My experience as a student studying under Manipal University has, in more ways than one, has given me experiences to look back on. Working as a reporter in an independent student run media organisation, I had the privilege to document Bhoota Kola as part of an Instagram series. Some of the locals there were kind enough to tell my photographer and I – as we were busy standing clueless in the scorching sun – what was happening. I gathered enough details to fully grasp was Bhoota Kola is.
Bhuta Kola, or Bhoota Kola, which translates to Spirit Performance, is a male oriented festival typical of Udupi district, Mangalore and some parts of Kerala. It involves a spirit possessing the body of a mortal and for that, the deity is given raw chicken which is cut. The ‘god’ otherwise called Jumadi, performs a dance that encompasses the socio-economic fabric, music and dialogue in its attempt to please the demi-gods. The god wears a heavy uniform, which include silver masks, a large crown, marigolds around their neck, metal anklets, a skirt made up of leaves cut into strips, and a sword that supposedly holds all supreme power. Their faces are painted bright yellow and their eyes are traced with black paint to give a distinct outline.
After the dance, troubled villagers approach the god and appeal for his help. These usually includeprayers from families to curing sick kin or farmers praying for prosperous rains. Although the event commences late in the evening, the interrogation and appeals happen early morning.
The men who dress up the ‘god’, actually come from lower economic backgrounds. They are trained to dance and to take in the spirit.Only particular families of particular castes can conduct this festival. In Tulu speaking villages of Karnataka known as Tulu Nada, either family take turns to host the event or the whole village together raises funds to make sure this festival is celebrated on a large scale.
The Daiva Temple, adjacent to Manipal Institute of Technology, is the sole reason that connected the people of Manipal together for Bhoota Kola. A lot of the localities around this area have a lot of beliefs, and their beliefs are very strong when it comes to the Diava Temple. Some of the name of the gods in the Diava Temple are Jumadi, Pancha Jumadi, Babbuswamy, Panjurli, Rakteshwari, etc. A lot of localites do believe that the Daiva temple holds the spirits of the people who die from Kasturba Medical Hospital, even though this is merely just a belief.