Bootha kola, Tulunadu: History, culture, myth & science behind spirit worship

Centuries old tradition from earlier Indian civilization; Sheer belief in spirits and ancestors; worship contrasting with African tribes; celebration influenced by many ethnic and cultural groups but still survives and much more……..

Recent Updates by one of our avid readers:

“Dancing around fire” this never happens, the only fire used is “Jeetige” which is meant to be a torch some of them have two jeetiges or just one, also the temple that’s used to keep idol or mostly ornaments is called “Sthaana” & not “Saana”, the fact that only 4 gods are worshipped in most of these places is completely false, there are thousands of Bootha in which the most common ones are Kalluri, Panjurli, Kalkuda etc. I

Bootha Kola or Kola Aata:

Bootha Kola or Kola Aata also known as the worship of Daivas or Bhootas or Demi-Gods, is an ancient ritual prevalent among the Tulu speaking community in the Dakshina Kannada districts in Karnataka and in kasargod taluk of kerala,which is collectively referred to as Tulu Nadu. While in Kerala is celebrated as Theyyam.

Know where?

India map tulu speaking areas and Bhoota kola celebration

History of bhootha kola:

This tradition dates back to 700-800 BC coinciding with the immigration of the Early Tulu tribes who introduced the initial cults of Bermer (also pronounced as ‘Birmer’ or ‘Bermeru’) and Panjurli. Bhuta Kola in Mangalore is a form of spirit dance that is performed by the people of Mangalore from December to January. 

Although, the origin of the Bhuta Kola of Mangalore is unknown; yet, Bhuta Kola seems to be an inevitable part of the socio-cultural life of Mangalore. Moreover, the ‘bhutas’ or the spirits worshiped during the festival are believed to be the guardians of the village, who protect the villagers as well as their livestock from the evil forces. 

In fact, the spirits that are worshiped by the villagers are considered to be the attendants of Lord Shiva. It is noteworthy in this context that the ‘Kola’ is a kind of Bhuta worship that includes devotion, inspiration and entertainment.

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (11)

Relevance of bhootha kola with History:

The caste system had by then been formed in India. Today, scheduled caste/ scheduled tribe are seen performing the auspicious occasion provides a gauzy bearing of that.The Bhuta Kola at Mangalore is an annual festival that takes place in different stages. T

The festival begins with the cutting of plantain and is followed by a cock fight, the coming of ‘Bhandara’, flag hoisting, an informal invitation, putting on the make up, wearing the Gaggara, etc. During the ceremony, the people of Mangalore sing a typical song, known as ‘Pad-danas’. These songs are narrative epics that narrate the genesis and proliferation of the Bhuta cult. Thus, as it is evident, the Bhuta Kola at Mangalore lies at the core of the village life. 

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (4)

The Bhuta Kola largely adheres to the religious sentiments of the rural community of Mangalore. In a way, the Bhuta Kola serves as a forum that celebrates the community life.

Relevance from history:

This festival begins in the last phase of Indus valley civilization. By then, there must have been a lot of cultural exchange between other civilizations. Though, Dravidian culture, a flourished culture in India before the Aryans invaded, is talked very less which the tulu culture is a part of, had found the relevance of the Dravidian language to then North-western Indian subcontinent. The Dravidian language has traces of Iranian and little influenced by the Indo-Aryan language which could have been the cause of cultural exchanges.

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (3)

Daivas (or) Boothas :

Daiva or Bootha refer to a class of supernatural spirits and k?la refers to a ceremony for the Bootha, the further understanding is that “a Bootha Kola is performed to appease and solicit assistance from the spirit(s) remaining an ancient ritual of spirit worship.

Such ritual forms of worship remain as ancient practices intended for the blessings of the supernatural. These Daivas are generally kept in the form of idols in the Daivasana (the shrine of the holy spirit ). Some of the prominent Daivas are Jumadi, Jarandaya, Kallurti, Kalkuda, Guliga and Panjurli.

Daivas are utmost sincere in fulfilling the prayers but at the same time they should be worshipped and treated with utmost care and respect. Their wrath is meant to be very dangerous if they get hurt in anyway. On the other hand they will protect and bless the place and people where they are worshipped and honoured.

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (5)

Preparations and during kola:

These Devas are generally performed by professionals who basically belong to the lower castes of the society. They have experience in performing kola and are dedicated to it and are paid for it too. It is believed that during Kola, for a fraction of seconds the real Daiva’s Spirit comes into the person performing it and they predict or can foresee the future. They are worshiped with utmost respect and dignity.

Relevancy of Bhootha Kola with the ancient world:

In an ancient world too, people regarded some of the Gods as being too extreme and strict. However, please the God, on one hand, brought a lot of prosperity and on another hand hurting the sentiments of the God brought calamities. 

The above concept could still be seen in modern Indian beliefs. where the planet Saturn is believed in the same way like a careful mother. When the child commits the mistake, he is given punishment but when he is obeying, he gets a lot of love. By then, Vedas and Upanishads had begun taking shapes and the extreme influence of the spirit or the Gods can be referred from theirs.

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (1)

These Devas are generally kept in the form of idols in the Daivasana in local terms called “Saana” where only men and little girls are allowed. Women are not allowed inside the Saana.

Relevancy of Bhootha kola with the Dravidian culture:

Still, in some of the temples in South India, women or even other caste people are not allowed to enter the temple or attend the sacred events.In some places around Mangalore only four Daivas: Kalushti (female), Kalkudae (Male) Guligae (Male) and Panjoli (Female) are worshiped. Where Kalushthi and kaludayi acts as sister-brother and the same applies to guligayi and panjoli. These duos are meant to be siblings.

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (2)

 

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In the first-half Kalushti and kalkudae come and play their part and the second is played by Guligay-Panjoli helped. It is Believed did falling on Kola worship the real Daiva’s Spirit comes into the person performing it and They predict and can forsee the future. They are worshiped with utmost respect and dignity.

Daivas are bit different from the gods we worship since They Are utmost sincere in fulfilling the prayers but at the same time they will be worshiped and shoulder stand Treated with utmost care and respect. Their wrath is meant to be very dangerous if They get hurt in any way. On the other hand, they will protect and bless the place and people are worshiped and honored where they.

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (13)

Relevancy of Bhootha kola with other cultures:

I find this tradition in relevance with other peaceful cultures of Africa where the concept of community is held high. Apart from community gathering, there are other things which are in common like dancing around the fire in winter, dressing as tribal folks, believing in ancestors and spirits and being very sacred and aesthetic about the ceremony. 

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (6)

More minor but important reasonings and concepts:

The concept of Kaal-Deepa:

Kaal-Deepa has been derived from the word “Kaal” & “Deepa”. “Kaal” means death and the “Deepa” is the lamp which essentially represents the lighting which is dedicated to the Lord who is somehow related to the death or in a more abstract way, from past to present to infinite times and that essentially means Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva has been called as the “God of the Gods” and he is said to be the one who has been for infinite times and for permanent. So, in some way or in another this lamp is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Beside lamps, there are also other religious stuff which have a piece of “Kaal” in them and dedicated to lord Shiva like Kaal-Bhairava, Kaal-jayee, kaal sarp yog, kaal-chakra, Kaal gyan Sadhaana (Penance for life after death), kaal-ratri, kaal-Yatra etc. These concepts can be seen in many Hindu rituals when it comes to connecting present generations with the ancestors or calling spirits who are closer to death or when it comes to defying death.

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (8)

Influence of local culture on Bhootha kola festival:

Most of the sacred celebrations or the worshipping over the years get influenced by the local culture, habitat, flora and fauna. If marked properly, The dressing of the Daivas has more been influenced by the grandiosity of the Gods in South India. However, on the other hand, some parts of the South India has also been known for worshipping demons and it can be seen that one of the Daivas is dressed up as a demon.

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (7)

Relevancy to Hindu mythology in the celebration:

In the picture above, the guy in the left has Trishul (Three-in-one spear) in his hand which is the main weapon of lord Shiva. While the guy in the right is dressed up as some goddess from South India. Another relevancy is the colour of the face of another Guy in the picture below. 

 The above in the picture has his face painted almost blue which might represent the colour of lord Shiva and there must be some relevancy between the Gods and demons as lord Shiva is known to be the God of the ghosts, demons and all.

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (15)

Scientific reason after the food served:

The food in the picture below seemed to be apt for the performers. After dancing around the fire in heavy get-up, coconut water is the perfect drink to replace ions and salt in the body while raw coconut acts as a source of energy for the time being.

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (12)

Palm leaves:

Available in abundance, palm leaves are used as skirt and green leaves being easy-flammable helps the performers to prolong the play around the fire.

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (14)

The Yakshagana, self-hypnotizing and the supernatural world:

The individualism of the performer is self-hypnotized by the paraphernalia around him which carry him into the character of the Daiva. These paraphernalia includes dance, unusual costume, make-up as a God/demon and sound made by the performer, which gives a reverence to the performer and helps in great deal in slipping into the character by self-hypnotizing in natural ambience. 
Somehow after sometimes, the self-hallucination breaks the connection of the performer to the mundane world and the performer reaches into an elevated state of mind which is sometimes referred as “being spiritual” for a fraction of moment when the performer is totally lost into his job.

Bhootha kola, tulunadu, Mangalore, Karnataka (10)

The Gaggara and respect:

In the picture above, Panjurli is showing Gaggara to the crowd. Gaggara is an ornament which is worn around the ankles in the legs. Before beginning, the Gaggara- the round ornament is taken out by the performer and he pays respect by taking Gaggara close to his heart. 

The concept behind:

The concept behind this is before presenting himself to the god, a man takes out things belonging to the lower part of body. It represents the impoverishment of the person going in front of some godly being. Let it be the God or any human being.

Relevancy in today’s mundane world:

Caste system in India have introduced some of the strange habits still prevalent in the society where the people from lower caste do not sit in front of higher class; sometimes they are not supposed to wear slippers/shoe in their area; even in some south-Indian temple people have to take out their jeans or pants and even shirts before entering the temple to show that our existence is ephemeral in front of the omnipresent and permanent God.

Bhootha kola Video:


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About trekkerp

Author of The Girl from the Woods and a Travel writer from India looking forward to collect quirky tales from around the world

21 Replies to “Bootha kola, Tulunadu: History, culture, myth & science behind spirit worship”

  1. Arpith Shetty

    Hi Trekkerp,
    Great work. I’m currently a student and have seen hundreds of Kola and I’m always researching information on Kola which when I found this. I just wanted to point out that some of these informations are wrong maybe your source is wrong, which also changes a lot of things. “Dancing around fire” this never happens, the only fire used is “Jeetige” which is meant to be a torch some of them have two jeetiges or just one, also the temple that’s used to keep idol or mostly ornaments is called “Sthaana” & not “Saana”, the fact that only 4 gods are worshipped in most of these places is completely false, there are thousands of Bootha in which the most common ones are Kalluri, Panjurli, Kalkuda etc. I know these are very minute mistakes but making your blogs as accurate as possible would increase your credibility as a write. Also it’s great to know such a beautiful culture being slowly recognised. Thank you.

    Reply
    • trekkerp Post author

      Hi Arpith,

      Thanks a lot and your information mean a lot. Really appreciable. I would edit this blog asap with the information that you provided. Cheers 🙂

      Reply
  2. Venu

    Namma tulu naduda vishaya yapala mansug kushi korpund.
    Thank u for your good work.
    All the best brother.

    Reply
  3. vaar

    Major south indians are influenced by it, those who are getting smart enough to identify it remain quiet and avoid discussing about it.

    People should open their eyes and seek the truth by their own spirit and know what is Devine Knowledge.

    Reply
  4. dish007artist

    i am believer of Daivas and i worship them too.I am an artist i believe i paint a lot of daivas related artwoks..the information you gave was really good.I would appreciate if you would share some more detailed story of all the Daivas,i am sure all have their own story as to how they came into that form.Thanks.

    Reply
  5. Poonam Kotian

    Thanks for explaining the concept… this year was the first year of my life of 35 yrs I witnessed this

    Reply
    • Arpith

      Most of them are vegetarian except for guliga which is very furious and panjurli which is pig faced.
      The Bootha Kola help in impersonating the intangible world with the tangible.

      Reply
  6. praseeda1301

    Nice.. Where did you see the kola?? Its nice to see your interest in different culture. There is a dance form called Yakshagana. Where they tell mythological stories through dance and songs. You should see it next time.

    Reply

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