This type of mask is used during bhuta worship, practiced in the coastal region of Karnataka. Bhutas are celestial or ancestral spirits that are represented by hundreds of different forms, including boars, buffalos, and fierce forms of Shiva, such as the present example. During an all night festival, the mask is worn by a trained medium who invites the bhuta to possess him. He then sings, dances, tells stories, gives advice, and solves problems for the sponsoring family or village group. See S. Aryan, Unknown Masterpieces of Indian Folk and Tribal Art, 2005, p. 61-63, for buta masks made in brass; and also the forthcoming exhibit at the Rietberg Museum, Dancing Masks - Bronzes from Southern India, 17 May - 23 August, 2009. The present example, made in silver, indicates it was a particularly important and expensive commission.