Pulikali also known as Kaduvakali is a colorful frivolous folk art which is performed by trained artists to regale people on the occasion of Onam, where artistes dance wildly and impersonate hunting moves to the beat of drums. Pulikali is a symbol Onam just like the folklore of Mahabali and Pookalam. Pulikali is held to have been introduced by Maharaja Sakthan Thampuran, the then Maharaja of Cochin, who wanted to celebrate Onam with a dance that replicated the wild and virile spirit of the force.

Puli Means “leopard” and Kali means “Play”. This art form is mainly practiced in Thrissur district of Kerala. On the fourth day of Onam celebrations (Nalaam Onam), performers with their body painted like tigers and hunters in bright yellow, red, and black dance to the beats of instruments like Udukku and Thakil.  The performance gyrate around the theme of tiger hunting. Pulikali troupes from all over the district amass there to exhibit their skills. This is made by a particular combination of tempera powder and varnish or enamel. It’s a very long 5 to 6 six hours of procedure to get the body painted to resemble that of the tiger. 

By merging man and beast in its artistic language, it extravagantly celebrates the assembly between humans and nature. A quirky pageant of flamboyantly painted boys and men in the facade of tigers and panthers frolic the Swaraj Road of Thrissur, on the fourth day of Onam amidst much fanfare. The different troupes contest with each other to make the best floats as well as the best dressed tigers.

The festival draws thousands of people from various places to the Thrissur city.

How to reach

Best way to reach is to take a flight to Kochi and then take a taxi or public transport to event venue at Thrissur.

Alternatively, you could reach Thrissur directly by train and then take public transport.

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