Bhootha Aradhane or devil worship is very common in the coastal towns of Karnataka. Idols representing ‘bhoothas’ are taken out in a procession to the beating of drums and bursting of firecrackers. As the procession ends, the idols are placed on a pedestal. With a sword and jingling bells, a dancer whirls round in imitation of the devil he represents. Frantically pacing up and down, he enters into a possessed state and acts as an oracle.
Performance: Bhootada Kola is performed by a trained person who is believed to have temporarily become a god himself. The performer displays an aggressive outlook, dances fiercely and performs multiple rituals. This performer is feared and respected in the community and is believed to give answers to people’s problems on behalf of the god. Drums and music give company to the dancing and pooja rituals. By praying together during Bhootada Kola, the community seeks God’s blessing, prosperity and riddance of various problems the community is challenged with.
Popular Bhootas: Panjurli, Bobbarya, Pilipoota, Kalkuda, Kalburti, Pilichamundi, Koti Chennaya are some of the popular gods (Bhootas) worshipped as part of Bhootada Kola.
Bhootada Kola is said to have some influence from Yakshagana, a more popular and widely performed folk dance in coastal Karnataka. Some of the Bhootada Kola rituals also involve walking on a bed of hot coal.
Where to witness Bhootada Kola?
Bhootada Kola is performed in small local communities in rural parts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. Bhootada Kola is not a tourist event and is not advertised much in mainstream media. However there are no restrictions on who can witness the performances. While staying in Udupi or Mangaluru district you may check with your local host for any possible Bhootada Kola performances coming up.