Bhoota Kola is a ritual folk dance from South Canara. Literal translation of the word Bhoota would be ghost. Mostly in Mangalore, it means a holy spirit, often of common men who have elevated themselves to this position through a heroic act and are believed to have gained Godly powers after death. Some holy spirits also draw references to animals and others are believed to be Ishwara Ganas (Representatives of lord Shiva).
There are three types of holy spirits - The one at home, for the welfare of the family. The one that safeguards the land and the one that protects a village (Grama). Bhoota Kola is a way of offering food to the holy spirits which involves a Pambada (One who dresses as the holy spirit) becoming possessed and acts as an oracle for the deity being channelised.
These days, it has gained lot of prominence and is celebrated grandly. It is now also seen as an occasion for family reunions or for social gatherings. In the temple near my house, on the day of Makara Sankramana, a Bhoota kola takes place every year. We decided to witness it this time. I am always attracted to the art involved in this tradition- The makeup, the costumes (Made of coconut leaves), the music and the dance. Generally, it is an all night event. We stayed up only until 2 AM though. The somersaults with that heavy costume was a major attraction of this particular evening.