves Sreshtha to distinguish themselves from other groups who were assigned status of Sankra jati or mixed origin in the Shastras.

Old Portuguese documents also mention them as Arie Brahmavranda Daivadnea or Aria Daivadnea Orgon Somudai, transliterated as Arya Daivadnya Varga Samudaya,as well as Daivadneagotri. Most of documents from Mumbai from early 19th century mention them as Konkanastha Daivajna Rathakara (Brahmin) and Konkanastha Daivadnya.

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