In India, there are 28 states and 7 union territories. But each state has got a kind of tradition which does not remotely resemble even that of the neighboring state. Now this is the season for Kerala, the southern most state. “Onam” is an annual harvest festival, Keralites long for every year. This festival is celebrated as the beginning of the Malayali month ‘Chingam’. As per the Hindu calendar it comes in Badrapada masam and as per the Gregorian calendar it corresponds to August-September.
The carnival lasts for 10 days, but Onam is mainly celebrated on the first four days. The first day is called “Onnam Onam”, the second day is called “Thiru Onam”, the third day is called “Munnam Onam” and the fourth day is called “Naalam Onam” which meant for fun and frolic. A play called “Pulikali” is performed on the day of “Naalam Onam” and there are competitions among various groups from different districts of the state. This is merely a narration of hunting of tigers and hence there will be characters as hunters and tigers.
Artists in demand on that day who apply their skills on well built male bodies to look like real tigers, of course tails included. So these colorful performers dance to the loud beats of percussion instruments like ‘Udukku’ and ‘Thavil’. Thrissur district in Kerala has gained prominence over the years for this event. The local authorities take special care to ensure the festival is celebrated in a smooth manner where hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators throng at a place called Swaraj Round at Thrissur. This folk art “Pulikali” deriving from ‘Puli’ meaning ‘Tiger/Leopard’ and ‘Kali’ meaning ‘Play’, so it is ‘a play of the tigers’. This play also has another name called “Kaduvakali”.
Image Source: Kalyana