This vintage bronze idol of a Tiger is a Pilichamundi, a spirit of totemic origin worshipped under the Bhuta cult. Pili in Tulu means a tiger and this daiva is of totemic origin worshipped for protection of crops and cattle against tigers.
Bhuta Worship in the form of Bhuta Kola is celebrated in the Tululand (states of Southern coastal Karnataka like Mangalore, Udupi, Kundapura) and North Malabar region of Kerala and is very much a core part of the socio-cultural life in the village. Some believe the origin of Bhuta worship to be older than Hinduism itself. A Bhuta is a divine ethereal spirit that is believed to protect and promote the welfare of its worshippers. The Bhuta kola attempts to bring together the tangible and the intangible worlds. There are at least 350 kinds of Bhutas which are classified either as those of totemic origin or derived from Hindu gods or human heroes who became saints after their death. Some believe these Bhutas to be from the sect of Ganas, followers and devotees of Lord Shiva.
There are priests who act as oracles or impersonators for the conveyance of the commands of these Bhutas. Bhuta Kolas from feudal times have served as a platform for delivering justice where family disputes and political disputes are referred to the spirits for mediation and deliverance of justice. Possession, Trance and Dialogue by the impersonator with the villagers/ devotees are the three main parts of such ceremonies.
The priests or impersonators wore very elaborate costumes and paraphernalia during these cult rituals. Bhuta masks and idols are the most revered and popular of these which were worshipped in the shrines (Sthaana) as representations of these spirits.
The Antique Story