Culture of Karnataka

Culture is basically the way of life of people. Like various other Indian states, Karnataka also boasts of a rich culture. It has been ruled by the Chalukyas, Mauryas, Hoysalas and the Vijaynagar Empire in the past and each of these dynasties has contributed to its culture. People of Karnataka follow various customs and traditions and live life to their fullest. Let us have a detailed look at this post to understand the place and its inhabitants better.

Dance Forms of Karnataka

Each state has its own set of dance forms and Karnataka is no exception. The state has a variety of famous dance forms that have inspired dancers from various parts of the country. Some of these popular dance forms have been discussed below in detail.

Classical Dance Forms

Classical dances of Karnataka are quite popular among the dancers. One of the oldest and the most famous classical dance forms of Karnataka is the Mysore style of Bharatanatyam. The moves of this classical dance have inspired several new age dancers and choreographers. Kathak and Kuchipudi that are one of the most famous classical dance forms in India are also performed widely in the state, though they don’t find their origin here.

Dance Drama

Yakshagana is a popular dance drama form performed mainly in Karnataka’s coastal areas. It is a perfect blend of music, songs, dance and meaningful dialogues. Performers adorn themselves in colourful attires to give this beautiful performance. Yakshagana is generally performed after the winter crop is reaped. It is performed all through the night and is loved by the audience.

Karnataka Folk Dances

Krishna Parijatha

Krishna Parijatha is a popular folk dance of Karnataka, especially famous in the northern part of the Folk Dance Culture of Karnatakastate. It is known to be a fine blend of Byalatta and Yakshagana. The dance is performed in open air, usually in village squares, market places, etc and is thus called a Byalatta performance. It has a single narrator, a technique used in the Karnataka dance drama form, Yakshagana. Different episodes from the epic Ramayana and Mahabharata are performed in this folk dance.


This interesting dance form is performed by people from South Karnataka. Nagamandala, as the name suggests, is performed to calm the serpent spirit. People gather around to watch this performance which is carried out almost all through the night. Pandals are especially built for this performance. A huge figure is drawn on the ground using natural colors inside the pandal and the dance is performed around this colourful figure.

Bhootha Aradhane

Bhoothe Aradhane, meaning devil worship, is a unique folk dance mainly performed in the coastal areas of Karnataka. A procession of idols of bhoothas accompanied by loud drum beats and bursting of different colourful firecrackers is carried out as a part of this dance. One of the dancers from the group personifies as a devil and dances around a plinth on which the idols are placed after the procession. He dances energetically with a sword and jingling bells in his hands. Towards the end of the dance, he slows down to signify that he has turned into a divine being.


Kunitha is the traditional dance form of Karnataka. It includes different ritualistic dances discussed below in detail:

Puja Kunitha

Puja Kunitha is one of the most popular ritualistic dances of Karnataka. The dancers dance merrily carrying a deity placed in a wooden structure on their heads in this dance form.

Dollu Kunitha

Dollu Kunitha is another popular dance form of Karnataka. Mainly performed by men belonging to the shepherd community, Dollu Kunitha is not only known for its beautiful synchronized moves but also for the loud drum beats and melodious songs that accompany the dance.

Popular Dance Forms of Karnataka
Kunitha dancers perform with drums / Dollukunitha

Devare Thatte Kunitha, Suggi Kunitha, Yellammana Kunitha, Gorava Kunitha, Kamsale and Pata Kunitha are some of the other traditional dance forms of the state.

Religions in Karnataka

Kannadigas, Konkanis, Tuluvas and Kodavas form the major population in the state and hence the main religion followed here is Hinduism. Besides these, the Tibetan Buddhists, Siddhi Tribes, Muslims, Yeravas, Christians and certain other ethnic groups also occupy a part of this state.


Like various other Indian states, Hinduism is the dominant religion in Karnataka. Various great empires have ruled the state and contributed to the growth of Hinduism. Several saints have propagated this religion here and a number of temples have been build to celebrate Hinduism and its rich culture. The three most significant schools of Vedanta Hinduism, Advaita Vedanta, Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita flourished in the state.


There was a strong hold of Jainism in the state in the early medieval period. Rishabha, the traditional founder of the religion, is believed to have breathed his last in Karnataka. Jain literature and philosophy has thus had a huge impact on the religion and culture of the state. Shravana Belgola, Moodabidri and Karkala reflect Jain history in Karnataka.


Buddhism was prevalent in Gulbarga and Banavasi during the first millennium. It is believed that the Krishna river basin was earlier home to both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. Many people practiced Buddhism during that time and several inhabitants of the state especially the mentioned area practice it even today.

religions in Karnataka
Buddhist monks gather for a meet at Bylakuppe Temple In Mysore / IndianReligiousTemples.Blogpsot


Islam is being practiced since the 7th century in Karnataka. It paved way in the state with the arrival of Arab merchants. The religion established a strong foothold with the invasion of Bidar and Bijapur after the 12th century and flourished further with Aurangzeb and Tippu Sultan’s rule in the 17th and 18th century. Muslim population is higher in Gulbarga, Bidar, Bijapur, Dharwad, Raichur, Kodagu, Mysore, Mangalore and Bangalore.


Christianity is being practiced here since the 16th century. There are several churches in the state and it also encompasses a basilica. Major Christian population in Karnataka resides along the west coast from Karwar to Mangalore with the later encompassing the largest population of Roman Catholics compared to other parts of the state.

Also See: Culture of Hampi | Culture of Davangere | Culture of Shivamogga | Culture of Vijapura | Culture of Mangaluru | Culture of Raichur | Culture of Dharwad | Culture of Ballari | Culture of Hassan | Culture of Benglauru

Customs and Traditions in Karnataka

Wedding Rituals

custom and traditions of Karnataka
A Kannda wedding taking place / Weddingsutra

Kannada wedding rituals are more or less like the other traditional Hindu weddings. The pre-wedding ritual here begins with the Naandi custom which is carried out individually at the bride and groom’s houses. This is followed by an interesting ritual named Kaashi Yatre wherein the groom pretends to run away to Kashi stating he hasn’t got a bride of his choice and is stopped by his maternal uncle.
Before leaving for the bride’s village, the Dev Karya ceremony is conducted wherein the all the items to be used in the wedding are kept in front of Lord Ganesha to take his blessings. As is the custom in other Hindu marriages, the bride and groom in Kannada wedding are also applied turmeric paste.

The Mandap Pooja is the first ritual to be performed on the wedding day. It is done to purify the mandap and the marriage hall. The groom enters the mandap first and then it is the bride’s turn. Garlands are exchanged here and next the bride’s parents place a coconut and betel over their hands pouring holy water on them. This is followed by the Saptapadi ceremony where the couple takes seven rounds around fire.

Also See: Traditional Mangalorean Catholic Wedding

Languages Spoken in Karnataka

As is the case with every Indian state, Karnataka also has a native language which is spoken by a majority of population in the state. The native language here is Kannada which is also the official and administrative language of the state. It is spoken by around 70% of the population. English language is also prevalent here largely because the place is a hub for the learned IT professionals.

Besides, you shall also be able to find Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi and Tulu speaking population in the state. Hindi and Urdu are also spoken in certain parts. Though Kannada is the official language here and a majority of population uses it, there are several tourist guides who converse in English and Hindi to make life easier for the tourists who visit this place.

Traditional Attire of Karnataka

Traditional attire of KarnatakaThe traditional attire of Karnataka reflects its rich culture and tradition. The dresses of both men and women are elegant and comfortable. Let us have a detailed look at the kind of clothes men and women wear in this state.

Traditional Attire for Women
Saree is the traditional attire of women in the Indian state of Karnataka. And not just any saree, it is the graceful silk saree which is famous in this part of the country. The women in Karnataka, the city known for manufacturing several varieties of silk, adorn themselves in different kinds of beautiful silk sarees.

Mysore silk sarees, Arani silk sarees, Kora silk sarees, Crepe silk sarees, Valkalams silk sarees, Raw silk sarees and patola sarees are among the popular varieties of sarees worn by the women here. Mysore silk is especially famous in this South Indian state. A wide variety of Mysore silk sarees are available to choose from. These sarees are loved for their rich silk, gleaming zari and good quality veil. These are also priced reasonably as compared to the Kanchipuram and Kanjeevaram silk sarees.

Unlike other parts of the country where people are switching from traditional attires to modern outfits, here you will see most women, especially the elderly ones, dressed in silk sarees which is their traditional wear. This shows that the people here are rooted in tradition and value their customs. The beautifully designed drapes that are a typical of this state are a reflection of grace, sophistication and decency.

Traditional Attire for Men
Men, as it is in any culture, do not have many options to choose from. The traditional attire of men in Karnataka is Lungi. It is typically worn with a shirt and Angavastram that covers the shoulder. While the working professionals may mostly be seen clad in shirts and trousers as is the case in other parts of the country however you will find others, particularly the elderly men dressed in lungis and shirts.

During festivals and special occasions most men from the state especially make it a point to dress up in the traditional attire, Panche which is quite like a Dhoti. On such occasions some are even seen adorning the Mysore Peta which is a traditional headdress for men. This shows their close connection with their culture.

Festivals of Karnataka

Karnataka has a rich cultural past that the people here have kept it alive until today. Like various other parts of the country, people of Karnataka also celebrate different festivals with great pomp and show. The main festivals of Karnataka are mentioned here in detail.


Festivals in Karnataka
A decorated street in Bangalore during Diwali / GeoTouring

is one of the main festivals of Karnataka. It is celebrated on a large scale for around ten days. Mysore is especially seen soaked in the festive spirit around this festival. Dussehra is popularly known by the name Nadahabba in Karnataka and is celebrated as a state festival. While Diwali is given more importance in other parts of the country, in Karnataka it is the Dussehra which is celebrated is given greater significance. The celebrations run for as long as 10 days in the state and end on Vijyadashmi. Goddess Saraswati is worshipped for the first six days, Goddess Durga is worshipped on the eighth day and Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on the ninth day. On Vijyadashmi, that is the tenth day, a huge procession is carried out with people dancing along, drums beating loudly and beautifully decorated elephants forming a part of the same. Mysore Palace is especially illuminated with lights and adorned with various decorative items on Dussehra.


The people of Karnataka start their new year on Ugadi that falls during late March or early April. This day is considered auspicious for new beginnings. Delicious dishes are cooked for dinner on this day. The meal starts with a piece of jaggery and neem leaves to show that life is a mix of joys and sorrows.

Makar Sankranti

Makar Sanskranti is another main festival of Karnataka. Celebrated in January every year, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as a day of friendship and benevolence. People of Karnataka prepare delicious sesame ladoos and distribute them among their near and dear ones as well as the poor and needy. Women are seen adorning new clothes and ornaments and get-togethers are held to celebrate the occasion.

Pattadakkal Dance Festival

This festival falls in the month of January and is celebrated with equal zeal. Pattadakkal was the state capital during the Chalukyan era and is a World Heritage Centre today. The place is popular for its beautifully carved temples that boast of architectural beauty. This dance festival is celebrated to cherish the marvelous heritage of these temples. Several dancers from around the world travel to the state of Karnataka to give mesmerizing performances during this festival.

Hoysala Mahotsava

Main Festivals of Karnataka
A dancer performs during the Hoysala Mahotsava / Pinterest

This is another dance festival celebrated in Karnataka. It is mainly held in Belur and Helebid. The spectacular Hoysala temples at Helebid and Belur are decked up beautifully and dancers from various parts of the state as well as other parts of the country participate in this festival. It is usually celebrated in March.

Hampi Festival

Yet another festival of dance and music, the Hampi Festival is celebrated in Hampi in the first week of November. People deck themselves in beautiful colourful clothes to take part in the dance, drama and music programs. The highlights of the procession carried out to celebrate this festival are the loud beats of drums, foot tapping music, spectacular dance performances and firework.

Also See: Festivals in Hampi | Fairs and Festivals in Shivamgogga | Fairs and Festivals of Vijapura (Bijapur) | Festivals in Mangaluru | Fairs and Festivals in Bengaluru

Music Culture of Karnataka

Think about Karnataka and the Carnatic music is among one of the first things that comes in mind. It’s Carnatic, also spelled as Karnatic and Hindustani styles of music have had a great impact on the Indian classical music with the Karnatic music being one of the two chief sub genres of the Indian classical music. The music, originated in the early times, is said to have evolved over the time from the ancient Hindu traditions. The main focus in Carnatic music is on vocal music. Sruti, swara, raga and tala are the basis of composition in this style of music.

Karnataka has given several music maestros, specializing in both the music styles, who have contributed immensely in taking the Indian classical music to greater heights. Purandara Dasa, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Syama Sastri, Tyagaraja, Gangubai Hangal, Bhimsen Joshi, Basavaraja Rajauru and Mallikarjun Mansur are among some of the famous classical singers from the state.

Art and Craft of Karnataka

Artforms of Karnataka
A fine specimen of Mysore paintings

Karnataka’s art and craft is famous worldwide. The Mysore paintings sketched here are a major attraction and are much in demand in different parts of the world. Sandalwood crafts are yet another specialty of this state. Skilfully crafted astonishing pieces carved from fragrant sandalwood are available here. You shall be able to lay hands at different items such as Lord Buddha’s sculptures, Lord Krishna’s sculptures, jewellery boxes and various decorative items made of sandalwood. Stone carving, ivory carving and rosewood handicraft items are also quite famous here.

Bidriware craft which is exclusively done in Bidar is also loved by the inhabitants and tourists alike. It is done with absolute precision on zinc, tin, copper or lead plates. You shall find most of these pieces of art in almost every household in Karnataka. These are also purchased by the tourists as souvenirs.
You may lay hands at these beautiful pieces in different markets in the state. Exclusive exhibitions are also organized to promote these.

Also See: Art and Crafts in Hampi | Traditional Art Form Found in Bengaluru
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