Bhuthradhane (BUtArAdhane) (ಭೂತಾರಾಧನೆ) or the spirit worship is a religious-cultural ritual practiced in the west coast of India in general and coastal Karnataka in particular. This ritual is practiced both by the Tulu speaking communities and their Kannada speaking counterparts. This is essentially the practice of worshipping the departed mythological, historical and familial personalities, in various modes. They are realized in various artistic and ritualistic representations.

            Bhutas are classified under three categories. The first category consists of spirits who are in the form of animals such as a tiger, a he-buffalo, a wild boar and a bull. Human beings who are deified after their death for various reasons are worshipped extensively. KalkuDa-kallurTi, kOTi cennayya, panjurli, siri, Ali, aNNAppa and magrandAya are some Bhutas who belong to this second category. The third important category consists of spirits that are taken from ancient culture and mythology. Many of them bear resemblance to the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. jumAdi, (dhUmAvati) Bhagavati, raktEshvari, cAMuNdi are worshipped in a similar form with minor variations. 

            Bhutas reside in their particular abodes and they are called bUta sAnas. (Bhutasthanas) They are unpretentious constructions with out any windows. Brass idols either in the form of human beings or animals are placed inside these places. Usually it contains a cot which is called bhUtada manca. A sword and a bell are kept on this cot. All of them are worshipped when the occasion demands. Some of these animal representations are also treated as the vehicles of the spirits.

            Bhuta worship has evolved both as a ritual and an art form. There are many types of Bhutaradhane such as kOla, nEma, bali, tambila, banDi, jAlATa, maime etc. Some of them are annual events and others are performed on special occasions. Some are held in the nights and others during the day time. They have to be performed by people belonging to particular communities such as vaidyas (a sub caste among Brahmins), nalike, parava, pambara, pANAra etc. Bhuta worships are usually public performances. Once in a while they are performed in private homes also. Incidentally most of the offerings during these worships are vegetarian.

            Bhuta Nrityas are ritual dances performed during Bhuta Worship. The performer is called a ‘pAtri’. He has to don a particular makeup and decorations. These details are passed on from generation to generation. They wear different masks representing different Bhutas. These masks are usually kept in the temple. They are evocative of different aggressive emotions. Each Bhuta has its own set of weapons which the pAtri has to take up after he is dressed up.

            The dance is usually accompanied by back ground instruments such as tembare, DOlu, nAgasvara etc. These dances have various movements and postures which are reminiscent of Yakshagana. pADdanas are Tulu songs delineating the story of particular Bhutas. Many of them have literary merits.

            The Bhutas worshipped by Kannada speaking communities, such as jaTTiga and bobbarya are less pretentious. They do not have pADdanas associated with them.

            Of late, rituals such as Bhutaradhane and nAgamaMDala have become tools to assert one’s cultural uniqueness and they are celebrated with devotion and pomp. 



Further Reading:

1.      Bhuta Worship: Aspects of a ritualistic theatre, by U. Padmanbha Upadhyaya and P.Susheela Upadhyaya, Rangasthala Monograph Series, 1984, Regional Resources Centre for Folk Performing Arts, M.G.M. College (Udupi, India)

2. (Bhuta in fury)



5.      Bhuta Kola

6.      ‘Bhutaradhane: Kelavu Adhyayanagalu’ by K.Chinnappa Gowda, 1982, Tuluva Prakashana, Mangalore.

7.      ‘The mask and the message’ By K. Chinnappa Gauda, 2005, Madipu Prakashana, Mangalore.

8.       ‘Special Study report on Bhuta cult in South Canara District’ by K. Sanjeeva Prabhu, 1977, published by the Controller of Publications.

9.      ‘The Devil Worship of the Tuluvas’, A.C. Burnell, 1894.


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