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Yakshagana is a theatrical art form (in the Tenkutittu-southern and Badagatittu-northern forms) is prevalent in Karnataka since the 16th century. Written only in Kannada till the 1950s, its origin can be traced to the Tulu Nadu-Shimoga region of Karnataka. Since the middle of the 20th century, Yakshagana of the Tenkutittu style popular in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi regions have been written in Tulu language.
Cowbells collected from various regions of Karnataka being played at Janapada Loka.

Karnataka is a state in the southern part of India. It was created on 1 November 1956, with the passing of the States Reorganisation Act. Karnataka is bordered by the Arabian Sea to the west, Goa to the northwest, Maharashtra to the north, Andhra Pradesh to the east, Tamil Nadu to the southeast, and Kerala to the southwest. The state covers an area of 74,122 sq mi (191,976 km²), or 5.83% of the total geographical area of India. It comprises 30 districts. Kannada is the official language of Karnataka and is spoken as a native language by about 64.75% of the people.[1] Various ethnic groups with origins in other parts of India have unique customs and use languages at home other than Kannada, adding to the cultural diversity of the state. Other ethnic minorities in the state in 1991 were Urdu people (9.72%), Telugu people (8.34%),Marathi people (3.95%), Tamil people (3.82%), Tuluvas (3.38%), Hindi (1.87%), Konkani people (1.78%), Malayalis (1.69%), Kodavas (0.25%), Kodava maaples (0.13%) and Gujarati people (0.10%).[1] Kannada is spoken widely and predominantly.


Main article: Kannadiga

Kannadigas form the dominant ethnic group in Karnataka, making up to 72% of the total population of the state. They are the native speakers of the Kannada language. Kannada is one of the official languages of India and the official and administrative language of the state of Karnataka.[2] Based on the recommendations of the Committee of Linguistic Experts, appointed by the Ministry of Culture, the Government of India officially recognised Kannada as a classical language.[3][4]

Tuluva people[edit]

Main article: Tuluva
A regional map of Tulu Nadu in Karnataka. Tulu Nadu also includes Northern part of Kasaragod district, north of Payaswini river, in Kerala

Tuluvas are the native speakers of Tulu language. They form the dominant linguistic group in the districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, which together is often termed as a single region called as Tulu Nadu. As per 1991 census, Tuluvas form 2.38% of the total population of the state.[1] Tulu activists have been demanding a separate Tulu Nadu state since the 1990s, considering language and culture as the basis for their demand.[5][6][7][8][9] However, most Tulu speaking people of state are bilingual in Kannada due to inter-marriages between the two communities.

Kodava people[edit]

Main article: Kodava people
Dolls in Kodava attire

Kodava people are the native speakers of Kodava language and are mainly settled in the district of Kodagu.[10] As per 1991 census, the speakers of Kodava Takk make up to 0.25% of the total population of the state.[1] According to Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy, apart from Kodavas, 18 other ethnic groups speak Kodava Takk in and outside the district including Heggade, Iri, Koyava, Banna, Madivala, Hajama, Kembatti, and Meda.[11] Though the language has no script, recently a German linguist by name Gregg M. Cox developed a new writing system for the language known as the Coorgi-Cox alphabet, used by a number of individuals within Kodagu.[12] Lately, some organizations including the Codava National Council (CNC) and Kodava Rashtriya Samiti are demanding Kodava homeland status and autonomy to Kodagu district.[13] [14]


Kannada Other languages Total
Hindu 66.9% 17% 83.9%
Muslim 1.2% 11%[b] 12.2%
Christian 1% 0.9%[c] 1.9%
Other religions 1% 1% 2%
Total 70.1% 29.9% 100%
Main article: Urdu

People speaking Urdu as their mothertongue form the second largest ethnic group in Karnataka (9.72% of the total population as per 1991 census), majority of whom are Muslims (constituting 85.6% of Muslim population in Karnataka).[1] The concentration of speakers of Urdu shows an uneven distribution over different districts in Karnataka. The difference in the numerical strength of Urdu speakers varies from a few hundreds to thousands.[1] Almost 57.5% of the total Urdu population in Karnataka are bilingual. Kannada is the most preferred language among the Urdu speakers of Karnataka. About 43.5% of the total Urdu population has bilingualism in Kannada.[1]

Telugu people[edit]

Main article: Telugu people

As per 1991 census, speakers of Telugu formed the third largest ethnic group in Karnataka (8.34% of the total population).[1] The speakers of Telugu language form the native ethnic group of Andhra Pradesh & Telangana, the neighbouring states of Karnataka. Telugu is the official language of Andhra Pradesh, spoken by 88.5% of the population. Telugu is the third most spoken language in India.[15] The Indian government designated Telugu as a classical and ancient language on 1 November 2008.[16] Telugu and Kannada share a long relationship, both having a similar script and culture. There has been a large migration of Telugu-speakers to Karnataka ever since the days of the Vijayanagara Empire.

There are significant populations of Telugu speakers in the eastern districts of Karnataka viz. Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural, Bellary, Chikballapur, Kolar, Raichur and Tumkur.[17] Telugu people are the third largest ethnic group in Bengaluru after Kannadigas and Tamils, constituting 16% of the total population as per the 1991 census.[18] The recent migrants from Andhra Pradesh speak Telugu while older migrants are bilingual in both Kannada and Telugu. Some Telugu people settled in Karnataka for generations have adopted Kannada as their mother-tongue.

Marathi people[edit]

Main article: Marathi people

Marathi people are the native speakers of the Marathi language, which serves as the official language of the adjoining state of Maharashtra.

Marathi speakers are mostly found in the districts of Belgaum and Bidar and as per 1991 census form 2.95% of the total population of the state.[1] Belgaum district was incorporated into the newly formed Mysore state (now Karnataka) with the passage of the States Reorganisation Act (1956), which reorganised India's states along linguistic lines, despite having a large Marathi-speaking population;[19] about three-fourths of the total population.[20] There are also considerable number of Marathi-speakers in Bangalore city.[21]

The migration of Marathi-speakers to Karnataka date from the 17th century when the Maratha Empire was established. Chattrapathi Shivaji's father Shahaji was a feudal chieftain in the Bangalore region. Shivaji's half-brother Venkoji, who succeeded him, conquered Thanjavur and relocated his seat to the city, thereby laying the foundations of the Thanjavur Maratha kingdom. Even after the Marathas lost their hold over Bangalore, Marathis occupied high positions as administrators and bureaucrats in the courts of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan as well as the Nizam of Hyderabad.


Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form is is immensely popular in Karnataka as well

In Karnataka, Tamils form more than 3.24% of the total population of the state.[1][22] There has been a recorded presence of Tamil-speaking people in Southern Karnataka since the 10th century.[23] During the eleventh century AD, the areas in and around Bangalore were a bone of contention between the Tamil-speaking Cholas and the Kannada-speaking Western Chalukyas.[23] The Vaishnavite Brahmins of Southern Karnataka use the Tamil surname "Iyengar" and are believed to have migrated during the time of the 11th century Vaishnavite saint Ramanujacharya. Most Iyengars in Karnataka use sub-dialects of Iyengar Tamil. Some believe that Kempe Gowda, the founder of Bangalore city, invited the Tigalas or Vanniyakula Kshatriya from Kanchipuram district to settle down in Bengaluru.[23]

After the fall of Tipu Sulthan, a large British Army presence in the Cantonment area (Bangalore) attracted speakers of Tamil, who either were attached to the military or were military suppliers.In fact, the area was administered directly by the Madras Presidency, and was handed over to the Mysore State only in 1949.[21] Today, the erstwhile Cantonment area of Bangalore comprising Ulsoor, Shivajinagar, Benson Town, Richard’s Town, Fraser Town, Austin Town, Richmond Town, Cox Town, Murphy Town and others still boast a large Tamil populace.[21] The boom in the textile industry in the early part of 20th Century also witnessed migration from the Madras Presidency. Some of the very well known mills of the time employed Tamil-speaking people in large numbers, who settled down in areas in and around Bangalore[21]

Tamil-speaking people are largely found in the districts of Bengaluru Urban, Bangalore Rural, Mysore, Kolar and Chamarajanagar in southern Karnataka . Recent migrants speak Tamil while older migrants are bilingual in Kannada and Tamil. Some who have resided in Karnataka for generations have even adopted Kannada as their mother tongue. In 1991, Tamils constituted the largest ethnolinguistic minority in Bangalore city making up 21.38 percent of population.In 1971, Tamil formed the second-largest mother tongue in Bengaluru .[24]

Tamils also comprise of a significant population in the Kolar district, most of them who were workers in the Kolar Gold Fields (KGF). Tamil miners have significantly contributed to the growth of the KGF.[25]

There are also a few hundred Tamil families from Sri Lanka who were originally of South Indian Tamil descent, settled in Sulya and Puttur taluks of Dakshina Kannada district and are currently working in rubber plantations in the district.[26][27][28]

Malayali people[edit]

Main article: Malayali

Malayalis are the native speakers of the Malayalam language, which has official status in the state of Kerala, and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry.[29][30]

As per 1991 census, Malayalis form 0.69% of the total population of the state[1] Native Malayalam-speaking people are found in large numbers in the districts of Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu.[31][32][33][34] Malayalam is one of the major languages spoken in the city of Mangalore.In the early part of the 20th century, a large number of traders from the Malabar region settled in Bangalore for business reasons. The number of migrants increased with the establishment of public sector undertakings in the 1950s.improving educational standards of Bangalore also brought a large number of students from Kerala.[21] Even though Kodagu is known for its native Kodavas, the district also has a thriving population of Malayalis and not all of them are recent economic migrants. The ancestry of the people go a long way back and have developed their own distinct identity.[35] It is also evident that Kodagu-Malabar association is ancient by the fact that people of Kodagu worshiped gods and goddesses common to the Malabari Malayali people.[32]

Konkani people[edit]

Main article: Konkani people

The speakers of Konkani language are widely settled in the districts of Uttara Kannada, Udupi and Dakshina Kannada (Udupi and Dakshina Kannada was the erstwhile South Canara district).[36] In Karwar Taluk (Uttara Kannada district) alone, Konkani language is spoken by about 78% of the population.[36] Significant population of Konkani people has also settled in Belgaum, Sirsi and Bangalore.[36] As per 1991 census, the speakers of Konkani form 1.78% of the total population of the state.[1] In Karnataka, which has the largest number of Konkanis, leading organizations and activists have similarly demanded that Kannada script be made the medium of instruction for Konkani in local schools instead of Devanagari.[37] Most Konkani speaking people of the state are bilingual in Kannada.


Entrance to golden temple, Bylakuppe

Other ethnic groups settled in Karnataka includes Gujarati people(0.10%), Bengali people (0.03%), Punjabi people (0.03%), Sindhi (0.03%), Oriya people (0.01%), Arabic, (0.01%) Nepali (0.01%) and Tibetan (0.05%).[1] Another minor ethnic group which needs to be mentioned here are the Bearys. They follow Islam religion and are mainly settled in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi.[38] They are the native speakers of Beary bashe, a language made of Malayalam idioms with Tulu phonology and grammar.[39] This dialect was traditionally known as Mappila Malayalam because of Bearys' close contact with Mappilas.[39] Due to vast influence of Tulu for centuries, it is today considered as a language, close to both Malayalam and Tulu.[39] The word 'Beary' is said to be derived from the Tulu word 'Byara' which means trade or business, as this community were primarily traders. Since the major portion of this community people were involved in business activities, the local Tulu speaking majority called them as Beary or Byari.[40] There is also a small Tibetan settlement in Bylakuppe, in Mysore district. This was the first and largest of the intentional Tibetan settlements in India, and was created in response to accommodate fleeing Tibetans due to the Chinese occupation of their homeland. The camp is home to some 14,000 Tibetans.[41] Another ethnic group that needs special mention is the Siddis. They are found in the ghat area of Uttara Kannada district, Dharwad district and Belgaum district.These people have African ancestry as majority of these people were said to have come from Goa, where they were imported from East Africa (mainly Mozambique) by Portuguese as slaves.[42] They speak Are Marathi, a mixture of Marathi, Konkani and Kannada language.[42]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m A. R. Fatihi. "Urdu in Karnataka". Language in India, Volume 2: 2002-12-09. M. S. Thirumalai, Managing Editor, Language in India. Retrieved 2007-06-29. 
  2. ^ "The Karnataka Official Language Act" (PDF). Official website of Department of Parliamentary Affairs and Legislation. Government of Karnataka. Retrieved 2007-06-29. 
  3. ^ "Declaration of Telugu and Kannada as classical languages". Press Information Bureau. Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Government of India. Retrieved 2008-10-31. 
  4. ^ "Kannada gets classical tag". DH News Service. www.Deccanhearld.com. Retrieved 2008-10-31. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Tulu Nadu movement gaining momentum". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 13 August 2006. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  6. ^ Economic and political weekly (1997), v. 32, Sameeksha Trust, p. 3114
  7. ^ Tulu Rajya Horata Samithi has urged that the region comprising Tulu speaking people should be given the status of a separate state from Daiji World
  8. ^ Tulu organisations to meet soon from The Hindu
  9. ^ Samithi seeks separate Tulu state from Deccan Herald
  10. ^ "Kodava-speaking people seek one identity". The Hindu. 
  11. ^ "Will Kodava find a place in Eighth Schedule?". The Hindu. 
  12. ^ "Debate on Kodava script continues". The Hindu.  German multi-linguist devises a script with 34 alphabets
  13. ^ "Codava National Council sets up global forum". The Hindu. 
  14. ^ "Dharna staged for Kodagu State". The Hindu. 
  15. ^ "Comparative Ranking of Scheduled Languages in Descending Order of Speakers' Strength - 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. 2001. Retrieved 10 November 2008. 
  16. ^ "Telugu, Kannada get classical tag". The Times of India. 1 November 2008. Retrieved 10 November 2008. 
  17. ^ "Greater academic exchange between Kannada and Telugu proposed". Chennai, India: The Hindu newspaper daily. 7 November 2008. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  18. ^ D. V. Kumar (2006). Modernisation and ethnicity: locating the Telugu community in Bangalore. Mittal Publications. p. 16. ISBN 8183241077, ISBN 9788183241076. 
  19. ^ Girish Kuber (28 November 2005). "District’s always been bone of contention". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2006-11-01. [dead link]
  20. ^ Jaishankar Jayaramaiah (21 November 2005). "Karnataka caught in ‘language’ web". The Financial express. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  21. ^ a b c d e Sharath S. Srivatsa. "Bangalore calling: it all goes way back…". The Hindu. Retrieved 2009-12-03. 
  22. ^ Almost 5 million Tamils live outside Tamil Nadu, inside India
  23. ^ a b c Smriti Srinivas (2004). "The Settlement of Tamil speaking Groups in Karnataka". Landscapes of Urban Memory. Orient Blackswan. pp. 100–102. ISBN 8125022546, ISBN 9788125022541. 
  24. ^ P. Padmanabha. Census of India, 1971. Manager of Publications. pp. 668–669. 
  25. ^ "Government mulls future of Kolar Gold Fields". India Today. Retrieved 7 September 2014. 
  26. ^ "Sri Lankan Tamil repatriates to finally get caste certificates". The Hindu. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  27. ^ "Rubber Boom Raises Hope Of Repatriates". Counter Currents. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  28. ^ "Unsettled still". Sunday Times.Lk. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  29. ^ "Malayalam". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  30. ^ "Principal languages of Pondicherry". Retrieved 2009-12-03. 
  31. ^ "karnatakavision.com". 
  32. ^ a b "Kodagu-Kerala association is ancient". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 26 November 2008. 
  33. ^ "Virajpet Kannada Sahitya Sammelan on January 19". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 9 December 2008. 
  34. ^ "Govt. to start cultural centres". The Hindu. 
  35. ^ "Pageant of colour and revelry". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 21 May 2006. 
  36. ^ a b c Manohararāya Saradesāya. "A history of Konkani literature: from 1500 to 1992". 
  37. ^ The Hindu : Karnataka / Mangalore News : `Kannada script must be used to teach Konkani'
  38. ^ "World Beary meet next year". The Hindu. 
  39. ^ a b c Upadhyaya, U. Padmanabha (1996), "Coastal Karnataka: Studies in Folkloristic and Linguistic Traditions of Dakshina Kannada Region of the Western Coast of India", First All India Conference of Dravidian Linguistics, Thiruvananthapuram, 1973 (Udupi: Rashtrakavi Govind Pai Samshodhana Kendra), ISBN 81-86668-06-3 
  40. ^ Ahmed Noori, Maikala p.17 (1960)
  41. ^ "Tibetan Refugees in India".  Seekers of Refuge in a Land of No Return: Conversations with Tibetan Refugees in Bylakuppe
  42. ^ a b Shanti Sadiq Ali. "The African dispersal in the Deccan: from medieval to modern times". 

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