Karwar, South India, and its Coastal Culture

If you head south from Goa, in northern Karnataka state you will land in the coastal city of Karwar. Snugly settled between the Sahyadri Mountains in the east and the expansive Arabian Sea on the west, its harbor on the south and the Kali River (Kalinadi) in the north, Karwar is a colorful seaport on India's western coast.

With scenic natural locales, ancient forts and temples, the town of Karwar is steeped in history and is a significant destination on the tourism map of India. The European colonies, fishing communities, sea-farers, traders and ethnic inhabitants have contributed to the vibrant and diverse culture of Karwar.

History & Etymology

Known as the ‘Kashmir of Karnataka’, the settlement of Karwar was established and inhabited by the British in 1857. The town derived its name from a nearby village Kadwad, which means the ‘last precinct’ (kade-last, Wada-region/precinct) in Konkani and Kannada languages. The town has seen colonization by Portuguese, French and the British, Maratha emperors and Muslim traders, sailing through the port and setting up their territories. If you're planning a trip to explore this gorgeous sea town, rent a car in Mangalore.

Religion & Festivals

Karwar has the majority of Hindu inhabitants. Christianity was introduced to the region by the Portuguese and British rulers. Muslim traders from the Deccan regions migrated to Karwar for its port location and ease of sea-route. Over the generations, the town has evolved with a harmonic relationship among the Hindus, Christians and the Muslim residents. Hence, if you ever visit during any local festival, you would always find all Karwaris participating in every celebration as their own. People of Karwar celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali, Christmas, and Id-ul-Fitr. However, being quintessentially a coastal province, the region also has its local festivals like:

Sao Joao – a local celebration, with its origins in Goa, where people wear garlands of freshly picked fruits leaves and flowers dive into water bodies.

Karavali Utsav (festival) – an annual festival that lasts for three to four days. It is held at the Tagore beach and organized by the district administration as a cultural and social event to preserve the local tradition. If you want to experience the true essence of Karwari culture, then this festival is the best time to visit. People from different parts of the district, state and even neighboring towns and villages, gather at this mega event to take part and celebrate the coastal life.

People & Culture



Being a coastal town, the major livelihood of Karwar is concentrated around fishing and fisheries, followed by farming of locally grown produce. Fishing villages concentrate around the wharfs and have their own community of fishermen and engage in deep sea fishing and fishery-related activities. The locals are also engaged in horticulture, leather manufacturing, and apiculture.


What locals eat speaks a lot about a place and its culture. And when you are in Karwar, rest assured that you would be spoilt for choice, especially if you are a seafood lover. The local cuisine is mostly homestyle and has managed to keep the commercial recipes at bay. Rice, coconut, cashews, fishes, oysters, and clams make for the staple diet. If you want to taste the best, head to a local eatery and try the crab curry, fish fried in home-made spices and dried fish. If your seafood craving is strong enough to make you head to Karwar, we recommend you book Bangalore to Karwar cabs to get there. Be prepared for a high-spice quotient when eating at a local place. Follow it by traditional Karwari sweets like patoli, modak, and madgane.

Art & Crafts

The natives of Karwar engage in ethnic art and handicrafts which are great collectibles. The town’s heritage and culture are reflected in its wood crafts, rural paintings, and local handicrafts. Visit a local artisan to get a first-hand experience of their skilled craftsmanship in the woodwork, silk weaving, and jewelry making. Sandalwood, sourced from the nearby forests are used to make décor items, toys, essential oil, and incense. Don’t forget to pick a few souvenirs as a takeaway from this vibrant coastal town.

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