Pulikali or 'play of the tigers' is a colorful traditional recreational folk performing art of the state of Kerala staged on the occasion of Onam. The origin of Pulikali dates back to over 200 years when Maharaja of Cochin is said to have introduced and popularized this folk art during Onam festival.
PERFORMERS PAINTED like tigers and hunters in bright yellow, red, and black colours dance to the beats of folk musical instruments such as Udukku and Thakil. Over the years, Pulikali event has become synonymous with the festival of Onam in Kerala.
Pulikali is most popular in Palakkad and Thrissur districts of the state and its competitions are held every year. In Thrissur city, Pulikali troupes from various parts of the districts assemble at Swaraj Grounds to perform in front of the audience. The cheering crowds decide which troupe they like best to be declared as winner. In fact, the cheering crowds fill the performers with vigour.
A small group of performers with their bodies painted in the patterns of a tiger donning tiger masks dance in wild fashion symbolizing a tiger hunt. Along with the dancers, the hunter and drummer play their parts realistically.
Best place to watch the show is at Swaraj Round, Thrissur on the fourth day of Onam, where Pulikali troupes from all over the district assemble to display their skills. The festival attracts thousands of people to the Thrissur city.