Moodubelle: Annual Nemotsava at Sri Brahma Baidarkala Garadi

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Report and Pictures by Eugene Moodubelle
Bellevision Media Network

Moodubelle, 25 February 2010: The annual nemotsava also known as Bhuta Kola at Sri Brahma Baidarkala Garadi near Devaragudde, Moodubelle was held on a grand scale on Wednesday, 24th February 2010 at 7pm and continued till morning of Thursday, 25th February 2010. This nemotsavas has been usually held after some days as decided at the the annual Utsava at Sri Mahalingeshwara temple, Devaragudde.

The Brahma Baidarkala Garadi was decorated with flowers and electric lights. People from the neighbourhood had started streaming in from early evening to witness this annual nemotsava. Three Parava youths were preparing themselves for the ritual dance for quite some some. A number of prominent village people were present for the ritual. At around 7pm, prayers and offerings were held in front of the Garbagriha of the Garadi during which the three Parava youths with elaborate make up and dress began incantation to the accompaniment of lound music and drumbeats. They were handed over a sword each which they began to wield in air to the movement of their bodies.

After some time the people and the Parava dancers came out to the courtyard of the Garadi. While the people occupied the chairs, the Parava dancers took  to the courtyard and began the ritual dance to the high pitch trumpet blow, nagaswara music and drumbeat. This dance with intermittent break went on up to around 2 am when another batch of spirit dancers also known as the Bhuta Kola dancers believed to have been possessed by the spiritis continued  and the programme ended in the morning at around 6am on Thursday, 25th February 2010.

Bhuta Kola(Spirit Worship) has been an ancient form of ritual worship among the Tulu-speaking people in the Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts. This complex system of rituals and beliefs can be traced back to the tribal era. The music and narratives, dances and dialogues, trances and oracles reflect the socio-economic condition of the village, thought patterns of the villagers, artistic achievements and socio-cultural values enshrined in the rustic societies of different regions.

The spirits or the Bhutas worshipped during the nemotsava or Bhuta Kola are considered to be the guardians of the villages. They are believed to be protecting the villagers and their livestock. Important aspects of Bhuta Kola are possession, trance and the dialogue of the possessed impersonator with the devotees. The Bhuta impersonator behaves like an incarnation of a concerned spirit, listening to the appeals of the people, solving problems, warning and comforting the devotees. He acts as a healer and solves the legal and judicial problems of the village.

The people of Tulu Nadu follow a tradition of dual worship that includes worshipping the Puranic Gods as well as the local spirits. The Puranic Gods are worshipped in temple under the leadership of Brahmin priests and the devotees are mere spectators receiving offerings and as such cannot be approached directly. On the other hand, the spirits are the localized and personalized deities who share a more intimate relationship with the devotees. The spirits have fixed spheres of influence and are generally associated with a family or village or region and the devotees offer them periodic oblation in the form of bali. In turn, the spirits protect the villagers and their livestock from danger and warn them as and when necessary.

The night long ceremonies begins in a well decorated arena or pandal that gives the appearance of a ritualistic stage with the image of the deity and other objects of worship well arranged on one side and the disciplined devotees on the other side. The musicians, accompanied with drums and wind instruments are seated on another side are ready to provide beats of varying tempo for different stages in the processions. The pandal is well decorated with various figures made from palm leaf, mango leaf and areca flower.

The person who invokes the Bhuta or the spirit dresses up in a colourful costumes, complete with a sword, bells and other such accessories. He is slowly prepared for self-hypnotism and for imposing the spirit on him. He is ceremoniously given oil for a ritual bath to make his body physically purified and mentally calm. Pastes from plant extract are used as a makeup for the impersonator. Different colours are used to symbolically display the characteristic features of the spirit. His wife, sister or mother sings the ballad or paad-danaas which narrates the birth of that spirit, its descent into the land, heroic deeds, and sphere of influence etc.

With the passage of time the spirit dancer assumes the role of the spirit himself and starts calling the authorities to inquire the reason for his invocation. He addresses everyone according to his rank. The organizers propitiate the spirit and beg protection, prosperity, good crop and wealth for the entire community. If pleased, the spirit through the oracle conveys the pleasure and promises protection and prosperity. If the spirit is not satisfied, then he prescribes certain punitive rituals for acts of insult or impurity to the holy place or certain acts of commissions and omissions on part of the devotees. While settling the quarrels or disputes the impersonator assumes the role of a tribunal and conducts himself in a dignified manner as upholder of truth and righteousness. The decision of the impersonator is final without provision for appeal.

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Comments on this Article
Victor DSouza, Moodubelle / Doha Fri, February-26-2010, 6:24
It is amazing how they wear that make up for such a long time. Interesting article Dr. Eugene.
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