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The ancient art form of Bhoota Kola

  • Published
    24th Apr, 2023

The ancient art form of Bhoota Kola, which gained mainstream popularity after the film Kantara, inspires anticipation and hope in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Kasaragod.

About the culture

  • The trained Bhoota Kola performer, in a possessed state, provides the answers to the community and is revered as the manifestation of God himself.
  • The ritual performance that starts in the night goes on into the early hours of the morning.
  • Different forms: Performed in the open air, the Bhoota Kola comes in the forms of Panchuruli, Kallurutti, Koragajja and so on.
  • Objective: The Tuluvas, the people who speak the Tulu language, believe in animism and the Bhoota Kola is performed to invoke these spirits of Nature.
  • Tribe: The traditional right to perform the kola belong to the Nalike and Parava tribes of the region.
  • A typical Bhoota Kola season starts in January and extends to May.

How is it different from Theyyam?

Originally from Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts of Karnataka and the northern parts of Kasaragod district, the Bhoota Kola has striking similarities with Kerala’s Theyyam, but have subtle differences too.

  • Costume: The costumes of the Bhoota Kola are not as strikingly colourful as those of the Theyyam. The Bhoota Kola performer is bedecked in an attire entirely made of intricately woven palm leaves.
  • Face painting: The elaborate face painting, however, is similar to Theyyam. The incantations the performer utters are in Tulu. The nema or kola (as the performance is called) usually involves a fierce dance accompanied by drums, music and other rituals.


  • Theyyam, also known as Kaliyattam, is a ritual dance popular in north Kerala.  It encompasses dance, mime and music.
  • It exalts the beliefs of the ancient tribals who gave a lot of importance to the worship of heroes and the spirits of their ancestors.
  • The ceremonious dance is accompanied by the chorus of such musical instruments as Chenda, Elathalam, Kurumkuzal and Veekkuchenda.
  • There are over 400 separate Theyyams, each with its own music, style and choreography.
  • The most prominent among these are Raktha Chamundi, Kari Chamundi, Muchilottu Bhagavathi, Wayanadu Kulaven, Gulikan and Pottan.
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