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Old 14th January 2009, 10:44   #31
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Originally Posted by kuttapan View Post
Need to capture this on camera next time I am in Kannur.
Man!! There is so much to see and learn about this country!! And to imagine that I actually have family in Kannur!!
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Old 14th January 2009, 12:52   #32
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Nice picturesque narration Samurai. Liked all the pics and "bad guy" behind the pics too. ;-)

BTW, is this similar to yakshagana? The painting on the faces and the costumes they wear is similar to yakshagana.
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Old 15th January 2009, 00:11   #33
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BTW, is this similar to yakshagana? The painting on the faces and the costumes they wear is similar to yakshagana.
The similarity ends there. Yakshagana is folk-play folk-theatre, a form of entertainment. There are lots of Yakshagana theatre groups, they are known as Mela.

The Kola on the other hand is a religious ceremony, like a Puja or a Homa.
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Old 13th April 2018, 23:21   #34
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Post Re: Bhoota Kola: A pictorial

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Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
Usually photographers are not invited to Bhoota Kola. It takes place in dim light and flash can be distracting to the spiritual dancers.
Ten years later, much has changed. The Bhootas are no more distracted by cameras, selfies, video cameras, etc. Now Kola is fully videographed all night.

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Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
Some family members had pledged to hold the Kola event if their wishes were granted, etc. You know how it goes, some pledge to visit pilgrimage places, or hold special pujas, etc. This is a form of puja around the parts of ancient Tulunad or now known as Karavalli or coastal Karnataka.
This time my maternal family was holding a Nema. Nema is slightly different than Kola. When you re-establish the gods after a major temple restoration, a special kind of Kola is held. It is called Nema. Kola is an annual event unlike the Nema. My maternal family home was very ancient, 3 of the rooms were 600 years old. Recently, it was demolished and rebuilt as a temple. Bhootas are not vedic gods, but nature gods. Also known as agriculture deity, pagan deity or Dhyeva (in local lingo).

Until Vijayanagara Kings enforced compulsory worship of Vaishnava/Vedic gods in their empire, most people in the south worshiped only such nature gods. However, people didn't giveup worship of old gods, and the tradition continues. You can see proof of this if you drive through rural areas, where you can find all kind of gods (with scary sounding names) that you will never find in any Hindu texts.

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Meanwhile, I should confess that I could cover only a limited part of this function, just the initial one hour. If you notice they are not wearing any headgear. Once they wear the headgear, nobody is supposed to leave until the headgear is removed, this could last 3-4 hours. With two young kids, we couldn't stay that long, so we left before they wore the headgear.
This time however, I didn't have the choice of leaving. Since my mom (age 81) is the senior most family member, she stayed awake whole night. So I had to hang around whole night clicking photos.

This is the garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum of the new temple.

Bhoota Kola: A pictorial-p3290005.jpgBhoota Kola: A pictorial-p3290007.jpg
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The ritual (seva) starts around 8pm at night. The first act is by Mahishandaya, wearing the bronze face mask of a wild bull or gaur.

Bhoota Kola: A pictorial-p3290078.jpgBhoota Kola: A pictorial-p3290080.jpg

Here is a video of his action:

Last edited by Samurai : 14th April 2018 at 01:13.
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Old 13th April 2018, 23:36   #35
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After the Mahishandya performance, it was dinner time. Almost 250 people had to be fed in traditional style.

There was firework after the meals, turning the night-sky into a spectacle.

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As I was clicking away, I remembered my Grand Vitara was parked in the paddy field near where the firecrackers were being burst. So I walked in the darkness into the paddy field, that was lit only by the occasional firework. Suddenly, the ground under me just lost all traction, and I fell into a slimy thing. Even the hand that had anchored into the ground while falling, had plonked into the squishy stuff. It took a few seconds to realise I had fallen into a huge pile of sambar (Koddel in Tulu) thrown away after the night meals. I cleaned myself with water as much as possible, but I was strongly smelling of sambar all night.


Last edited by Samurai : 13th April 2018 at 23:38.
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Old 14th April 2018, 00:23   #36
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The night featured two Bhootas, Jumadi and Banta. Jumadi holds talk with the head of the family that organised the Nema, while the Banta is a mute.

First couple hours, Jumadi is lightly dressed and dances vigorously around the yard carrying fire torches.

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Assorted video clips for this session:

Last edited by Samurai : 14th April 2018 at 01:16.
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Old 14th April 2018, 00:37   #37
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Finally around 1AM, Jumadi wears the massive head gear. After that Jumadi doesn't dance too vigorously, after all he has to carry that load for the next 4 hours.

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Last edited by Samurai : 14th April 2018 at 01:12.
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Old 14th April 2018, 00:44   #38
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By around 2:30am, the Bhootas are getting hungry and they need to be fed. Did I mention these are non-vegetarian gods. They need animal sacrifice, especially chicken. So they are offered live country chicken. They are not fond of farm raised broiler chicken. Banta walks off the main stage with all the chickens and they are sacrificed far from the view of most audience, who may not be like to watch that act.

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Last edited by Samurai : 14th April 2018 at 01:17.
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Old 14th April 2018, 00:50   #39
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After the blood lust was satisfied, it is time for some regular food.

Tender coconuts, puffed rice and bananas.

Bhoota Kola: A pictorial-p3300268.jpg

Banta indulges in some comical acts here. He is sharing his food with some teenagers.

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After the food fest is over, it is time for grievances session. The Jumadi held a long Q&A with all the male members of the family. Males are responsible for conducting these religious rituals, and Jumadi wanted to know whether the thousands of year old tradition will be continued, and who will take the responsibility for regular puja rituals. With so many of us of the current generation living the modern life, in cities and abroad, nobody really volunteered.

Bhoota Kola: A pictorial-p3300287.jpg

We were grilled for more than an hour by Jumadi, who repeatedly threatened to randomly assign a few of us for the task. Being an agnostic, I was quite worried I will saddled with the task. That would be hilarious.

This session is usually followed by some attempt at cold reading. But the Jumadi player and the event spokesman must be really good to nail the cold reading. After some shaky attempt at guessing, Jumadi decided to move on.

By this time, it was almost 5AM. And Banta did some dancing with the fire torches.

Bhoota Kola: A pictorial-p3300292.jpg

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Finally it ends and Jumadi starts removing the head gear. It was almost 6:30AM when we finally left.

Last edited by Samurai : 14th April 2018 at 01:12.
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Old 14th April 2018, 17:08   #40
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Thanks for the narrative & fantastic pics.

Any means of witnessing these events? How to know in advance if something like this would take place?
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Old 14th April 2018, 19:46   #41
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Originally Posted by BaCkSeAtDrIVeR View Post
Thanks for the narrative & fantastic pics.

Any means of witnessing these events? How to know in advance if something like this would take place?
You are based in Kochi, as per your profile. If I remember right from the old days, you are based in Vypin.

This is the season of Poorams in North Kerala. If you go to any of the village temple festivals in Palakkad around this time, you will find a Bhoothan & Thira accompanying the group that goes around conducting Para Nira, the annual voluntary revenue generation drive of our temples where each member of the family contributes a 'Para' (measure) of grain to a representative idol of the deity that 'visits' every house. Richer temples have elephants carrying the deity, but the smaller malabar temples have a poor priest walking the whole day doing much the same, accompanied by a cohort of drummers and the pair of Bhoothan & Thira, one of whom will dance while the other communicates through a series of deaf-mute gestures. If I remember right, this Bhootan has been re-interpreted to represent one of Shiva's Bhoota Ganas while Thira is a Kali sub-agent/franchisee of sorts - no doubt this is an evolution of the original religion-free belief to conform to subsequent mergers with Shaivite beliefs.

Of course if you want to see the ceremonial dances and bespoke rituals that are commissioned by a family to help them in problem resolution with such divine intervention, you can go to Kannur district and watch Theyyam performances which are pretty much the same.

You will find variants of this practice/folk art in all parts of Kerala, usually associated with a Bhagavathy (Mother Goddess) temple in every community, whether village, town or city.

Last edited by Steeroid : 14th April 2018 at 19:48.
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Old 14th April 2018, 23:17   #42
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Any means of witnessing these events? How to know in advance if something like this would take place?
This is usually a public function. The local newspaper lists out the Kola/Nema happening that day in various places.

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accompanied by a cohort of drummers and the pair of Bhoothan & Thira, one of whom will dance while the other communicates through a series of deaf-mute gestures.
These gestures don't really have any meaning, although the bhoota does very vigorous sign language kind of movements. Easy to be fooled by this, I was for a long time. My late father used to be the head of his matriarchal family, and his family organizes a major Kola every year. So he used to communicate a lot with Bhootas for 30+ years. After one such event, I asked him how he interprets those gestures. He said those gestures means nothing, just play acting.

Here is my late father being gestured by the Bhoota.

Bhoota Kola: A pictorial-p3150379.jpg

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Originally Posted by Steeroid View Post
If I remember right, this Bhootan has been re-interpreted to represent one of Shiva's Bhoota Ganas while Thira is a Kali sub-agent/franchisee of sorts - no doubt this is an evolution of the original religion-free belief to conform to subsequent mergers with Shaivite beliefs.
Yes, exactly. This is how all the nature gods are re-interpreted so that they can be reconciled within Hindu framework. Earlier, Brahmin priests never participated in these Kola events, since they are not vedic/sanatani gods. I have never seen them at my father's family event. I see it has changed in the recent years. My family's event I posted yesterday was fully handled by Brahmin priests, which took me by quite a surprise.

Even the homa rituals were different. All the Brahmin priests wore a strange head gear. And the homa involved sword swinging... I mean this is my kind of worshiping. I hope they don't mind samurai swords.

Bhoota Kola: A pictorial-img_20180326_183224797.jpg


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Old 15th April 2018, 15:14   #43
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2008, 2018... great to see your pictures and description.

Last week, we attended Therayattam, in Kerala, at the ancestral temple of an online friend from another forum.

I am envious of you photographic skills! I took hundreds of photos, but I think very few are "keepers" and they are only so-so. But, this kind of photography, in this kind of lighting, was a first-time for me and my current camera.

I was asking my friend about (as far as I could understand what was going on) the reverential attitude of the temple priests, taking the blessings of the dancers. He said that, during the dance/ritual, the dancers embody the gods.

(He also said that the event was almost identical in content, year after year after year, and it was only our presence as guests that prompted him to actually attend!)
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Old 18th April 2018, 01:35   #44
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Last week, we attended Therayattam, in Kerala, at the ancestral temple of an online friend from another forum.
Thad and Samurai, if you're interested there is this Death/Thrash Metal group from Kannur whose music and videos are heavily influenced by Theyyam. They are called The Down Troddence (TDT for short) and have some really good (even if death metal) music. See samples below, especially Nagavalli and the guitar riff in the middle of the 'Shiva' track:



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Old 18th April 2018, 09:54   #45
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Wonderful record of the event. These are fast getting modernised - or assimilated to the mainstream culture

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Until Vijayanagara Kings enforced compulsory worship of Vaishnava/Vedic gods in their empire, most people in the south worshiped only such nature gods. However, people didn't giveup worship of old gods, and the tradition continues. You can see proof of this if you drive through rural areas, where you can find all kind of gods (with scary sounding names) that you will never find in any Hindu texts.
Even without force, nowadays the temples and gods are getting transformed in my native place. The temple at our ancestral home in Calicut district also has Brahmin priests nowadays. And the deities names are also getting changed - one of the deities known as just the dark one, is now having a new Sanskrit name

There used to be lots of local events associated with local gods (with scary sounding names as you mentioned) - but nowadays they are just in the memories of old timers

The rituals mentioned by you and Steer has a lot of similarities and they are followed with minor changes all through from North of Thrissur all through Malabar and South Konkan I guess
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