Pulikali or Tiger Dance is a famous folk art which is held in Thrissur district of Kerala. This festival is held on the fourth day of Onam, where the performers paint their bodies like a tiger white red, yellow and black stripes and dance to the beats of thakil, udukku and chenda which are traditional percussion instruments.
This carnival is held in the Swaraj ground where people comes with unique masks and hues, making the festival look really colorful and grand. The theme of this grand carnival focuses on tiger hunting with the main performers playing the roles of tigers and hunters.
The wonderful makeovers for the participants are done by painting their bodies with oil paint which is really hard to remove. People from all over the country and world visit this place to witness this grand event.
A small history for Thissur pulikali
Thrissur pulikali 2019 is estimated to be held on 13 May 2019 as per the Malayalam calendar and local customs and traditions. There can be changes in the date according to the rituals associated with each place of worship, so before going there it is advisable to confirm the correct date from the local authorities.
The festival dates back to over 200 years when this folk art was introduced by the king Ramavarma during Muharram when the Muslim soldiers of the British army used to celebrate the Muharram festival grandly. The festival was accompanied by a folk dance where the performers used to dance like tigers which were then known as ‘Pulikkettikali’, in memory of the same Thrissur pulikali 2019 would be held at this year the festival was canceled due to the immense flood conditions in Kerala.
Over the years this dance form and the dancers has evolved a lot. In earlier days the dancers used to paint all of their body along with but now they use masks for their face as the oil painting is really painful to remove from the skin. If you go to Thrissur pulikali 2019, the next year, you will be able to observe this.
The dancers also use things like cosmetic teeth, beard, mustaches, and tongue. To add on to this makeover, the tiger performers also wear jingling bell around their waist.
The Harwork behind the event
Thrissur pulikali 2019 would be celebrated with colorful appearances of the performers which they would achieve by combining Tempra Powder with enamel, which is used to make paint. After waxing the body, the performers will apply the paint to their body and the coating would take 2 to 3 hours to dry.
After this, you will be able to see that the performers would paint their body again with those paints for creating those required tiger stripe designs. To complete the whole process of painting, it takes about 5 to 7 hours. Artists from all over Thrissur and nearby districts join this festival for painting the bodies of the performers. They start this process since dawn as it really takes too much time to get completed.
The main event for Thissur pulikali 2019
The afternoon marks the procession of dancers, pouncing and shaking their bellies to the beats of the drums from all the four corners of Thissur district to join on the heart of the city, the Swaraj ground.
The Pulikkali groups or as they are famously known as ‘Sangams’ plays scenes such as tiger preying on an animal, tiger with the hunter and many more. If you visit Thrissur pulikali 2019, you will be able to witness this grand crowd of people who would come there to join the carnival. The festive feeling of this huge event cannot be penned down easily.
After getting accumulated on the Swaraj Ground in front of the Vadakkunnanthan temple and offering a coconut to Naduvilal Ganapathi Kovil, the procession goes around in a circle dancing and jumping on drum beats which looks very joyful with the jiggles tied around their waist.
The glorious addition
Thissur pulikkali 2019 will also show you that along with male participants, women, and children performers are also there. In this 200 years old festival, only men used to participate for performing the tiger dance but on 2016, 3 female participants from an NGO called WINGS participated in this procession to break this tradition of only pot-bellied male being the performers of this event and since then, there are many women who are participating actively on this. This has not only helped in breaking hesitation of the female participants but also had encouraged them to participate equally in this glorious festival.
The pot belly advantage
In this era, when everyone is trying to reduce their bellies and look slimmer, the protruding bellies have demand here. The more the size of the belly, the better chance he would have to display the body painting in public. The organizers of the event start scouting the correct sized bellies many weeks before the festival actually begins.
The bigger the belly, the pay is most likely to be more which can get up as high as Rs. 7000 per performance. The performers maintain their big bellies and try to increase it so that they can get more money for the performance.
This hallmark event from the state of Kerala is going towards extinction due to apathy from the states and fund shortages. There are many people and teams that perform in pulikkali festival but most of them are struggling now to meet their ends. The floods in Kerala this year has also added to the misery and Thissur pulikkali 2019 remains in question because of that.
The expense for this festival is getting higher day by day but the fund flow remains the same or in contrast, is getting reduced. Because of this miserable situation, many teams have withdrawn from performing over the last few years.
The funds are raised mainly from local people, along with the aid from City Corporation and the Tourism Department which is also accompanied by sponsors. Due to multiple reasons like economic slowdowns, GST etc there has been a significant decrease in the number of sponsors over the period.
The negligence of the Tourism department towards this art form which should be displayed as one of the Kerala’s flagship cultural event, is also craving the path towards its extinction. If the same attitude towards this traditional folk art continues, then the days are near when the fourth day of Onam will witness lonely Swaraj ground.
Where is Pulikali performed?
Pulikali is performed in the Thrissur district or Palghat district of Kerala.
How to go there?
If you want to visit Thrissur pulikali 2019, you would have to remember that the nearest Airport is Cochin Airport which is located at a distance of 55 km from Thrissur district and Kozhikode airport which is located around 80 km from the same. The railway station in Thrissur is connected very well with all the major cities in India. Thissur can also be reached through road which has a combination of bumpy roads and smooth highways.
Places to stay:
As the city of Thrissur is located near Cochin city, you will get a wide range of staying options starting from economical places to luxurious hotels.
There are many places to have a good treat for yourself, so if you are a foodie you do not need to worry as the best places to eat are listed below, however, there are many other options available.
- At Swaraj Ground, you will find the Indian Coffee House.
- Behind the Ragam Cinema theatre, at the heart of the town, there is Hotel Bharat.
- In Palace road, you will find the India Gate hotel.
- In Round South, Pathans Building Complex has located Hotel Pathans.
Things to remember for Thissur pulikali 2019
- If you are a photographer and wants different snaps of the festival, there are 7 different locations around the Swaraj ground where the body painting takes place, to find the exact location, take help from a local.
- The procession leaves from all the four corners of the city at 4 pm and meets at the Swaraj ground at around 5:30 pm.
- The festival is really chaotic and crowded so take care of yourself and the luggage during the whole process.
- The Artists performing in the carnival comes from different walks of life, you can talk to them to know about their varied experiences.
- The entry to the rooms where body painting is done is crowded with the performers and artist as they do not have big rooms to accommodate them, hence if you are even able to enter the place, it might be for a short period of time.
The city of Thissur which is said to be founded by Lord Parasurama grandly organize the festival each year. So if you want to experience the colorful and the joyful grand carnival, that would give you an experience of lifetime, please do visit the Thissur pulikali 2019.