Bhuta Kola

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Būta (Tuḷu for ‘spirit’, ‘wandering soul’, ‘ghost’; derived from Sanskrit भूत [in phonetic script] Anglicized: ‘bhoota’, ‘bhuta’). Kōla (Tuḷu for ‘spirit dance’).[1] Alternative origin – from the Sanskrit root ‘bhū-’ (to become), past participle Bhūta (that which has existed).[2]

Chamundi Daiva

Definition[edit]

A Būta-Kōla is an annual ritual where ancestral spirits such as Bobbariya, Kalkuḍa, Kallurti; spirits of heroes such as Kōṭi and Cennayya, Siri and Kumar; totem animals such as the wild boar Paňjurli (the female counterpart is Varte paňjurli)or the tiger Pilicāmunḍi or deities such as Jumāḍi, Canḍi, Bermeru etc. are impersonated by a medium in a night-long performance, which involves music, dance, recital, and certain ritualistic performances.[3] There are female Būtas as well. For example, Uḷḷālțți, Dhūmāvati, Raktéśvari, Tani-Māṇiga, Kallurti and so on.

The word Būta-Kōla is conventionally reserved for the worship of a single spirit whereas ‘néma’ [derived from Sanskrit for ‘special season’[4]] involves a series of Kōlas performed in hierarchical order.[5] A Dharma-néma is for the royal cult of Būta or Rājendaiva būta (i.e. – Bermeru). In these Kōlas, held at special occasions, issues of justice and right conduct are referred to the spirit for mediation and adjudication.[5]

The Tuḷu people of Southern Canara conceptualize a cosmology that makes a distinction between two major classes of deities, Dévaru and Būta. The Būtas are considered to be localized and personalized to this particular region and culture. These Būtas influence the quotidian lives of the people. “… all parties are bound by the belief that if the supernatural champions should withdraw their support life would surely be miserable.”[3] On the other hand, the Puranic deities (Ṥiva, Viṣṇu, Brahma etc.) are not associated with the daily lives of the people on a personal level. These Būtas are taken to have a potential for both positive and negative influences.[3]

There are two ways of classifying the Būtas. The first classification is iconographic and the latter is based on linguistic designation. The former includes both anthropomorphic (Kōṭi and Cennayya) and animal (Paňjurli) Būtas. The linguistic designation distinguishes three kinds of Būtas, Kuṭuṁbada Būta (family būta), Jāgeda Būta (place or neighborhood būta), and Ữrada Būta (village Būta).”[3]

Purpose[edit]

Būta Kōla and Dharma-néma serve secular as well as religious purposes. In fact the two cannot be separated in a world where the secular is suffused with the spiritual. The spiritual world of the epics, (pārdanas) underlying these festivals, suggest that the very order of the human world and the world of the spirits are interdependent. “The ceremonies are a sacred court of justice where traditional ideals are brought to bear on difficult real-life situations.”[3] Bhūta kolas are assemblies of the entire village as it becomes an occasion to resolve conflicts in the village.[3] The Némas are an illocutionary reaffirmation of landowner’s role as ‘host patron and trustee’ of the Rājendaiva.[2]

Mythology[edit]

According to Tuḷu mythology the world of the humans is related to the world of the forest and the world of the supernatural. Both, the world of the forest and the world of the supernatural represent a potential threat to the human world, a threat of encroachment, disease, hunger and death. The forest world is the “world of the wild, unordered, uncontrolled, hungry beings of destruction”[6] represented through the wild boar (Paňji) which can devastate the fields and the tiger (Pili) that threatens the animals. The world of supernatural is where the Būtas (Paňjurli and Pilicāmunḍi) dwell.

The relationship between these three worlds is one of balance and moral order. If this order gets upset by the humans, the spirits will become vicious. If the order is maintained, the spirits will be supportive and benevolent. Thus the spirits of Tuḷu mythology are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ as such; they are “neither cruel nor capricious. They methodically and persistently remind a lax humanity of the need for morality and the value of solidarity.”[3]

No-one is above the (moral, cosmological) norms of this threefold universe, not even the spirits or the gods. Thus they are not whimsical or arbitrary in their judgement. “The bhūta are their patron’s protectors with regard to a system of moral norms, not despite them.”[3] Failure to attend to these rituals is said to be severely punished by the Būtas.[3]

Pāḍdana Definition[edit]

Pāḍdanas are a major part of Tuḷuva Oral literature.[7] It has its roots in the multi-story tradition which is known to have numerous variations of the same narrative and has no single author. Claus refers to these as epic songs sung about heroes and heroines.[5] For example, Siri-bermeru pāḍdana and Kōṭi Cennayya pāḍdana are two famous Pāḍdanas. It is usually performed by (1) Specialised groups like Nalke, Paṃbada, and Parava; (2) By ordinary women working in the fields, and (3) By men gathering for evening enjoyment. Claus is of the opinion that ‘what sets the process in motion is the desire of a caste to establish or re-establish its position in oral historical tradition.[5]

Worship[edit]

Given below is a description of a specific Néma. The details of the ritual changes from one Néma to another. With the paraphernalia of the Būta being brought to the altar, the ritual begins. With the pāḍdana of the particular Būta being sung, the medium prepares himself for the impersonation. After this the medium is presented with the ornaments that he is to wear. Medium enters the court as the jājman presents him a burning torch. The priest throws areca flower (or betel nut flower) on all four directions. As the dance of the medium begins, the Būta enters the physical world. Two people at all-time hold the torch along with the medium. Hence the entrance of Būta into this world is restrained. The medium’s dance gains more force as the possession continues and he continues to put on more paraphernalias leading to the āṇi. He brings the torches dangerously close to his body. The fire idiom changes from néma to néma. After this Būta pays homage to the eight cardinal directions and the village deity. Now there is a conflict between the priest and the Būta over a pot filled with Areca flowers. The priest gains the possession in this fight. Then the medium is gifted with the bells and sword as symbol of the royalty. The Jājman now stands around the ritualistic circle on the ground with his assistants. Offerings are given thirteen times. While the possession is on, the Būta is asked questions by the pātri. The answers to these questions are where the divine justice is meted out.[2][7]

Possession[edit]

In Būta Kōla, the medium (in Tuḷu Pātri, of castes – Nalke, Paṃbada etc) is possessed by the Būtas they worship during that time. It is a kind of incarnation of supernatural element to resolve the problem of human beings.[8] In the case of Būta Kōla, devotees of būtas believe and obey the solution given by the person who is possessed by the spirit. The priests and mediums in Būta Kōla are trained. As Claus analyses they gain mastery over the spirit in the training. This training usually takes place through the performances in ritual. There they invite the spirits on them with proper protection of their own bodies.[8] The possession comes to the medium gradually as he begins to dance. This possession gives space for the būtas to enter the physical world.[2] This entrance of the physical world by būtas will enable the medium to provide justice to the problems of devotees. The būta justice must be referrable to general principles: he may take a stand, he cannot take sides.[2] Claus also sees possession as the character of spirit which the possessed displays. In other words, possession is a way to express the existence and characteristics of the Būtas.[2] Hence, Claus analyses that as the result of proof of the existence and the character of a spirit, it becomes legend.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Tulu World : Online Tulu Dictionary". www.tuluworld.org. Retrieved 2016-02-05. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Carrin, Marine; Tambs-Lyche, Harald (2003). "‘You Don’t Joke with These Fellows.’ Power and Ritual in South Canara, India". Social Anthropology Volume 11, Issue 1, pages 23–42, February 2003. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Claus, Peter J. (1973). "Possession, Protection and Punishment as Attributes of Dieties in a South Indian Village". Man in India, 53(3): 231–242. 
  4. ^ "MW72 Basic". www.sanskrit-lexicon.uni-koeln.de. Retrieved 2016-02-05. 
  5. ^ a b c d Claus, Peter (1989). "Behind the Text, Performance and Ideology in a Tulu Oral Tradition". In Blackburn, Stuart H.; Claus, Peter J.; Flueckiger, Joyce B.; Wadley, Susan S. Oral Epics in India. USA: University of California Press. p. 64. 
  6. ^ Claus, Peter J. (1978). "Heroes and Heroines in the Conceptual Framework of Tulu Culture". Journal of Indian Folkloristics 1(2): 28–42. 
  7. ^ a b Claus, Peter J. (1978). "Oral Traditions, Royal Cults and Material for the Reconsideration of the Caste System in South India". Journal of Indian Folkloristics 1(1): 1–39. 
  8. ^ a b c Claus, Peter J. (1979). "Spirit Possession and Spirit Mediumship from the Perspective of Tulu Oral Traditions". Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 3: 29–52. 

External links[edit]

External References[edit]

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