The Bunts Culture and Beliefs: Bhootaaradhane

Trust me, I will create the situation to trust, I will consider children of ten parents as one, feed you like a mother by my invisible breast milk, guide you as an uncle, protect you on my lap.  I will be the invisible fence for the entire village and protect you all like a beautiful garden” – Bhoota verdict.

Like every where in the world, primitive man in Tulunad, when he came in to existence faced supernatural powers like fire, air, stars, sun, moon etc. It is but natural that he has been attracted by these supernatural powers. He could not understand or evaluate these powers which he came across in his day to day life. However hard he tried, he could not escape from the influence of these powers. When he realized that they ruled him, not vice versa, he surrendered         and started to worship them. He also believed that one supreme power in the universe controlled and ruled the supernatural powers which is evident from the  PANJURLI paaddhana (Panjurli devotional song) “ God held the sky and left the earth to rotate, held the earth and left the sky to rotate, clapped the left hand, earth rotated, clapped the right hand, sky rotated, earth is to walk and sky is to roam, Sun god for dawn and Moon God for dusk”

The early Tuluva believed that the sun, the moon, fire and air are the supernatural powers, but he may have had a problem in believing and worshipping objects which were not physically present or which he could not touch and feel. Hence, he neither believed nor worshipped them but found his satisfaction just by recognizing them or accepting their existence. He had also accepted that these were permanent objects or entities, so sometimes he called on them as witnesses.“ I will see that these rituals are followed as long as sun and moon are there” – from bhoota verdict.

Psychologists opine that no human being can live without taking the shelter of some individual, power or belief. Early Tuluva accepted the existing things as a base for his beliefs and worshipped them since he could not understand the invisible objects or powers. Natural stones of unusual shapes, huge trees, sometimes, even rare objects like white ant hills also became the objects of his worship. He could see, touch and feel them, which gave momentum to his imagination. He imagined them to have supernatural powers and started worshipping them.

Even today, we can see Tulu people worshipping bhootas in the form of some stones or under a gigantic tree.

Later as he stepped in to the metal age, he was surprised by seeing the properties of metals. He included such metals also in his religious l places. We can see a piece of iron in some of the oldest shrines or devotional places of ancient Tulunad. By this we can come to a conclusion that the primitive Tuluva started worshipping any physical object, which he could see, touch and feel but could not understand.

But later as civilization developed, white ant hills, stones and trees were replaced by huts, roofs and temples. New aspects were included in the rituals of worship. Instead of wood, stones and metals; swords (Kadthale) and statues came in to existence. Jasmine, gold and silver were also used for decoration of such places of worship together with arecanut and other wild flowers. But if we observe closely, we can find ancient forms of worship also continued. Even after many centuries and generations original forms of worship still remain, which is  proof of its deep rooted existence in our culture.

Gradually, theTuluva started worshipping the strong and ferocious animals living in the nearby forests. Among these, the Cobra is the most important. Pilichandi [tiger], Panjurli [wild boar], Maisandaaya [buffalo], Nandigona [bull] etc. are the spirits he worshipped recognizing and identifying the animals around him. Even today such spritis are worshipped widely in Tulunad.

The next stage in the religious practices of the Tuluva was soul (soul of a dead person) worship. This could be the oldest form of worship. The curiosity to know how, one is no more ,though the body is there and love and affection for their kith and kin must have made him worship the soul. Even today every house hold in Tulunad follow the ritual of offering food to the souls (agel balasunu). The soul worship is still in existence around the world in some form or the other.

Known brave personalities or some one who performed supernatural deeds are worshipped as supernatural beings or spirits after their death. This is the next stage of worship. Love and fear for these extraordinary people turned into devotion after their death. So many stories were spun around these people that gradually they were worshipped as spirits.

Slowly the popularity of these spirits crossed the family limits, reached the village boundaries and spread to the entire Tulunad and got worshipped all over the area. Koti-Chennaya, Siri, Abbage-Daarage, Kalkuda-Kallurti, Kordhabbu, Bobbarya – all these belong to this category of spirits.

The next development in this direction was that he started worshipping puranic personalities and powers. Puranic stories must have been spread in this area by the influence of Brahmins of Aryan origin. Then started the worshipping of Raktheshwari, Chaamundi, Vishnumurthi etc. Hence, the bhoota or spirit worship in Tulunad         which evolved stage by stage needs a deeper study by psychologists, human scientists and historians.

The outer limit or popularity of a bhoota depends on its devotees and their social status. These bhootas are called different names such as family bhoota, maagane bhoota, raajya bhoota, seeme bhoota etc. depending on the area where they were recognized and worshipped. Depending on their nature and area where they were worshipped, rituals of worship also differed, such as agel, thambila, oma, panchakajjaya, kola, nema, aayana, mechchi, bandi, jaalata, olasiri, kendaseve etc.

“nambinakaleg imbu, nambamdinakaleg ambu” (protection to devotees and destruction of non-devotees) is the verdict always given by the bhootas. Here one can see fear and devotion in worship. Together with it we can also the feeling of love and respect towards the spirit worshipped.

The devotion towards something which is superior or more powerful than him, gave the impression that he never felt the completeness and wanted to grow further and reach new heights. He who respects an elder or something superior to him, will also have love mixed with his devotion. “The peak of life is devotion” – puranic verses. The power of bhoota increases in relation to the devotion or respect of its devotees. The love, belief and worship of some power superior to us, automatically gives us the feeling of being protected by that power which makes the life easier and simpler. Because of this a mental balance will be created which will be the foundation for the development of humanity and human culture as well as development of the society.

Tuluvas call these bhootas as “sathyolu” which means the truth. In their day today life they always use sayings such as “enklu nambi sathyolu – the truth that we worship”, “sathya thoonda aand – let the truth see it”, “sathya deeyilekka aavad – whatever the truth wishes”. Truth has become the alternate name for bhoota in Tulunaad. We can also see in the verdict of bhoota saying “ sathyada mann undu, sathyada daiva yaan, ee raajyodu sathya aththaavande mithya kodiyetthere budaye – this land is truth, I am the truth and I will never allow falsehood or lies to come up in this land”.

Tuluva never believed the idol or Kadthale- sword or the person who gets the influence of bhoota (darshana paathri) as the ultimate truth. The hidden or invisible truth behind these visible objects are the real truth he believed in. That is why at the time of bhoota kola, the person who wears the garb of the bhoota (kola kattunaaye) says that “katti rathotu undaayi daiva yaan – I am the truth riding on the decorated chariot”

That is the understanding or belief which made him to bow to darshana paathri (the person who acts as bhoota during the bhoota kola) before, during or at the time of accepting the prasada from him. Here we have to notice that he bows not to the person (darshana paathri) but to the ultimate truth behind that. We can understand the reality of bhoota worship only when we realize that he worshiped the ultimate truth but not the visible objects.

Bhoota worship not only became the belief of his inner soul but also the central point of his society. Every activity in that society always depended on this central point. No festivities or the family functions were performed without the inclusion of this central point.

There was a code of conduct or rules that every one had to abide by, in bhoota worship. Hence they were all tied closely to a central point, though outwardly they were divided by different caste system. An atmosphere was created for them to live like         a big undivided family. Hence a common bond or knot made them  stay together as a society.   Every class or caste of the society had one or the other responsibility in the bhoota worship of that area. Those who participate in this worship were also recognized as the leaders of their particular community/caste. It was not the Yajamaana Paddathi – “leadership system” as some of the enlightened people of today explain. Instead it was a brilliant system to call him as a gurikaara/leader with some social respect and to keep every one together without giving him a chance to escape from the social responsibility.

The same gurikaaras were also the leaders in their particular community/caste who would take the responsibility of conducting the family functions of that community. They were also the mediators/judges to settle any dispute within their community. On the basis of this naturally they commanded some respect not only from their community but also from the society. If any dispute could not be settled by him then such cases were brought to the presence of the bhoota during the annual festival or any such occasion and settled there. It was the final decision and all parties were obliged to accept that decision/verdict. Hence, these bhootas/sathyolu not only became the social communication media, but also were the judges of the society, which helped them to maintain communal harmony and remain a close-knit society.

At that time, people with new beliefs and gods came to Tulunad and started to spread their beliefs and worshipping. But they could not escape from the bhoota worship, which was already deep rooted in the social set up of Tulunad. They also accepted bhoota worship in some form or the other.  May be these bhootas attracted them to worship them because of their celestial powers. Among these, Jains, the staunch followers of ahimsa were the first community.  They accepted the responsibility of well known bhoota shrines in the district and started to         worship them. Even today also they worship at such famous bhoota shrines. Next came Brahmins who also could not escape from the bhoota worship, because belief and worshipping of Tuluva was so deep rooted in Tulunad and its society.

At this juncture, we can see the mutual give and take between two different cultures. Many of the temples of Tulunad were originally bhoota shrines. Gradually puranic gods got entrance to these shrines occupying prime position and importance. Besides that some of bhootas/spirits were elevated to the status of gods. But important fact to be noted is that nowhere could they completely absorb bhoota cult. Not only that, in many temples we can see some rituals of bhoota worship are also followed such as darshana, bali etc, where we can see the clear influence of bhoota worship. At the same time bhootaraadhane also absorbed some rituals from temple gods.

Cultural and religious assimilation has taken place to a large extent in Tulunad.  Ancient bhoota worship had the influence of different cultures such as shaiva, jaina, vaishnava, shaaktha etc. but one can’t precisely say which one has influenced to what extent.

Today civilization is in the space age. Science has influenced every aspect of our life. But even in this age, every Thuluva still respects and follows his ancient beliefs which is the proof of the deep rooted beliefs in his culture and society.

Age – old beliefs and their followings for centuries, cannot be absolutely free from demerits. For that matter, beliefs found in this twentieth century, scientific age also not free from demerits. Beliefs and systems, whether they are from pre-historic era or present scientific era, where ever selfish people are there, merits and demerits will also be there. As long as these beliefs and systems are accepted in their true meaning and spirit, only then will they be the binding factors of an ideal society. The day these beliefs are controlled by selfish people, and if believers follow these people blindly, then that would be the end of an ideal society and social unrest or communal clash will be the order of the day.

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