18th Century Iconography: Rare Bhoota Figurines

The Bhoota tradition is an ancient facet of the heritage of the Tulanadu region of Karnataka, India. This tradition is unique because it emphasises the social importance of time, worship and ritualistic commitment.

By Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

These 18th century icons have been researched & documented by Dr. Choodamani Nandagopal, UNESCO Fellow, for Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation.

A Figurine of Ullaklu (1700-01) by UnknownSandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

The Bhootas or Spirit Icons

 In Dakshina Karnataka, people of the Tuluva community venerate a host of local spirits and deities in a ritual known as Bhootada aradhane (or spirit worship). They conduct an annual celebration called the Bhoota Kola that takes places even to date.

Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation is privileged to have partnered in the research, documentation and authentication of these rare 18th Century figurines of 11 Bhootas. These icons belong in the private collection of John Delano from USA.

A Figurine of Kodamanithaya (1700-01) by UnknownSandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

What is the Bhoota Kola?

Bhoota means ‘spirit’ and kola means ‘play or performance’ in the Tulu language. During the ritual, oracles summon spirits and are temporarily possessed by them, forecasting future happenings or providing solutions and mediation for familial or inter-community disputes.

A Figurine of Jumadi (1700-01) by UnknownSandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

The Bhootas, also known as daivas, are semi-divine spirits distinct from humans and gods. The stories of Bhootas are often based on historical figures who performed heroic deeds and achieved martyrdom in the past.

A Figurine of Kalkuda (1700-01) by UnknownSandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

The Bhoota performance is called nema, originating from niyama (meaning rules and regulations in Sanskrit). During a Bhoota-Kola, a variety of Bhootas are invoked, and each one has specific associations with particular castes and communities.

Video of the Bhoota Icons (2020-09) by SGMFSandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Bhoota Icons: A Narrative

Credits: Story

Research & Documentation: Dr. Choodamani Nandagopal, Tagore & UNESCO Fellow
Images: All Rights Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation
Photography & Film: Nandith Jaisimha for Studio 080
Collection: From the private collection of John Delano, USA

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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