Pulikali ('play of the tigers’), also known as Kaduvaakali, is a 200 year old folk art. This is the final and colorful procession hosted by Thrissur(Kerala) during Onam. Onam, celebrates the homecoming of the great mythical King Mahabali, who ruled the lands that now form the state of Kerala.
The performance revolves around tigers. The best place to experience this unique art form on the fourth day of Onam, is at the Swaraj Rround,Thrissur. Pulikali troupes from all districts participate to display their talent. They parade on the roads with extremely detailed body painting, dancing and enacting tiger hunting and being hunted. Music for the dance is provided by percussion instruments like 'udukku' and 'thakil'.
The preparation is very painstaking. This year 10 Troups participated with 40-50 members in each team. They gather at a school or open ground near temples for the painting process. The body art starts from 6:00 AM. The participants are given a base coat and left to dry. Once this is dry the more intricate painting of the face of the tiger or leopard starts on the belly. The face of the participant is no longer painted; masks are predominantly used these days. It may easily take 2-4 hours to paint. The parade starts from 4pm at Swaraj Round and goes on till 9pm. Large no of people will gather to witness this artistic event. As much as the beauty lies in the art, it’s also in the sumptuous belly and their energy that never diminishes.