Pulikkali or Puli Kali – Folk Art from Kerala
Pulikkali or Puli Kali is a historical folk art in the state of Kerala. ‘Puli’ means Leopard / Tiger and ‘Kali’ means Play in Malayalam language. Puli Kali, seasonal folk art performed by trained artists to entertain people on the occasion of Onam, the annual harvest festival of Kerala. Onam is considered as the national festival of Kerala, and the celebrations of Onam festival ends with the Puli Kali at Thrissur.
Literal meaning of Pulikkali is the ‘play of the tigers’. Pulikkali is practiced in Thrissur district in Kerala. Thrissur Pilikkali originated over 200 years ago. It believes that King Rama Varma Sakthan Thampuran introduced the folk art Pulikkali to celebrate Onam. Participants painted their body with yellow paints and black stripes. Face of tiger is painted on the belly of the participants.
Day and Month of the Performance
Puli Kali is performed on the fourth day of Onam celebrations. Date of the Pulikali performance is changed in every year.
Groups Participating in Thrissur Pulikali
Kottappuram, Kanattukara, Ayyanthole, Naikkanal, are the main groups performed in the Pulikali in Thrissur. Approximately 50 performers are in each group. The total number of the performers will be 400-600. It may vary in every year.
Venue of the Make-Up
There are number of venues for make of the performers, and all venues are scattered in and around the 5 Km of the Thrissur town. Make-up of the performers starts early in the morning. Enamel paints apply on the body of the performers.
Number of experienced artists came to paint on the participant’s body. It takes 2-4 hours. After the make-up, performers are waiting to dry the paint coating on their body. Participants wear a mask of tiger and a broad metal belt with jingles around their waist.
In the evening, all the performers wearing the mask of tiger, and gathered together for the performance. They are moving to the Swaraj Round, Thrissur (Center of the Thrissur Town), at 4 ‘O’ Clock in the evening from their makeup centers.
Performers in all groups gathered in the Thrissur Round, nearly 5 pm in the evening. The performance will last until 8 pm in the night.
Photos: Anoop Santhakumar