Have you heard of the Puli Kali or Tiger Dance of Kerala? Read on to know everything about this colourful festival…
Puli Kali refers to the colourful dance of people dressed up as tigers. It is an art form since more than 200 years and forms a key element of the popular harvest festival of Onam held in August. Puli Kali means the ‘play of tigers.’ Artists paint their body with tiger stripes of red, yellow and black, and dance to the rhythm of traditional percussion instruments like udukku, thakil and chenda. They wear masks to look like tigers and perform dances with the theme of tiger hunting.
This dance is also known as Kaduvaakali. Though the dance is performed all over Kerala, it has significance in Palakkad and Thrissur. There have been changes in the adornment of Pulikali dancers over the years. In the early days, participants never used masks and they would have themselves painted all over, including their faces. However, these days, there are ready-made masks, tongues, cosmetic teeth, beards and moustaches along with the paint on their bodies. It is an elaborate process that starts from the wee hours in the morning. It takes several hours for one to do the make-up for the performance. The make-up is applied using oil paints and is said to be very difficult to remove.
The groups meet at Naduvilal in the Swaraj ground in front of the Vadakkunnanthan temple. There, they offer a coconut to the deity of the Ganpathi shrine (Naduvilal Ganapathi Kovil) before going on a procession around the ground. The procession also has floats from every village. Different troupes compete with one another to make the best floats as well as the best dressed tigers.
Every year, during Onam, the streets in Kerala attract people from across the state and all over the country for this colourful occasion.
The joy of festivity with colours of happiness is observed during this festival. A great deal of excitement comes from both the spectators from near and far as well as the performers.
Isn’t it fascinating? Come, experience this colourful festival in Kerala in August!