For over 7 decades now, Onam celebrations without the auspicious and most awaited ‘Tiger dance’ or ‘Pulikali’ sport remains empty. In this traditional practice, men paint their bodies and go in disguise as leopards and tigers. They reach the streets in Thrissur on the 4th day of Onam and dance to promote harmony, prosperity and integration. The history of Pulikali will surely enrich you with the culture of Kerala!
Here are some beautiful moments that take place during Pulikali and the facts are amazing.
Pulikali, also known as Kaduvakali is associated with Onam. The Pulikali first started in Naduvillal 60 years ago. Through the past many decades, regardless of the caste and creed, everyone took part in this sport painted like tigers and leopards.
‘Kayaalarikath vala erinjappol’, an iconic song in Malayalam and the chendamelam are crowd favourite rhythms for these tiger men! They have unique moves too – when they put their right leg forwards, the left-hand rises up and so on.
Back in time, the entire family gathers in the courtyard as these tiger men arrive to perform. A rupee 1 coin is placed on the soil for the troop. Then, a member of the troop picks the coin with his mouth or if he is an expert, with his eye lids.
Normally each troop has 7 Tiger men and to bring more colours to the festival, the men carry a small bag of flowers called ‘Pookuda’
A famous sport played alongside this is ‘Panamb’ where a pot is tied 10 feet high. The pot is always decorated with small pieces of coloured papers and is swayed in various directions while the participants try to break it!
Small groups of painted men compete to get to Naduvillal, which usually ends up in differences and minor conflicts. For the past 60 years, this has been a practice and over 20 groups have made it to Naduvillal so far with the money they receive from various homes!
The procession moves in trucks carrying men with bellies painted like tigers and other men who participate in Panamb. The men get off the trucks upon reaching Naduvillal and start dancing with joy.
The sport doesn’t just end on the 4th day of Onam. On the 16th day, these men use the remaining paint left after the big Pulikal festival to celebrate Pothottapuli!
Usually, only men are in disguise to perform on the streets but in 2016, for the first time ever, Kerala saw ladies who wore specially designed clothes and makeup participating in the sport.
The traditional tiger dance is an entertaining sport and the celebrations are massive! It will surely give you goosebumps as you watch these men perform!