Bhoota Kola is a yearly tradition in which native spirits or divinities are worshipped by Tulu-speaking people in coastal Karnataka. Rishab Shetty, the director of Kantara, sparked a debate when he claimed that Bhoota Kola was “part of Hindu culture.”
Since the release of the movie Kantara, it is being disputed whether the “Bhootharadhane” rite belongs to Hinduism. While adherents of the position claim that it is core to Hinduism, critics argue that it is a pre-Hindu rite that has been hijacked and incorporated into the faith. They suggest that it is not a part of Hinduism but rather ‘moolnivasi-adivasi’ culture.
Plot Summary: Kantara (Spoiler Alert)
The crux of Kantara is composed of the ancient Punjarli folklore from the coastal region of Karnataka. According to legend, a local demigod named Punjarli (a word derived from the boar) watches over the tribal people to ensure their prosperity. His brother Guligu also works with him on the project. The community holds an annual celebration called “Kola” to commemorate the deity, which is administered by a priest. Following the rites, the demigod briefly takes control of the priest to address the issues and queries of the tribals.
The story begins in the 1800s when the king of the land left his house in search of peace, prosperity, and happiness. He finally locates a small village in the middle of the jungle with the idol of the god Punjarli, after a prolonged search. He naturally wants God to return with him to his realm so so that he can live a happy life. But, there’s a trick: He can only do that in exchange for giving the tribal people vast tracts of forest land (to which he agrees).
A descendant zamindar returns to the village in the 1970s, 100 years after the king made good on his promise, to reclaim the land that his forefathers promised. The villagers object to it and threaten him with the wrath of the demigod who has been guarding them, but they are unsuccessful. The argument got out of hand to the point where the Punjarli had to step in and curse the zamindar into a torturous death. After receiving the curse, the demigod flees to a nearby woodland and vanishes, leaving his small kid behind.
At this juncture, a dispute is also revealed: Murali, a new forest officer, has been deployed to the region in order to stop encroachment and protect the forest. Since the villagers are obviously upset about the new regulations but are unaware of them, Shiva approaches the officer on their behalf. In addition, Rammpa, the zamindar (current descendant), is still trying to reclaim his property. The story then transitions into one about revenge, fury, a terrible streak of jokes, and puzzling reactions.
What is ‘Bhoothradhane’ all about?
People in coastal Karnataka perform a ritual known as “Bhootharadhane” in which they revere native spirits. Another way to spell it is “Bhootha Aradhane.”
It is a custom that originated in the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts of coastal Karnataka, a Tulu-speaking area. It is locally referred to as “Tulu Nadu.”
The website for Karnataka Tourism writes: “Deity worship, or bhootaradhana, is quite prevalent in Tulunadu. For ghosts or Gods, a rite known as nema or kola is performed. Kola/nema conduct has its own race and regulations. The deity is invoked through dancing while the face is painted and covered in a Siri made of coconut feathers. Through the Word of God, the Divine Dancer provides justice for people and resolves disagreements. The Tulu race’s main religious belief is deity worship.”
Rishab Shetty remarked in an interview that Bhoota Kola was a part of Hindu culture. “It is a component of Hindu rituals and culture. I am a Hindu, and no one may dispute my belief in my faith or my practices,” he claimed.
Chetan Kumar, a Kannada actor, and activist stirred the debate by challenging Shetty’s assertion that the “Bhootha Kola” rite is an integral part of Hindu culture.
Chetan has constantly been active on socio-cultural concerns and is well-known in campaigns for the rights of farmers, laborers, Dalits, and Adivasis. He has advocated for the housing of tribal people who were expelled from Kodagu, Karnataka (2016), the rehabilitation of endosulfan poisoning victims (2013), and more recently, the recognition of Lingayats as a distinct religious group. Chetan was detained in February, of this year as a result of his alleged comments against a Karnataka High Court judge who was considering issues involving the hijab in schools.
The existence of bhoothas predates the introduction of Vedic civilization and the gods of brahminical Hinduism. Oral histories or paaddanas are used to maintain their tales.
It is a widely held idea that each of the bhoothas governs a specific aspect of life, and that praying to the right bhootha will enable one to resolve their issues. Unlike some Hindu gods, Bhoothas and Daivas are not often worshipped. Although everyday poojas are performed for the ritual objects, jewelry, and other paraphernalia of the bhoothas, their worship is limited to annual ceremonial celebrations.
Chetan attracted criticism for his statement from a variety of sources, particularly from activists on the Hindu right.
Kantara, according to Sri Rama Sene Chief Pramod Muthalik, is a symbol of Hindu heritage and culture. He added, “Chetan is ignorant of the local customs and culture. He is a communist and an atheist. He is one of the “intellectuals” who criticize local customs.”
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