Ranked as one of the popular tourist states in India, Karnataka is a vibrant state where you can experience the best celebrations, and an immersive dive into history and art. Known for its culture and heritage, the festivals of Karnataka are conducted in the name of religion, seasons, and art. Through these festivals, different communities come together to be a part of the cheer that is spread wide.

Karnataka’s range of celebrations will not only allow you to get an insight on their culture but also help you understand the significance of each festival. Moreover, each of these festivals in Karnataka brings along a bundle of joy. Here is a list of some of the most famous festivals in Karnataka to plan your visit around.

12 Famous Festivals Of Karnataka

1. One of the Main Festivals of Karnataka: Ganesha Chaturthi

Ganesha idols on sale at a roadside market in Bangalore, festivals of Karnataka

In remembrance of the god Ganesha’s birth, Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most famous festivals of Karnataka sacred to the Hindus. Beginning on the fourth day of shukla chaturthi (the waxing moon period), prayers are offered to clay idols of Ganesha in homes and temples. The main sweet dish of this festival is the modak (a dumpling made from rice/wheat flour stuffed with various fillings).

Date of Celebration: Mid-August to September

Duration: 10 Days

Also Read: Where can you find the best Ganesh Chaturthi festivals in India?

2. Commonly Known As Gudi Padwa: Ugadi

Also known as Gudi Padwa, Ugadi is a popular festival in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. Celebrated with a lot of joy and fervour, this period is believed to be very auspicious to mark new beginnings. On this day, it is believed that Brahma created the universe. With houses decorated with flowers and fresh mango leaves, families get together to pray to the deities. The reading of the ‘Panchangam’ (the Hindu calendar) bearing the list of events for the year is a significant event in temples and homes during this time. Holige, hesaru bele payasa, mavinakayi chitranna and bevu bella are some of the special dishes that are prepared on this day.

Date of Celebration: March or April of the Gregorian calendar

Duration: 1 Day

3. Commemorate A Bygone Era: Hampi Utsav

Hampi Utsav or Vijaya Utsav is a famous festival in Karnataka that commemorates the traditions and culture of the bygone era in Hampi. With the beautiful ruins of Hampi serving as the backdrop, the festivities take place annually at the Virupaksha Temple. Attracting people from all over the world, the Kannadigas show off their talent in art, music, and dance. A concert of folk songs called ‘Janapada Kala Vahini’ is one of the main attractions of this festival.

Date of Celebration: The first week of November

Duration: 3 Days

Also Read: 12 of the best temples to check out in Hampi

4. A Tribute To Goddess Gowri: Gowri Festival

Celebrated a day before Ganesh Chaturthi, Gowri Festival is one of the famous festivals of Karnataka. It is celebrated in most parts of India as a day to pay tribute to and praise the goddess Gowri for her power to bestow courage and strength on her people. A bagina consisting of kum kum, black beads, turmeric, a comb, a small mirror, bangles, dal, coconut, rice, etc., is prepared as an offering to the goddess. The women bathe and wear new clothes and puja is done with the goddess mounted on a plate.

Date of Celebration: Varies per Hindu Lunisolar calendar

Duration: 1 Day

5. A Folk Dance Ritual: Karaga

Performed on a full moon day, Karaga is one of the oldest festivals in Karnataka celebrated by the Vanniyakula Kshatriya Thigala community. A folk dance ritual dedicated to Draupadi, the festival is held at the Dharmarayaswamy temple in Bangalore. During this time, a grand procession is held where the karaga (an earthen pot) is decorated with flowers and carried on the head without touching it. It is believed that if the karaga carrier drops the karaga, he will die.

Date of Celebration: March – April

Duration: 10 Days

6. Honouring Pattadakal’s Temples: Pattadakal Dance Festival

Organised every year by the Karnataka government to honour and celebrate all of Pattadakal’s famous temples, Pattadakal is a famous dance festival in Karnataka. The temples at the Pattadakal village are mostly devoted to Shiva with beautiful carvings. The craft mela that is organised here is a major attraction of the Pattadakal festival.

Date of Celebration:  January

Duration: 1 Day

7. A Traditional Buffalo Race: Kambala Festival

Kambala, A rural Indian treditional sport
Kambala, A rural Indian treditional sport

Celebrated in the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, Kambala festival of Karnataka is a traditional buffalo race organised annually by the farming communities. Celebrated to appease gods for a good harvest, a pair of buffaloes is made to run through a field of slush, anchored by a farmer. More than 150 buffaloes are groomed for this festival.

Date of Celebration: November – March as it takes place in different parts of the state

Duration: 2 days

8. Widely Celebrated As Navratri: Mysore Dasara

Mysore during Dasara, festivals of karnataka
Mysore dasara procession

Mysore Dasara or Navratri is a widely celebrated festival in Karnataka that was started in the 15th century by the kings of the Vijayanagara empire. During this period, Chamundeshwari, an incarnation of the goddess Parvati, killed the demon Mahishasura to mark the triumph of good over evil. Adorned with 10,000 beautiful light bulbs, the Mysore Palace is one of the best places to visit during this festival. On the ninth day of the festival (called mahanavami), a massive procession with dancers and elephants is held on the streets of the city.

Date of Celebration: September – October

Duration: 1 Day

Read More: A complete guide to everything you need to know about Mysore Dasara

9. The Formation Of Karnataka: Karnataka Rajyotsava

Karnataka Rajyotsava Parade
Karnataka Rajyotsava Parade, representing goddess Bhuvaneshvari surrounded by poets Kanaka Dasa and Prandardassa

On November 1, 1956, Karnataka was born as a state. During the Karnataka Rajyotsava festival, the flag is hoisted by the Chief Minister, and the governor addresses the people. As it is one of the more famous festivals in Karnataka, a cultural gala is organised where individuals who were exemplary in their respective fields are handed out awards. The Rajyotsava award is the highest state honour that is handed out by the Chief Minister. Celebrated with great zeal, traditional dances are performed and sweets are distributed on this day.

Date of Celebration: 1st November

Duration: 1 Day

10. Arrival Of Harvest Season: Makar Sankranti

happy Makar Sankranti Festival greeting card

Marking the arrival of the harvest season, Makar Sankranti is one of the most famous festivals of Karnataka dedicated to the sun god. Old articles and clothing are burnt on the first day (boghi). To welcome the arrival of the new month, colourful rangolis are drawn, and a new vessel to prepare traditional sweets is introduced to the house. Prayers to the cattle known as kanu pongal are offered on the final day of the festival. Dishes such as sweet pongal, sankranti yellu, vade, payasa etc., are prepared on this day.

Date of Celebration: January

Duration: 1 Day

11. Crowning The Vairamudi On Cheluvanarayanaswamy: Vairamudi Festival

Vairamudi Festival of Karnataka
Image source: Travelwhistle.com

Dedicated to Cheluvu Narayana, this festival is held annually in the town of Melukote in Mandya district. On this day, a grand procession is taken out as the vairamudi (diamond crown) is placed on the deity’s head by the head priest of the temple. An important festival of Karnataka for the followers of Vishnu or Vaishnavites, a number of devotees come to witness this event every year.

Date of Celebration: March to April, the fourth day of the Brahmotsavam

Duration: 1 day

Also Read: Where to go and what to see: the best of Mandya

12. Harvesting Rice Fields: Tula Sankramana

Celebrated across India with different rituals, Tula Sankramana is one of the famous festivals of Karnataka for rice harvesting in Coorg. It is the first day of the Kodava community’s Toleyar month where thousands of people throng near the Talacauvery river to witness the water levels rise. The goddess Cauvery is believed to rise from the water on this day to bless her devotees as they take a dip in the river.

Date of Celebration: The first day of the Kartika month in the Hindu Solar calendar (usually around October 17 or 18)

Duration: 1 day

Read More: Have you witnessed all these incredible festivals of Coorg?

The Significance Of Festivals

Karnataka celebrates a wide variety of festivals which gives one a glimpse about its tradition. From Makar Sankranti in Kununurra to the stunning extravagance of Dussehra in Mysore, each festival of Karnataka plays an important role to add structure to our social lives, and connect us with our family backgrounds.

Travel provides the opportunity to witness different cultures and have new experiences. When it comes to festivals in Karnataka, the joyous occasion lightens everyone’s mood. Each trip to Karnataka has an unforgettable influence on the traveller, but adding a festival to the mix will create memories that will be cherished forever. If you’re planning a trip to Karnataka, make sure to attend some of these colourful festivals to get a glimpse of its vibrant culture. 

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