Men perform tiger dance on Onam in Kerala

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By Juhan Samuel

Thrissur (Kerala), Sept 16 : Thousands joined a boisterous dance by men who painted their bodies to look like tigers and wore tiger-masks, as part of Onam festival in Kerala's Thrissur District.

For 'Pulikalli,' or 'Kaduvakali' as tiger dance is locally known, artists paint themselves like tigers in black, yellow and other colourful stripes and perform the dance with great vigour.

Men paint their bodies, wear tiger masks and dance through the streets to drummers' beats to mark the harvest festival of Onam.

The folk dance, which was started by Muslim soldiers, has now become everyone's celebration, and people from all walks partake in the annual event with great pomp and gaiety.

"Pulikalli attracts people of all religions and castes, fosters fraternity and brotherhood and spreads warmth and cheer all around during this festive season," said Narendaran, a performer.

Irrespective of caste or creed, people participate in the event. It is one of the most popular public displays during Onam festival in Kerala.

"It's better than on pictures, so I came all the way from France just to see this. I might get addicted to it and come back again," said Francis, a tourist from France.

Earlier, participants used to get their faces also painted and no masks used to be there. But in modern times readymade masks have replaced paintings on face and lot of artwork is added like fixing teeth, tongue, beard and mustachios on it.

A particular combination of Tempra powder and warmish is being used to make the paint.

Pullikali is a 200 years old folk dance. It was performed by Muslim soldiers of the erstwhile British army stationed in Thrissur, on the occasion of Muharram (the first month of the Islam calendar).

The harvest festival of Onam also becomes the season for staging some of the dying traditional folk dances in India's southern tourist hotspot of Kerala.

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