Karnataka Culture – A Directory Of Rich Tradition, Art, Music, Food And Festivals


Gokarna by Kannan via Flickr

A state that defines the rich culture in its traditional attire of art, craft, music, dance, festivals and literature, to its modernity that the capital city Bengaluru breathes, Karnataka is a directory of rich culture. One of the premier choice of both domestic and international tourists alike, the state embeds a city for everyone – Bengaluru to enjoy its nightlife, the lesser known Bagalkot for its spiritual travel trail, Hampi for the historians and archaeologists and Sirsi for its thick cover of flora and fauna. Karnataka lists three sites under World Heritage Sites, five national parks and a coastline extending up to 320 kms with a mystical journey that is promised throughout. Lets take a look at some important aspects of Karnataka Culture.

Karnataka Culture & Heritage:

Hampi – Roehan Rengadurai via Flickr

Karnataka, formerly known as Karunadu, was ruled by several dynasties from Mauryan Empire, Nanda Empire to Kadamba Dynasty, Western Ganga Dynasty and Chalukya Dynasty. The ancient ruins at Badami speak about the rise and fall of dynasties that the state has witnessed. Hampi, the city of ruins has a narrative to share in its destroyed interiors. Some of the popular visitations in Hampi are received by Krishna Temple, Virupaksha Temple, Elephant stables and Garuda Shrine in the form of a stone chariot. Mysore Palace is yet another popular site to visit which was the formal palace of the royal family of Mysore. The architectural blend of Hindu, Rajput, Muslim and Gothic styles is more secular than the entire nation presently.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Mauryan Empire
  • Nanda Empire
  • Kadamba Dynasty
  • Western Ganga Dynasty
  • Chalukya Dynasty 

Architecture of Karnataka:

Photo by Ashim D’Silva

There are sharp contrasting features in the architecture of Karnataka in its ancient form and its modern form. As mentioned in the last section, the secularism that the architecture of Karnataka possesses is incomparable which can be found in its magnificent temples, monuments and structures and their immersive Hindu, Islamic, Christian, Jain, and colonial imprints. Some of the best architectural buildings that are sheer examples of brilliance are Sudi monuments known for their rare stone carvings, Badami Cave Temple, Mahakuta Temples of Hampi and Gol Gumbaz. The vernacular architecture of Karnataka is a contemporary architecture method adopted by the The Gutthu Houses of the South Karnataka, highlighting the linguistic and literary significance.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Sudi monuments
  • Badami Cave Temple
  • Mahakuta Temples
  • Mysore Palace
  • Hampi 
  • Gol Gumbaz
  • Gutthu Houses

Languages of Karnataka:

Image – Wikimedia

The effortless flow of communication is ensured by the language of a particular community. Another important aspect of Karnataka’s culture is its languages. Karnataka Culture is made up of several communities. Besides the communities, the state is a world of many ethnicities which is reiterated time and again in the literature of the state. The administrative language of the Karnataka used by the natives is Kannada. The Tuluvas or the natives of Tulu Nadu speak Tulu. The Muslim community is unevenly distributed all around Karnataka and speak Urdu and Beary, which is spoken by selective communities. Another language which has the smallest acknowledgment is Kodava language which is spoken by some selective ethnic groups.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Kannada
  • Tulu
  • Urdu
  • Kodava language
  • Beary

Karnataka Food Culture:

Masala Dosa – Alasam via Flickr

Karnataka is intra-geographically popular for its dosas and sambar. However what most people don’t know is that Kannadigas savour heavily on their food habits. A regular Kannadiga thali consists of rice, sambar, ghee, pickle, and a vegetarian curry like Vegetable Sagu and a non-vegetarian curry like Korri Gassi. Coconut paste is used in almost all dishes. Since Karnataka is a coastal region, seafood is a staple curry special such as the Mangalorean fish curry and Kane Rava Fry. Where there is a heavy meal, there has to be desserts to relish on. Karnataka offers Payasa, Mysore Pak, Haalbai, Rava Kesari, Pori Unde and Chiroti as a sweet closure. Here are the best dishes from Karnataka traditional food.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Idli Sambar
  • Kara bath, Kesari bath
  • Kannadiga thali
  • Puri, Vegetable Sagu
  • Korri Gassi
  • Mangalorean fish curry
  • Kane Rava Fry
  • Payasa
  • Mysore Pak
  • Haalbai
  • Rava Kesari
  • Pori Unde
  • Mudde Bassaru

Traditional Dresses of Karnataka:

Image – Ajay Tallam via Flickr

Karnataka is known as the silk hub of India. Where modernity is taking over the entire country, Karnataka retains the harmony in its outfit and culture. The traditional dress of Karnataka women is saree. The variety of silk sarees worn by them include Arani silks, Raw Silk saris, Kora silks, Crepe silk sarees, Mysore Silk sarees including many more types. Handwoven sarees are in great demand during festivals and weddings. Where women have an undying love for these dyed silk yarns, men are seen sporting Lungi regularly, either below a shirt and even a t-shirt. The Angavastram covers their shoulders. During the festive season or weddings, men wear a Panche which resembles a Dhoti. For covering the head, Mysore Peta is conventionally worn. 

Key Points to Remember:

  • Silk hub of India
  • Arani silks
  • Raw Silk saris
  • Kora silks
  • Crepe silk sarees
  • Mysore Silk sarees
  • Lungi 
  • Angavastram 
  • Panche 
  • Mysore Peta

Art and craft of Karnataka:

Gajendra Moksha, Mysore Painting – Asian Curator Via Flickr

Karnataka’s art forms are an integration of passion and creativity. The more we dive into them, the more we understand its culture and heritage that have been passed on from generations to generations. The Mysore Paintings are popular paintings of South India that need no introduction. These paintings have the backdrop of many festivals and traditional occasions as they depict Lord Shrinath and Lord Ganesha. Chitrakathi scroll paintings are a style of painting that is narrated as a story by a community of storytellers found in Karnataka. These are just like our modern day comic strips. Besides the artistic endeavours of the state, several crafts like Stone Carving, Doll Making, Ivory Carving, Wood Carving, Metal Ware are widely and inevitably practiced.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Mysore Paintings
  • Chitrakathi scroll paintings
  • Stone Carving 
  • Channapatna Toys
  • Ivory Carving
  • Wood Carving
  • Metal Ware

Music, Dance and Literature of Karnataka:

Folk dance of Karnataka
Dollu Kunita Dance – Wikimedia

The cultural diversity of Karnataka is mostly witnessed in its performing arts. The diversity, the vividity and the enthrallingly beautiful portrayal in Karnataka’s music, dance and drama is worth knowing and watching. Dollu Kunitha which is a drum dance attracts a lot of attention because of its high decibel and incomparable energy. The dance form accompanies heavy drums and are played at various festivals and cultural events. It is largely associated with Lord Shiva. Huli Vesha is yet another popular dance form recreating the fable of Goddess Durga and her accompanying animal Lion.

Yakshagana – Kaustubh Naik via Flickr

Karnataka Sangeetha, also known as Carnatic music is an amalgamation of Sruti, Swara, Raga and Taala. Another unique artform named Yakshagana is an integration of every artform – it has dance, singing, two forms of drums and conversations that foster action. Another art form is called Gombe Aata that portrays the scenic puppet drama found only in Karnataka.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Carnatic music
  • Yakshagana 
  • Gombe Aata
  • Dollu Kunitha
  • Huli Vesha

Cultural Festivals of Karnataka:

Kambala – Neha Singh via Flickr

A wholesome state like Karnataka is made up of its festivals, cultural meetups and utsavs. The opportunities to witness the celebration of these festivities are many. Coastal Karnataka hosts a wild, unapologetic Buffalo race called Kambala. This festival receives loads of cheers and uproars but recently, it has received concerns and backlashes from animal welfare organisations for its animal cruelty and severe behaviour. Other traditional festivals such as Ugadi which celebrates prosperous beginnings, Hampi festival or Vijaya Utsav, Gowri festival, Pattadakal Dance Festival and Mysore Dasara are celebrated with great joy and fervour. 

Key Points to Remember:

  • Kambala
  • Mysore Dasara
  • Ugadi 
  • Hampi festival 
  • Gowri festival
  • Pattadakal Dance Festival

Occupation in Karnataka:

Image by Bishnu Sarangi

The capital city Bangalore is popularly miniaturised as the Silicon Valley of India for its booming IT sector. While the majority of the state engages in the primary sector of the agriculture sector, the others engage in public sector, private sector and artistic professions. Karnataka does fairly well when it comes to the public health services garnering a better record of health care facilities for both children and females in India. 

Key Points to Remember:

  • Silicon Valley of India
  • Agriculture sector
  • Public sector
  • Private sector
  • Artistic professions.

Karnataka with its embracing culture welcomes you to explore and find tranquility in its directory of art, food, music, dance and heritage.

Cover Photo – Peter Lepping via Flickr

Image credits: The copyright for the images used in this article belong to their respective owners. Best known credits are given under the image. For changing the image credit or to get the image removed from Caleidoscope, please contact us.


  1. Thanks Caleidoscope this article about karnataka helped me in doing my project on the topic ” Cultures of karnataka “.


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