Saturday, 27 August 2016

Ali bhuta -symbol of Hindu-Muslim harmony (C)Dr Lakshmi G Prasad

Ali bhuta worship and Hindu-Muslim harmony
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A Muslim woman informing her grievances with `Ali Bhoota` and seeking blessings during annual Jathra Mahotsava

In Tulu tradition, there is no fixed path to become a bhuta or daiva. Most of the bhutas are basically humans who — blessed with extraordinary powers or having done remarkable work, like questioning social evils — transform into bhutas after death. Ordinary people can also become a bhuta, if they happen to be blessed by their bhuta.
The Tulu word bhuta may be orginated from Sanskrit word ‘putam’, which means purified. In Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu is also referred as ‘putam’. So, one interpretation could be that over centuries the word ‘putam’ changed into ‘puto’, then to ‘buto’, and finally become ‘bhuta’.
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A Muslim family along with Hindu family members at the premises of Bhagavathi Ali Chamundi Kshetra in Arikady during the annual celebration
There could be another possibility. Since most of the bhutas are humans who lived in olden times or past (bhuta kaalam), at some point in time people chose to refer to them as bhutas.
The myths and legends involving bhutas often relate to local heroes and heroines, with some songs reflecting certain episodes from local history. Divinity of these heroes has been attributed by the society. One such bhuta is Ali, who is worshipped by many on the coast.
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`Ali Bhoota` ​during Nemotsava 
After roaming for a long time, Ali, a Muslim, arrives in Paresthanam, a place near Arikady-Kumble, Kasaragodu district, looking for a job and a place to live. Unaware of Ali being a sorcerer and a womaniser, a person from the Billava community in the village provides shelter to Ali.
Soon, Ali begins to harass women in the village. With his magic, he casts a spell on several women and brings them under his control. One of his victims is a beautiful woman named Deyi, who is residing in the host’s house.
After having spurned by Deyi, Ali casts a spell on her and takes control of her. Her honour having been violated, the woman ends her
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life. Ali’s depravity grows but villagers are helpless to stop him, as he is protected by a talisman with magical powers.
So the villagers pray to Goddess Mantra Devata, who then takes form as a beautiful woman. One day, Ali notices her bathing in the river and he becomes fixated with her beauty. Knowing that the talisman protected Ali, the goddess asks him to join her but only after removing the talisman, a condition to which Ali immediately agrees.
Ali steps into the river without his talisman and is killed by the goddess. Later, the goddess turns Ali into a bhuta.
Today, Ali bhuta is widely worshipped in Tulunadu, and has become a symbol of Hindu-Muslim harmony.
Article published in
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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.

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