The diverse linguistic and religious ethnicities that are native to Karnataka combined with their long histories have contributed immensely to the varied cultural heritage of the state. Apart from Kannadigas, Karnataka is home to Tuluvas, Kodavas and Konkanis. Minor populations of Tibetan Buddhists and tribes like the Soligas, Yeravas,Todas and Siddhis also live in Karnataka. The traditional folk arts cover the entire gamut of music, dance, drama, storytelling by itinerant troupes, etc. Yakshagana of Malnad and coastal Karnataka, a classical dance drama, is one of the major theatrical forms of Karnataka. Contemporary theatre culture in Karnataka remains vibrant with organizations like Ninasam, Ranga Shankara, Rangayana and Prabhat Kalavidaru continuing to build on the foundations laid by Gubbi Veeranna, T. P. Kailasam, B. V. Karanth, K V Subbanna, Prasanna and others. Veeragase, Kamsale, Kolata and Dollu Kunitha are popular dance forms. The Mysore style of Bharatanatya nurtured and popularised by the likes of the legendary Jatti Tayamma continues to hold sway in Karnataka and Bangalore also enjoys an eminent place as one of the foremost centers of Bharatanatya.
Karnataka also has a special place in the world of Indian classical music with both Karnataka (Carnatic) and Hindustani styles finding place in the state and Karnataka has produced a number of stalwarts in both styles. While referring to music the word 'Karnataka', the original name given to the South Indian classical music does not mean the state of Karnataka. The Haridasa movement of the sixteenth century contributed seminally to the development of Karnataka (Carnatic) music as a performing art form. Purandara Dasa, one of the most revered Haridasas, is known as the Karnataka Sangeeta Pitamaha ('Father of Karnataka a.k.a.Carnatic music'). Celebrated Hindustani musicians like Gangubai Hangal, Mallikarjun Mansur, Bhimsen Joshi, Basavaraja Rajaguru, Sawai Gandharva and several others hail from Karnataka and some of them have been recipients of the Kalidas Samman, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan awards.
Gamaka is another classical music genre based on Carnatic music that is practiced in Karnataka. Kannada Bhavageete is a genre of popular music that draws inspiration from the expressionist poetry of modern poets. The Mysore school of painting has produced painters like Sundarayya, Tanjavur Kondayya, B. Venkatappa and Keshavayya. Chitrakala Parishat is an organisation in Karnataka dedicated to promoting painting, mainly in the Mysore painting style.
Saree is the traditional dress of women in Karnataka. Women in Kodagu have a distinct style of wearing the saree, different from the rest of Karnataka. Dhoti, known as Panche in Karnataka is the traditional attire of men. Shirt, Trousers and Salwar kameez are widely worn in Urban areas. Mysore peta is the traditional headgear of southern Karnataka, while the pagadi orpataga (similar to the Rajasthani turban) is preferred in the northern areas of the state.
Rice (Kannada: ಅಕ್ಕಿ) and Ragi form the staple food in South Karnataka, whereas Jolada rotti, Sorghum is staple to North Karnataka. Bisi bele bath, Jolada rotti, Ragi mudde, Uppittu, Masala Dose and Maddur Vade are some of the popular food items in Karnataka. Among sweets, Mysore Pak, Belgaavi Kunda, Gokak karadantu, and Dharwad pedha are popular. Apart from this, coastal Karnataka and Kodagu have distinctive cuisines of their own. Udupi cuisine of coastal Karnataka is popular all over India.