Lot: 2

"Bhuta" mask, 18th century

India - South Karnataka, Tulu Nadu

Provenance Size Hammer price
Private UK Collection
H: 9.8 inch 2500 EUR

copper alloy, base

Metal "masks" like this one are used in "bhuta" worship practiced in Tulu Nadu, the Tulu-speaking coastal region of Karnataka state in southwestern India.

"Bhutas" are supernatural beings or divinized ancestor spirits. Hundreds of different "bhutas" are worshipped, each embodied by a particular metal animal- or human-face mask. Boars, buffalos, and fierce forms of the god Shiva or his attendant ganas are especially popular.

Every year countless festivals take place in honor of the "bhutas". Their embodiments are professionals called "pambada". They perform experessive dances in a state of ritual possesssion. Dressed in a unique costume, with a huge aureole, their appearance is majestic. The metal masks "muga" ("faces"), which are held in front of the face or in the hands during the performance, are charged with divine power.

"Bhuta" worship in Tulu Nadu probably dates back at least to the fourteenth century.


Figiel, Leo S., Ritual Bronzes of Maharashtra and Karnataka, Boynton Beach 2007, p. 126, Fig. 14-128