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Tourism > India > Karnatka > Kartataka Culture > Karnataka People

Karnataka People

Karnataka people are an extremely varied mix of ethnic, racial and religious affiliations. Malayalis, Tamils, Marathis and people from Andhra Pradesh have co-existed in mutual harmony with the indigenous people of the land for centuries. Karnataka people have always upheld the ideals of tolerance. It therefore seems obvious that people of varied ethnicities have made and still continue to make Karnataka their home. Indigenous tribes like the Kurubas are the original people of Karnataka. However, at various points of time, people of both Aryan and Dravidian ethnicities have made Karnataka their home. If Brahmins and other upper caste Hindus came with Shankaracharya and made Karnataka their home, then the Tigalas came in the times of Hyder Ali.

Kannad is the official language and is spoken by most people in Karnataka. But at the same time there are other linguistic groups like Tamil, Malayali, Konkani, Hindia and Urdu speaking people. Hinduism is the most widely followed religion in Karnataka followed by Islam and Christianity. The Malayali groups are centered around Mysore and form a distinct socio-linguistic group within Karnataka people. The Coorgs of the Koduva district form a distinct group among Karnataka people. Despite being a part of the Kannad mainstream, they do have customs, religious practices and dress codes that are unique to their tribe.

The various ethnicities within the people from Karnataka have extremely indigenous traditions, customs and languages. Kurubas are the main tribal group. They are further divided into many ethnicities like Bewttada Kuruba and Jenu Kurubas. These people of Karnataka have their individual language and their very own religion. The Kurubas depend largely on agriculture as their mode of livelihood. Modern Karnataka has an extremely cosmopolitan feel about it. Various people from across India as well as various parts of the world have heartily made Karnataka their home.

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Karnataka food

Karnataka food is extremely rich in variety. From the strict vegetarian delicacies of Udipi to the non-vegetarian gourmets of Kodava, food in Karnataka has something to bring water to everybody's mouth. Rice is the staple of Karnataka food. However, rotis made of wheat, jowar and ragi are also widely consumed in the northern districts of the state.


Karnataka food is typically non-greasy. There is very little use of oil and food items are largely steamed. Fruits, in their fresh as well as pickled forms, feature prominently in the food of Karnataka. Rice is cooked in a variety of ways. There are red grain rice, sannas, rice rotis and pancakes made of rice. Mangalore presents some of the richest varieties of rice-based delicacies. The paper thin akki rotis of Malnad called talipattus are also extremely popular and a widely sought after item.

The name of Udipi is integrally connected to the tradition of Karnataka food. It is famous for its many delicacies which are strictly vegetarian. Both onions and garlics are avoided in the cooking of Udipi. This place is considered to be the place which created the masala dosa, one of the most popular food items in India. Sambar, rasam, dumplings, dry curries, pickles and chutneys of different types are also Udipi specialties. A striking contrast to Udipi in the tradition of Karnataka's food is Kodagu which present excellent non-vegetarian delicacies like Pandi (pork) curry, koli (chicken) curry and bembla curry. Sea fish also feature prominently in the culinary fairs of coastal Karnataka.

Karnataka is famous for its desserts. Milk, vermicelli, sugar, coconuts, jaggery and various dry fruits are most commonly used in creating the desserts of Karnataka food. Payasas, pedas of different types, kesari bhath and chiroti are some of he most popular desserts of Karnataka.

Karnataka dresses

Karnataka dresses share the distinctiveness and elegance of South Indian clothing. The dresses of Karnataka bespeak grace, convenience and decency which are integral to the cultural ethos of the state. The men wear shirts or kurtas along with a lungi on the upper and lower body respectively. Although there is not much of a variation of the men's dresses in Karnataka, yet the dresses follow strict codes of custom laid down by tradition since the ancient times. Sarees have been the traditional dress for women in Karnataka. Traditionally, the saree is worn in the characteristic nivi style of southern India with pleats in the front and sometime passed on to the rear to facilitate movement.

The Coorgi style follows the usual manners of Karnataka's dresses but with slight variations. Members of the Coorg community of the Kodavu district have their individual and slightly distinct style of wearing the saree. Here the pleats are created on the back allowing free movement of the legs. The remaining part of the saree is then brought over the right shoulder and pinned. Mysore is famous for its exquisite silk sarees which form an integral part of Karnataka dresses which are exported and are extremely sought after by people from all parts of the country. The famous Ilke sarees employing the celebrated kasuti embroidery are also popular extensively made in Karnataka.

It should however be noted that the recent developments of Karnataka have given rise to many cosmopolitan cities where people come from all corners of India. They bring along with them their individual styles, and that have exercised clear influences on Karnataka dresses. At the same time western wears are gaining in popularity because of their added convenience. However, the traditional Karnataka dresses still continue to be heartily cherished by the inhabitants of the state.

Karnataka women

Karnataka women have played an important part in the cultural and political history of the state. From Gangubai Hangal to Ashwini Nachappa, from Shakuntala Devi to Aishwarya Rai, women from Karnataka continue to make a mark in India's cultural scene. Modern women in Karnataka are self-assured and educated professionals who participate actively in every sphere of human activity.


However, a disparity of the condition among Karnataka women in the urban and the rural areas cannot be altogether denied. Incidents of gender discrimination has not been uncommon in Karnataka, especially in the rural areas and among the urban poor. The Karnataka State Women's Commission has recently formed a panel to initiate an in-depth study of the conditions of Karnataka's women. That would be followed by sure and planned steps to alleviate their plight.

Karnataka women in the recent times have been extremely proactive in their upliftment in society. The formation of self-help groups to elevate their positions among the urban poor have been particularly noteworthy. With the support of he Asian Development Bank (ADB), these Karnataka women are working to eradicate the evils of alcoholism, borrowing and joblessness of their male counterparts. These poor women in Karnataka have also been active to become economically self-sufficient. This is dove mainly through small scale entrepreneurship, skilled labor, etc.

The various urban centers of Karnataka now sees women in various professional spheres. The high literacy rate among the women of Karnataka has seen them emerge as very competent performers in the various industrial sectors and high-profile public spheres.

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