Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Night of Bhuta Kola

You can also read this article in Kannada here.

I witnessed a Bhuta Kola recently in Puttur, Dakshina Kannada district. Performed during the night, Bhuta Kola or Bhoota Kola is a predominant form of worship of the Holy Spirits in Tulu Nadu (comprising of Mangalore, Udupi districts of Karnataka and Kasaragod district of Kerala). Though I am a native of Mangalore, it was the first time I watched the full ritual, which runs from dusk to dawn. Bhutas are worshiped as a divine forms or Ganas of deities like Lord Shiva or Mother Goddess. They are also worshiped as Rajan Daiva(royal spirit). Also, local heroes like Koti Chennaya, who stood for truth and dharma are given the status of Daiva after their death.
Bhuta Sthana or Bhuta Gudi
Bhuta Sthana or Bhuta Gudi
Season of Bhuta Kola : Also called Dharma Nema, Bhuta Kola is performed anytime from Deepavali day(during October) till Pattanaje or the 10th day of the Hindu month of Vrishabha (falls around the 25th of May). Bhuta (the Holy Spirit) is also called Daiva and the worship of Bhuta is known as Bhutaraadhane or Daivaraadhane. Bhuta, when worshipped by a group of families spread over various villages and towns, is called Kutumba Daiva. A shrine or a temple is built for the Daiva by the family. It is called a Bhuta Sthaana or Bhuta Gudi. On the other hand, Daiva's are also worshiped by all the people of a village or town.

About Bhuta Kola : The ritual explained here is about Jumaadi-Banta Daiva. Ritual may vary with the Bhuta and the place where the Kola is performed. Jumadi is a form of Mother Goddess (or Devi). Kola is performed by invoking the Holy Spirits. Jumadi is a name in Tulu languagae. Sanskritized name of Jumadi is Dhumavati. Invoker of the spirits is known as Darshana Paathri or simply Paathri. Paathri does the Kola performance and acts as a medium between the devotees and Daiva. I have used the terms performer and invoker interchangeably for Paathri in this article.
Bhuta Kola Ritual Site with Bhandaara of Daiva kept on the altar
Ritual Site with Bhandaara of Daiva kept on the altar
Preparations : Early in the evening, Bhandaara or paraphernalia of Bhuta is taken out of the shrine and kept at the ritual site, which is decorated with flowers and plantain leaves. In case the Bhuta is a Kutumba Daiva or family diety, Bhandaara would be taken out of the room in Taravadu House(First Home) where the paraphernalia of the Bhuta would have been kept. The ritual site contains an altar and it is an enclosure formed by coconut palm leaves and tender banana plants. Bhandaara of Bhuta consists of metal masks, sword, trident, Chaamara(hand-held fan) and bells. Some people are involved in the making of Siri or Chiri(skirt made of tender palm leaves) and Ani, a semi-circular structure containing silver arch, bamboo sticks and cloth. Ani is decorated with flowers and is tied to the back of the performer of Kola.
Preparing the Ani at Bhuta Kola
Preparing the Ani
Yenne Boolya : Kola performer is given a formal invitation from the organizers to perform the Kola by giving Yenne Boolya. Yenne Boolya consists of coconut oil, beetel nut and beetel leaves. The Kola performer is given a ceremonial oil bath after Yenne Boolya to purify his body and to keep calm.
Bhuta Kola Performers getting ready
Kola Performers getting ready
Theatrics : After the oil bath, the performer hypnotizes himself by performing theatrics assisted by loud music, which is typical of Bhuta Kola. In case of Jumadi-Banta bhuta, two performers enact as Jumadi(female form) and Banta(male form, servant of Jumadi). Wearing a mundu or pancheJumadi deforms a steel plate by repeatedly hitting it with his head. Banta performer does the same. Then both performers run furiously wayward at the place of performance pushing gathered people, trying to go out of the place. People gathered to see the Kola try to pacify them by not letting them leave the place and push them in. At a corner, few people will be present holding pots full of water. Once the performers reach that corner, water is poured on the performers marking an end to the theatrics.
Bhuta wearing Siri during Bhuta Kola
Bhuta wearing Siri
PaaDdana or Sandhi : After the theatrics, the performers sing PaaDdana or Sandhi (ballad), beating drums facing the ritual site. PaaDdana is a shorter version of the song and Sandhi is the longer one. PaaDdana or Sandhi narrate the origin of the Bhuta, its heroic deeds and other main events from its life in Tulu. Since there is not much written literature available in Tulu language, PaaDdana’s are an important aspect of Tulu culture in general and Bhuta Kola in particular, as they are the only source of information on tradition and rituals.
Jumadi Bhuta with elaborate make-up and costume
Jumadi Bhuta with elaborate make-up and costume
Make-up, Costumes and the Performance : Bhuta Kola with an elaborate makeup, costumes, dance and music begins after the reciting of PaaDdana. Firstly, the performers put on the make-up with their faces painted predominantly in yellow. Eyebrows are painted in black. Forehead is marked with designs in black and red color. Wearing gaggara(anklets), the performers dance to the loud music. Drums and shehanai are used to create an enthralling performance with music. After a while, the performers put on siri or chiri(skirt made of tender palm leaves) and continue the dance. Then the people garland the performers. Garlands are torn off by the performers during the furious display of emotions while performing Bhuta Kunita(dance of the holy spirit). Performers are then escorted by two persons holding fire torches to make pradakshinas(circumambulations) around the shrine. After that, the Jumadi performer is tied the Ani onto his back and a wooden structure with skirt like costume made of colorful clothes is tied around his waist.
Jumadi Daiva holding the sword
Jumadi Daiva holding the sword
Metal mask of the bhuta with a protruding tongue and a metal plastron are then put on. Kola gets more dramatic after that. For a while, the invoker of the Holy Spirit is given two fire torches made of dry coconut palm leaves. Holding the fire torches in both hands, the invoker makes fine, delicate moves while dancing. Since the costume he is now wearing is so heavy that the earlier lightening dance steps are missing. Sometime later, the invoker is holding a sword in his right hand. Chaamara(hand-held fan made of fur like material) is hooked onto one of right fingers and a bell is held in the left hand. A prolonged dance performance with finer steps begins now. Facing the altar, the performer holds the sword high as a mark of respect to the divine spirit during the performance, ringing the bell held. Fireworks accompany the performance throughout making it a dazzling and captivating event. This whole vibrant visual spectacle holds the audience spellbound!
People seeking blessings from Jumadi Bhuta
People seeking blessings from Jumadi Bhuta
Nudi, Blessings and Closing ceremony : Once the bhuta dance is over, the invoker gets into dialogue with the chieftain of the village or town. He may ask why the Holy Spirit is invoked. The lines spoken by the invoker now is called Nudi. During the Nudi, the invoker may ask to do certain seva’s for the well-being of all the families or may guide the family members on resolving their disputes. Also, people come with their problems to the Daiva seeking solutions. The invoker confidently assures them of the remedies. In turn, Daiva may expect the seeker to do some seva or donation to the shrine. Like in one case, the invoker asked the seeker to make silver coating for the sword of Jumadi, once his problem gets resolved. People then come to seek the blessings of the Daiva. Invoker bestows the Daiva’s blessings on the devotees by saying soothing words and giving them gandha prasadam. After the blessings, the invoker is escorted to the shrine and is seated opposite to the entrance of the shrine. Family members then offer a glass of milk and a banana to the invoker. After this ritual, bhuta kola is concluded. By now, it is early morning. Devotees see the ray of hope for their problems as the rays of the sun illuminate the land they stand on!

For further reading : 
You can watch the video of Jumaadi Banta Bhuta Kola  below : 
References :
Jumadi and Banta Bhuta
Jumadi and Banta Bhuta

35 comments:

  1. So nice to read your article.
    Its a much needed documentation of our original customs.

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  2. Thanks Prithi Shetty. You are right, precise Documentation is necessary for preserving Tulu nadu customs.

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  3. good article...precise and good information for everyone who does not know much about these rituals.

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  4. very comprehensively written. Would like experience this in person.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks Jayashree and Aju!

    Thanks Sandeep and Good to see your Enthusiasm to watch the Bhuta Kola!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I never entertain bhuta kola.. .. I seen people simply following without know actual rituals.. .. 90% of poor families still could not come out from wrong ritual practices. . . It will increase thamasika and rajasika guna within us and within society.
    Now a days people r consulting Bhuta kola and balme even for serious health issues also.... .

    Many things to discuss but this is not right place to mention..
    thank u.

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    Replies
    1. Dr.Balakrishna, Thanks for your comments and for being so open in those! I am NOT recommending Bhuta Kola for all the problems here.

      Please wait for my next post where I will explain my perspectives on Bhuta Kola.

      I was thinking exactly about Health as you had mentioned when I was writing this post. Definitely curing of ailments is a distant possibility. But Bhuta Kola does have psychological effects on the people involved in disputes is my general observation! We can discuss over it after my next post, which is planned soon!

      Delete
    2. Hi Balakrishna,

      Please read my latest published article on Why beliefs of Bhutaradhane and Nagaradhane are so strong in Tulu Nadu?

      Thanks
      Raveesh

      Delete
  7. ����Nice coverage
    Surprising to hear first time anta

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Shridhar... Ya, I saw it fully for the first time. Very first time I saw was when I was a kid, when I dint know anything about it!

      Delete
  8. Nice article Raveesh,few more photos and performance video might make a more interesting reading.
    Keep it up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comments. Will upload the video and few more photos

      Delete
  9. Raveesh. Very well written
    Even I had attended one ages back.. Dint give attention to all those details u covered

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  10. i din knw many things....gud wrk

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  11. That's very good. Cos I hardly know what they mean... Thanks for Sharing

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  12. Mr. Ravesh it's an awesome tradition for which you have showed it very lively in your post I'm really thankful to you to show this much lively, cos from my childhood it's my dream to see this tradition but still not able to see it so I kindly request you to let me no any future bootha kolas conducted so that I can go and see it. I will be very happy to see it

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  13. Thanks Poornima. Definitely, will let you know. There are others who have also shown interest in watching Bhuta Kola.

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  14. Hiii Ravish, very well written bro.... Very nice information. Keep coming to see the bhuta kola.......

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  15. Very well written article.

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  16. Nice and detailed... I'm feeling like need to watch it once live...

    I've heard that holy spirit worship is common in other cultures as well (christianity, buddhism etc...).

    How often is this performed by a family? Once in a year? or when they run into some trouble and seek for some solutions?

    Are there enough people who can perform Kola these days? Is this a family tradition/ hereditary?

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  17. Hi Manjunatha,

    Good to see your enthusiasm to watch Bhuta kola. It is a yearly gathering. Family is not one family... It is a set of Families sharing common lineage. Usually there is a designated place where worship is done.. Problem arises when people don't know the family deity or they don't worship even if there is one.

    Many people worship like it is a collaboration of all families.. Some person/family needs to take care of, need not be hereditary...

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  18. Where can I attend butha kola aradhanne in shimoga or mangalore. I want to visit the temple/place kindly inform me please immediately as I am facing problems, so I wanted to visit the temple. Kindly consider my request and do me a favor and oblige for the same.
    Thanks, Raghunath setty, Bangalore phone number is 9845912799 and mail Id is Gdraghunath@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete

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