Pulikali, literally meaning the ‘dance of tiger’, is an integral part of the Onam festivals. It is performed by trained artists to entertain people on the occasion of Onam, an annual harvest festival, celebrated mainly in the Indian state of Kerala. Pulikali, also known as Kaduvaakali, is a 200 year old art. The folk art is mainly practiced in Thrissur (Trichur) and Palghat districts of Kerala. Best place to watch the show is Swaraj Ground at Thrissur on the fourth day of Onam, where Pulikali troupes from all over the district assemble to display their skills.
There will be dancers who have painted their body in bright colours and black stripes resembling tigers and a few hunters. In the early days, masks were not used at all and participants would have themselves painted all over, on their faces as well. But now, ready made masks, cosmetic teeth, tongues, beards and mustaches are used by the participants along with the paint on their bodies. The tigers also wear a broad belt with jingles around their waist.
The festival in Thrissur has now become an all peoples event with huge response from people, Scenes such as the tiger preying on an animal, and a tiger being hunted by a game-hunter are enacted beautifully in between. Thousands of spectators line the streets enjoying the dance, cheering the dancers some of them even trying to join in
The origin of Pulikali dates back to over 200 years, when the Maharaja Rama Varma Sakthan Thampuran, the then Maharaja of Cochin, is said to have introduced the folk art, who wanted to celebrate Onam with a dance that reflected the wild and macho spirit of the force.
4th Onam day in the month of Chingam
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