Karnataka: Karaga festival, symbol of Hindu-Muslim harmony, being targeted

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Amid unrest, Karaga festival to be celebrated by both Muslims, Hindus in K'taka on Apr 16.

Bengaluru : Controversy is brewing around the historical Karaga festival celebrated in Bengaluru, seen as a symbol of Hindu-Muslim harmony, as Hindu organisations intensified their campaign to end the 300-year-old ritual of the Karaga procession visiting a dargah.

However, the Karnataka police on Friday gave a strict warning to the Hindu groups that any attempt to disrupt the Karaga festivities would be dealt with ruthlessly.

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The Karaga festivities will begin on Friday evening. Muslim religious leaders have visited the temple already in this regard and as per the tradition extended an invitation for the Karaga procession to arrive at the Mastaan Saab Dargah for worship.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Central, M.N. Anuchet on Friday stated that the festivities will take place as per the decision of the Temple Utsava (festivities) Committee. If anyone tries to disrupt or indulges in activity to cause a disturbance strict action will be taken against them.

He said that to ensure the peaceful conduct of the Karaga festival, CCTV cameras have been installed, 450 police personnel will be deployed and 38 senior officers would monitor the police arrangements. A call will be taken on increasing the number of policemen as per the situation.

Karaga Utsava Committee Chairman Sathish has reiterated his stand that there will be no change in the rituals of the Karaga festival and there is no question of dropping the ritual of visiting the dargah of a Sufi saint.

Hindu activists have intensified their online campaign that the procession should not be taken to the dargah. They have questioned why should the Karaga procession go to a dargah?

Rishi Kumar, Swami of Kali Math, stated that the dargah where the Karaga procession goes was originally a temple. Karaga festivities have a history of thousands of years. Before the dargah was built here, it was the Bheemalingeswara temple. He said there are ample proofs in the dargah to prove that it was a Hindu temple earlier.

The Karaga festival is held at Shri Dharmarayaswamy temple in Bengaluru and it is celebrated for 9 days. Just after dusk on Karaga Day, a priest dressed in female attire leads a colourful procession. Hundreds of members of the thigalars, a warrior community, including children will take part in the procession flashing swords. Women and devotees carry earthen pots on their heads.

The priest carries a flower-bedecked pyramid and leads the procession which visits the tomb of an 18th century Muslim saint at the Mastaan Saab dargah. The Karaga festival is celebrated each year to mark the return of Draupadi in the form of Adishakthi.

The priest carrying the Karaga, the symobol of Adishakthi, will take three rounds of pradakshina (the rite of circumambulating in a clockwise direction) inside the dargah. The Muslim community members will worship the Karaga deity. People from all castes take part in the festivities.

In the last two years the Karaga festivities were a low-key affair due to the corona pandemic. However, this year, amid the hijab and halal row and a series of other disturbing developments in the state, Bengaluru, known as the global capital of IT-BT companies is looking forward to the festival which symbolizes communal harmony and peace.— IANS

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