Bhoota Aradhane or worship of a deity (verbatim translation) is quite a sight in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts.
Man wearing a colorful costume with a fierce make up on, a sight where the look alone is intimidating. So what is this all about? How is it still relevant in 21st century?
Bhoota Aradhane is a ritual where a idols of specific ‘deities’ are taken out of their abode, in a procession to beating of drums and loud music. As the procession comes to an end, the idols are placed at a pedestal. Following which a performer of the Daiva/deity dances to the tunes of drums and saxophones wearing a skirt made of palm leaves and has a fierce make up on, holding sword and wearing Gaggara/ anklets. This is known as Kola.
Kola is performed by a trained individual, and it is believed that at some point the performer is possessed by the spirit of the deity and has the ability to foresee future. People seek solutions to their problems on behalf of God, the performer is feared and respected with utmost dignity by the community.
If you’re agnostic like me, you will be baffled by what you are about to read and if you’re an atheist and have made it so far, I reckon you stay till the end as half knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Kola is performed by individuals belonging to Parava, Pambada, Koopalam, Nalke and Paanaara communities. Most of these individuals belong to poor background. As they work for 6 months in a year and they don’t have a fixed salary unlike the priests in temples nor are they considered as ‘organized workers’, making it difficult for the families solely dependent on the payments they get during the rituals.
The Kola season lasts as long as six months i.e. during Diwali and ends at Pattanaje in May.
It is important to note that Bhoota Kola is limited to families and each family/village has a deity, who is worshipped as per rituals and traditions.