In Coastal Karnataka (Dakshina Kannada District, India) the term ‘bhuuta’ means a divine spirit which deserves periodic propitiation. The cult is practiced from generation to generation. The ‘bhuuta’ rituals enormously vary from village to village according to the social structure of the society. The boundaries of present day District of South Kanara in Karnataka roughly conform to the area of traditional ‘Tulunad’, the land of the Tulu speakers. The region is a forty by twenty miles rectangle bounded on the west by the Arabian Sea and on the East by the precipitous slopes of the western Ghats. The Northern and Southern borders are rivers, which are transferable by foot during the dry season. (Peter J, Claus 1972- un-published).
There is a veritable pantheon of the ‘bhuutas’ whose number is about 350. ‘Bhuutas’ are believed to be capable of shaping the welfare of votaries. The ‘bhuuta’ cult has its own priest class and impersonators who act as communication of the divine spirit through possession act of oracle or prophecy. ‘Bhuuta’ worship has different types of folk music, to the tune of musician an impersonator dance and his foot step moves with heavy anklet called ‘gaggara’ and in his hand ‘chaury’ (Yak tail fan). An impersonator wears either metal mask or areca-leaf mask on his head. The make-up is attractive and dress are made out of simple tender coconut leaves. During the performance, musical instruments like ”mouri’ (wind pipe) ‘taase’ (percussion) and ‘shruti’ (wind pipe) are used. The performer dances to the tune of musical instruments and sometimes wears a mask.
The ritual dance is very artistic and attracts all the spectators. ‘Bhuuta’ or divine spirits have their own myths or epics sung during the performance. Some of the ‘bhuuta’ songs or epics are sung in the paddy plantation field by the women folk. They are called ‘paaddana’ in Tulu language. During the ‘bhuuta’ performance women render the songs with a small percussion instrument called ‘tembere’ or ‘karande’.
‘Aati Kalanja’ is a ritualistic folk dance performed by the ‘Nalke’ Community. Kalanja is the name of a minor spirit, who is in charge of the protection of the village folk during the month of July- August (rainy season) when the other major spirits take leave for rest. During this period the members of the ‘Nalke’ Community decorate their body with the costume made of the tender coconut leaves, anklets, colorful cloth, long cap made of areca spathe etc., paint their face with various colors and designs. Holds an umbrella made of leaves and decorated with leaves and flowers. Artiste goes from house to house and dance in front of the house. The other members of the group sing the story of the spirit and beat a small drum known as tembere. The householder gives them paddy, rice, coconut, turmeric, charcoal and the dancers perform certain rituals to word of disease and other misfortunes of the family and the cattle.