Panjurli Mask

Panjurli Mask

Panjurli Mask. Indian Art. ©Peabody Essex Museum.

Supernatural beings called bhutas exist in vast numbers and variety, often as spirits of local heroes and animals. One of the most popular bhutas is Panjurli, a wild boar with alert ears and sharp teeth. Devotees worship metal masks of bhutas in shrines. The masks also play an important role in certmonies during which dancers and priests become possessed by the bhutas.

In areas of coastal Karnataka and northern Kerala, bhutas permeate all aspects of life. They protect against illness and ensure a successful marriage, harvest, or business venture. Bhutas can also be dangerous, punishing the disobedient or those who do not fulfill a vow. When embodied by a spirit medium during a ritual performance, the bhuta connects on a very personal level with the devotee and provides him or her with a cathartic spiritual experience.

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