Dr Lakshmi G Prasad

Tales from Tulu Nadu

Dr Lakshmi G Prasad is a well-known Tulu folklorist. The author holds PG degrees in Kannada, Sanskrit, and Hindi as well as doctorates from Hampi Kannada University and Dravidian University. Currently, she teaches Kannada at Government PU College in Nelamangala. She blogs at www.laxmipras.blogspot.com

Recent Posts

Marriage between siblings is a taboo in Hindu religion. But interestingly, a brother and sister who marry each other are now elevated to be daivas in Tuluva tradition. Of course, not before they suffered bansihment. This is the story of sibling daivas – Kukketti and Ballu, who are worshipped by Gowda families (Bangaaru Bali/race).

Panjurli, like other bhootas, are revered in coastal Karnataka. It has a special significance in Tuluva culture and tradition. There are various forms of Panjurli bhootas including Malara Panjurli, Orte Panjurli, Varnara Panjurli, Potta Panjurli among others.

There are a few bhutas known for their miracles in Tulu Nadu. One of them is Kunhi bhuta. A sub-deity worshipped along with Annappa Swami, Kunhi bhuta is worshipped in Puttur's Kabaka Baipady House. According to a folk story, Kunhi was born to a Malekudiya couple. As per the Malekudiya tradition, on sixteenth day after giving birth, the mother takes a holy bath following which the baby is put to cradle. The couple name the baby girl Kunhi.

In Dakshina Kannada’s Sullia, a bhuta named Parava, who belongs to the Parava community, is worshipped. This is the story about how Parava got his divine powers. Chikmulli Ballala was the ruler of Chikmulli (samsthaanam), which is near Guttigaru, a place in Sullia. In Guttigaru Mogra Chaavadi, one can still find the tomb of Chikmulli Ballala.  

When it is worshipped as ‘nema’, Padkanthaaya daiva gives blessings in Kannada. But what is the story behind the worshipping of Padkanthaaya daiva? According to a story, Padkanthaaya was born to two bhutas Genda Keturaaya and Veera Bhadra. But soon he was orphaned.  With no other option, Padkanthaaya takes to begging to survive. He uses sugarcane stalk as a stick and makes tamboora out of a cucumber. And so he goes from village to village.

A characteristic of Tulu’s bhuta worship is that it doesn’t discriminate: all religions and communities are treated equally. Here, many Brahmins, too, have achieved divinity and are now worshipped as bhutas. Kachhe Bhatta is one such Brahmin who is worshipped as a deity among Tulus. Kachhe Bhatta is also known as Kule. In Bellare, there is a Kote Mundugaru Temple where an annual ritual known as ‘kolam’ is held to appease Kule/Kachhe Bhatta bhuta. This bhuta doesn’t have any stories or even folk verses to shed light on its origin.

Near Kasargod, there is a place called Hosangadi, where a deity known as Dhoomavati is worshipped along with Kannada Beera. Kannada Beera is unique among Tulu daivas. Unlike other daivas, who wear costumes made of coconut leaves, Kannada Beera wears a dhoti. He also doesn’t wear any special makeup like others. According to a story, Kannada Beera hailed from Karnataka. He worked as a subedar during the British period.

As soon as Dasara begins, Mysuru gets ready to worship goddess Chamundeshwari, who killed the demon named Mahishasura. Dasara is also celebrated in Mangaluru with much pomp and gaiety. Here Aadishakti is worshipped as Kali, Sharada and in other avatars. In Tulunadu, Chamundi Bhuta is a well-known deity but her origin is still mired in confusion. In Tulunadu, these bhutas are differentiated into two ways: one on the basis of historical stories; second, on the basis of phrases and verses available.

Tulunadu is a riot of colours during Deepavali. Homes are saturated in festive atmosphere, there is devotion in the air, while Kambala Kori worship begins in agricultural lands. On the day of Pattanaaje (10th day of Tulu month Besha which falls on the third or fourth week of May) all deities of Tulunadu retreat to their place of worship, remove their gaggara (an ornament used only at the time of kolam), and keep it aside to have some rest.

Tulu bhuta worship is remarkable for its diversity. It is not just personalities such as Mudda, Kalala, Koti and Chennaya who are worshipped as bhutas. Chinese, Arabs, Christians, Muslims, and even a subedar from the British era – worshipped as Kannada Beera - have been incorporated into the tradition of spirit worship. In Udupi district’s Kaapu village, whose Pili (tiger) Kola is famous and known to all, there is another fascinating tradition of worshipping Police, Kalla (thief), Senava (village accountant), Patler, Tigamaarer, Balaaimaarer, Madimaya and Madimalu bhutas.

We all know the story of brave Koti and Chennaya, who fought against injustice and were highly respected in Tulunadu. In the Tulu bhuta tradition, there are two more who resemble Koti and Chennaya: Mugerlu brothers. Born into “Mugera” (a community of hunters) tribe, the two are known for their bravery and for commitment to fight injustice. Unfortunately, both die too early. The brothers are worshipped with different names. Yenmooru Dieyya, Keletta Pernale, Mudda Kalala, Sathyada Daivolu, and Sathyadappe Jokulu are some of the other names of the Mugerlu brothers.

Bhagavathi temples in Southern Kerala offer this unique ritual to the Elephant God Ganesh Chaturthi just got over and different regions celebrate in a most distinct manner. However, Ganapathi Kolam, observed in Southern Kerala is quite special. For, not everywhere, Kolam is offered to Lord Ganesha. ‘Kolam Thullal’ is a worshipping formality of Padeyani in Southern Kerala’s Bhagvathi temples. Padeyani is a kind of ritual to rid all barriers. Pade means army and worshipping martyr is called as Padeyani.

Akkacchu, although of a Jain origin, she worshipped Goddess Raktheshwari Bhuta. She believed in Raktheshwari so much that the goddess made her ambassador. She also bestowed her with spiritual powers thus elevating her as Akkacchu bhuta, it is said. History has it that she could have been a queen and thus her name Akka Arasu. However, she ispopularly known as Akkacchu.  

Unlike other ‘bhutas’, Koraga Thaniya cracks jokes, entertains From elders to youngsters, everyone loves the name, Koraga Thaniya. Those who worship Bhutas (deity) of tulunad are afraid of their deities due to many reasons. But when people hear the name Koraga Thaniya everyone’s face turns wider with smile due to his entertainment and jokes done by the lord.

Tulunadu’s bhuta tradition goes back to almost 3rd-4th AD, coinciding with the arrival of early Tulu tribes who introduced the initial cults of Bermer. Subsequent history saw the introduction of bhuta or daiva worship. More than a thousand bhutas/daivas are worshipped in Tulunadu. Koteda Babbu is one among them.

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