Onam is one of the most celebrated festivals of Kerala State. It is being celebrated on the harvest of new crop. The joy of festivity with colour of happiness can be easily observed in the festival of Onam.
On the fourth day of Onam , people celebrate the Pulikali Play . Pulikali means Tiger and the Pulikali Play exhibit the haunting and hide – seek activities of a tiger from hunters and also the haunting activities of Tigers.
If you have never seen a procession of tigers on two legs,you can watch it in show of Pulikali Play . It is not about any carnival inside the circus tents. The event takes place at the Swaraj ground in Thrissur district of Kerala. Pulikali, is an event that has become a synonymous with the festival of Onam in Kerala. The tigers are not really brought from forests or from a circus to perform here but they are men dressed and painted as tigers.
The origin of Pulikali is supposed to be 200 yrs back with the King Ramama. It is said that he has introduced the folk art during Muharram. Mohemeddan soldiers of the British army stationed in Thrissur in the Pattalam area used to celebrate Muharram with great fervor. Along with the celebrations, they used to perform the art form decked as tigers with peculiar steps resembling the tiger, then known as 'Pulikkettikali' which was immensely enjoyed by the locals. Pulikali in Trichur is held in memory of this event.
There have been changes in the gate-up of Pulikali dancers. In the early days, masks were not used at all and participants would have themselves painted all over, on their faces as well. But now, readymade masks, cosmetic teeth, tongues, beards and mustaches are used by the participants along with the paint on their bodies. The tigers also wear a broad belt with jingles around their waist.
To perform in the play groups of local men get their bodies and faces painted to resemble tigers. Apart from the true colours of a tiger, you would also come across other colours and patterns and even the facial features of lion on the bodies of performers. It is a time-consuming and quite a labour to undo the make-up, which is mostly done with oil paints. The theme of the performance is playing hide-and-seek with a hunter with a gun. The event generates a great deal of excitement both for the spectators from near and far and for the performers.
It is very amusing to spectators and mostly to children watching a huge group of man look like tigers wandering on the roads near Swaraj ground while going to perform in the specified location.
It is not just a amusement only , it is also a journey where the patience of performers is being checked because oil paintings carved on the fresh saved bodies of the performers to convert the human body into the that of a tiger takes much time and also it is very irritating one. After the show when the painting is being removed, it pains too much.
However it allures the participating candidates and also the viewers to watch the show with a great zeal .