The Exuberant Art Forms of Karnataka That Will Leave You Enchanted


Art Forms of Karnataka
Image Courtesy – Kalaradhana Veeragase

Blessed with fascinating beauty and majestic grandeur, the art forms of Karnataka have helped the state to secure a unique place in India. Situated in the southern part of India, the state shares its borders with the other states of Kerala, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu.

Karnataka is also home to the “Silicon Valley of India,” i.e, the city of Bangalore. The state is known all over India for its rich cultural heritage. It is one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the country. Karnataka is also home to several monuments and places of historical significance. Which include Hampi, the capital of the ancient empire of Vijayanagara. The plethora of festivals and the rich tradition add to the beauty of the state.

From the urban city of Bangalore to the historically significant Hampi to the scenic and mesmerizing Coorg. It can be concluded that the state of Karnataka is home to some of the most fascinating places in India. The art, culture, and music of Karnataka are instrumental in portraying the diversity prevalent in the state.

Image – Raghu Jana via Flickr

The state is known for it’s distinct and culturally relevant art forms. The art forms of the state serve as a means to bring the communities closer. From the Yakshagana, which employs elaborate costumes, to the Chodi Ke Mela, which includes musical narration, the state has so much to offer an art lover. The art forms of the state are quite distinct from any other state of India. The difference is evident in their costumes, make-up, narration, dialogue, plot, and performance. Most of the art forms of Karnataka narrate stories from the Indian epics. The performances of these enthralling art forms usually take place during festivals, fairs, and other such special occasions. The festivals in Karnataka culture are quite colorful, splendid, vibrant and are sure to lift the spirits of the observer. The tranquility and the spirituality of the state reign supreme in its art form too.

1. Yakshagana

Image – Nayana Sondi via Flickr

A traditional art form of Karnataka, Yakshagana, is the most popular and the most significant art form of the state. It is said to have originated four hundred years ago and used a unique technique of narration. The word “Yaksha” refers to celestial beings, and the word “gana” refers to the song. 

The performance comprises a combination of music, dance, elaborate costumes, and face painting. A Theatrical Art form, Yakshagana, has secured the pride of place among the other art forms of Karnataka. It mainly narrates stories from the Indian epics. 

The lively performance of the Yakshagana usually takes place during the night-time. It is accompanied by the background music, which adds to the thrilling ambiance providing a unique experience to the viewers. The art form is generally performed during rainy seasons. It thus serves as a means to uplift the spirits.

2. Dollu Kunita

Image – Wikimedia

Dollu Kunita is an energetic and vibrant dance form that is widely prevalent in the state of Karnataka. This art form is usually performed in honor of Lord Beereshwara. The performers move in quick-paced steps in a circular fashion while beating their drums. This produces a unique kind of music that is perfectly in tune with the mode of the performance. The synchronization of the movement of the performers with the music produced is one of the highlights of the performance. The performance is highly dynamic. It provides a thrilling and enthralling experience to anyone who would witness it.

3. Goravara Kunitha

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Goravara Kunitha is another popular art form in the state of Karnataka. To perform this art form, the performers dress in vibrant and attractive costumes. The dancers performing in perfect synchronization with each other would mesmerize the viewer.

 The dance is said to portray the hidden animalistic characteristics of human beings. The art form is esteemed and widely performed during festivals, fairs, and other special occasions.

4. Somana Kunita


A very unique and enthralling art form of Karnataka, Somana Kunitha is a symbol of the rich heritage of the state. Usually performed by two or three men, the performers wear elaborate costumes, a large mask, and huge headgear as they perform the dance. 

The dance is performed in villages and is said to possess the power to protect the village and keep away all the evil spirits.

5. Krishna Parijatha


Krishna Parijatha is a fascinating theatrical art form and is most popular in the northern part of Karnataka. The folk art narrates the adventure of Lord Krishna and Lord Indra and is quite popular throughout the whole country. 

The performance of Krishna Parijatha usually takes place in open-air theatres. This provides the actors ample freedom to improvise while on the stage. Along with the vibrant and distinct costumes, Krishna Parijatha has the capability to enchant the viewer with its powerful performance. Moreover, the simple dialogues and the exciting plot add to the charm of the performance.

6. Jagghalige Kunita


Jaghaligle Kunita is a folk art form of the North Karnataka region. Jaghaligle is a special percussion instrument used for the act is made of the wheels of bullock carts which are encased in buffalo hides. This performance is a custom during the Ugadi and Holi festivals. Usually the villagers make a group of 12-15 members and roll out instrument in the form of procession following the instructions of a choreographer. The rhythmic folk art imparts an atmosphere of anticipation and entertainment.

7. Beesu Kamsale

Image – Wikimedia

The Beesu Kamsale is one of the most dynamic folk art forms of Karnataka. It incorporates the music of the instrument called Kamsale, a brass disc iconically used in the performance. The people of Mahadeshwara Gudda mainly participate in this dance, which demands diligent practice and honed skills. The dance is performed with rhythmic and synchronised movements of the performers in tune with the music. This art form requires the performer to have intense training and concentration to present a powerful performance.

8. Chowdike Mela


The performance employs musical narration and is usually performed by women. The devotees of goddess Yellamma sing praises to her name through the Chowdike pada. They smear sacred ash on their foreheads and devote themselves to Yellamma. Chowdike Mela employs an extraordinary and unique instrument called Chowdike for its performance. Chowdike Mela is capable of providing the spectator a unique and soothing experience.

9. Veeragase


The Veeragase is a traditional dance form of the Hindu religion performed in the months of Shravana and Karthika to worship their gods . The dance got its name from Veerbhadra, a Hindu warrior from the state of Karnataka. It is a vivacious and lively folk dance, often presented during the Dasara festival procession which is held in the streets of Mysore. The devotees of Lord Shiva, who perform the Veeragase dance, are known as Lingadevaru. The performers wear extravagant costumes which include headgears, a Rudraksha mala and a hip belt of several gems.

10. Bootha Kola

Image – Wikimedia

In Bootha kola, Bhoota signifies ‘spirits’ and Kola means ‘play’ in Tulu. It is fundamentally a spirit worship ritual celebrated by Tulus in Karnataka and a few regions of Kerala. These spirits shield the town from calamities and make them prosperous. It is accepted that the outrage of these spirits brings misfortune. The ones adored are Panjurli, his sister Varthe, Kalluri, Kalkuda, Kordhabbu, Guliga, Jarandaya, Bobbarya, etc. There are stories that depict their bravery and how they came to be worshipped. These spirits are neither virtuous nor awful. Kola is additionally called ‘nema’ which implies ceremony, which continues from dusk to dawn.

11. Togalu Gombeyaata


Gombe Aata (play of dolls or Puppet show) is a distinct type of skill native to Karnataka. Gombe Aata includes narration using characters made from dolls, who are conducted by people in the background using undetectable strings. Made of wood and dressed with silk cloths, puppets are key elements of Gombe Aata. The puppetry ordinarily showcases minor plots from sagas like Ramayana, Mahabharata or different puranas/old stories. A Gombe aata show incorporates music and narration, with puppets moving around in front of an audience, as commanded by the puppeteers. They perform activities like embracing, bowing, folding their hands, etc.

12. Huli Vesha

Image – The Belurs via Flickr

Huli Vesha (otherwise known as tiger dance) is performed to honor Goddess Durga and her sacred animal, the tiger, during navratri. Huli Vesha performances usually include a troupe of dancers clothed in tiger costumes, tiger face masks or face paintings, tiger stripes on the body and yellow or orange hued shorts. The group proceeds onward to the central streets of the town, joined by drums and music, engaging general citizens and at times gathering contributions from whoever offers the same. During the dance, they take several intervals to play out certain tricks and stunts to keep the crowd more engrossed.

13. Suggi Kunitha

Image – Ramesh Lalwani/Flickr

Suggi Kunitha is a dance form performed during the seasons of the harvesting festival in Karnataka. It is presented by the Halakki tribe during the January and February months with the sole motive of entertainment. Suggi dance is performed by a troop of twelve to fourteen who dance to the beats of the drum. It continues as they go from village to village with the beats of the drum and sing in unison and also gather grains and cash as a contribution.

On the last day, the dance lasts for the whole day and night. The drummers keep on chanting loudly to make the moment livelier. Dance steps used in this type of dance are compared to sea waves, curves on growing vines, or rivers flowing, relating the dance form to the varying phases of nature. The songs used in such performances are related to ones in Hindu Mythology. An extraordinary turban embellished with ornaments of various colours, small birds made of wood, and feathers of a peacock is worn by the dancers. The colours used in the turban are mostly red, green, yellow, and white associating with most of nature’s colours. The costumes worn by the men are colourful specifically bright while they perform the Suggi Dance.

14. Huttari Kunita


Hattari is one of the most vivacious forms of dance that has been started by the inhabitants of Coorg in Mysore. This dance has some of the most colourful clothing which is worn by the males. Women do not take part in this dance. Only the menfolk are seen dancing on the drum beats and pipe sounds. In addition, the dancers make use of shields and canes which are clutched in their hands and handled carefully and gracefully for the performance. This dance form even involves few steps which are inspired by the tandava style as they employ footwork by raising the left foot and then balancing the right foot and jumping vigorously. Hattari dance is performed in open fields where men disguise themselves in the most attractive traditional black tunics. Also, the dress worn by the dancers during the performance includes all decorative garments such as turbans, white trousers and black traditional tunics. They also tie a sash card along their waist while performing the Hattari dance. They make a circle or form a large ring and then perform the Hattari dance in round movements.

15. Karaga 


The Karaga is an earthen pot that sustains a floral pyramid and a miniature figure of the goddess with a small silver umbrella on top of that. The Tigala community, who believe Draupadi as their most important god, have faith that Draupadi’s power increase during the Festival and the Carrier dressed as a woman signifies Draupadi. The contents of the pot have been a secret for centuries. The carrier’s arrival is declared by hundreds of bare-chested, dhoti-clad, turbaned Veerakumaras bearing drawn swords. Tradition has it that this frenzied procession of Veerakumaras accompanying the karaga carrier can execute him should he stumble and let the karaga fall. This festival takes place in the central part of the Bangalore city is known as Bangalore Karaga. The dancers perform various acrobatic feats while following the procession accompanied by a number of musical instruments like ‘Thavi’, “Nadaswaram”, “Muni”, “Udukka”, “Pamba”, etc. The carrier keeps dancing along with the Veerakumaras as he balances the Karaga or pot on his head. The VeeraKumaras keep banging their unsheathed swords on their chest, chanting “dik-di dik-di.”

Though the art forms of Karnataka differ widely from each other concerning their mode of performance. They all have one thing in common, the power to mesmerize the audience. Anyone who witnesses these art forms would surely be left enchanted by the charm and beauty of the performance.

Through their incredible art forms, the state has succeeded in preserving its rich culture and varied heritage through centuries

Though the art forms of Karnataka differ widely from each other concerning their mode of performance. They all have one thing in common, the power to mesmerize the audience. Anyone who witnesses these art forms would surely be left enchanted by the charm and beauty of the performance.

Through their incredible art forms, the state has succeeded in preserving its rich culture and varied heritage through centuries.

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