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Pulikali, Tiger dance of Kerala!! 🐯


As the annual Onam festival approached in the beautiful state of Kerala, a unique and vibrant tradition known as Pulikali, or Tiger Dance, took centre stage. It was on the fourth day of Onam, a day filled with excitement and anticipation, that this folk art form came to life in a dazzling display of colour and rhythm.


The talented Pulikali artists, known as "Pulikali performers," prepared meticulously for their extraordinary performance. On this special day, they transformed themselves into majestic tigers, emulating the patterns of these awe-inspiring creatures. Using vivid shades of yellow, red, and black, they meticulously painted their bodies with tiger stripes, creating a stunning resemblance to the wild felines of the jungle.

tiger dance Pulikali during Onam

As the sun began its ascent in the sky, signalling the commencement of the festival, the Swaraj Ground in Thrissur district emerged as the vibrant backdrop for this mesmerizing carnival. Here, amidst a sea of enthusiastic spectators, the Pulikali performers would take the stage, bringing their incredible artistry to life.


The rhythmic heartbeat of the celebration was provided by traditional percussion instruments like thakil, udukku, and chenda, which reverberated through the air, setting the stage for the grand spectacle to unfold.


The heart of Pulikali's performance was the theme of tiger hunting. Participants played dual roles, assuming the characters of both tiger and hunter. In this captivating dance, the tigers, with their bodies painted in striking stripes, would mimic the grace and power of the big cats, while the hunters would showcase their agility and cunning as they pursued their elusive prey.

Pulikali tiger dance during Onam

The make-up used for this elaborate transformation was a secret art form in itself. Oil paints were skillfully applied to the performers' bodies, creating a tiger's appearance. This painstaking process, though challenging to remove, was a testament to the dedication of these artists to their craft.


Despite the difficulty of the makeup removal, every year during Onam, the streets of Thrissur would come alive with the vibrant colours and mesmerizing performances of Pulikali. People from across the state and around the world would flock to Thrissur to witness this unique and awe-inspiring event.



Locals and visitors would join the festival, with some even choosing to don tiger costumes and masks to participate in the festivities. The Swaraj Ground in Thrissur, bathed in the spirit of Onam and the energy of Pulikali, became a place of unforgettable memories and joyous celebration.


And so, as the sun set on this remarkable day of Onam, the echoes of the Pulikali drumbeats and the vivid images of tigers and hunters dancing in perfect harmony would linger in the hearts and minds of all who had the privilege of experiencing this exceptional folk art form. It was a testament to the rich cultural tapestry of Kerala and a celebration of the boundless creativity and spirit of its people.


You won't have to wait till the Onam festival arrives to enjoy the pulikali stories. We, the Keralatoys, a very young startup from Kerala, have made beautiful and fun board games based on the Pulikali and Onam festivals. In our game, you get to be the cute tiger cubs on a journey with King Mavelli from a secret place in the underworld to the beautiful Kerala kingdom. The tiger cubs have been practising hard for a whole year to show off their Pulikali dance skills, and everyone in the kingdom is super excited to see them dance. And guess what? You're going with King Mavelli, the wise and noble king who visits Earth once a year for the amazing Onam festival. But wait, there's more! On the way, you'll have to beat tricky hunters and powerful Vamans. But that's not all there is! Get ready to have a blast working together and enjoying a bit of magical storytelling in an adventure you'll never forget! It's the perfect game for the whole family to enjoy during weekends.🤩

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