Pulikali / Kaduvakali

Onam Home |  Legends | Recipes |  Dance | GamesOnam Cards |  Wishes |  Messages | Onasadya | Pookalam

Pulikali is another folk art from Kerala. It is also referred to as Kaduvakali. Depicting the art form of tiger hunting, trained artists are painted with tiger and hunter colors during the performance. This dance is performed as part of the celebration of Onam festival. This folk dance is mainly performed in the districts of Palghat and Thrissur (or Trichur) in Kerala. But one of the must-see Pulikali performances is the one being held at Swaraj Ground in Thrissur during the 4th day of Onam festival as the most popular and talented Pulikali dancers come together to show their skills and ability.

Origin of Pulikali

Pulikali performance has been around since more than 200 years ago. Pulakali was known to be introduced by Maharaja of Cochin – Rama Varma Sakthan Thampuran. The Maharaja wanted to have a dance art that depicts the spirit of force and wildness. The soldiers of British Army positioned in Thrissur cantonment area later celebrate it with so much fun and fervor. Their intricate steps and movements of a hunter hunting a tiger become popular.

Image Source: Kelly

Make up and Costume

One of the main spectacles of Pulikali is the colorful facades of the dancers. Since they are decpiting the act of hunter hunting the tiger, the tiger artists have bright yellow with red and black pattern painted on their body. They use tiger mask to complete the costume

Makeup and attire of the tiger artists can be a meticulous and painstaking job. They have to prepare themselves for the performance a night before. They usually spend whole night just to put the intricate pattern of the tiger to their bodies. That’s aside from the fact that the makeup itself can be painful to bear due to the chemicals that can cause burning sensation to the newly-shaved skins.

The Performance

Pulikali performance can be a great sight to see. It’s wonderful to see people wearing the guide of hunted tigers in the road. People in Kerala, especially children, are delighted to watch this kind of performance. Artists are dancing, walking and pouncing like a real tiger. In some performances, artists are depicting the tiger hunting their prey or being hunted by hunters. They dance and act in the beat of percussion instrument such as ‘thakil’ and ‘udukku’.