Pulikali, also known as Kaduvaakali, is a 200 year old art, carefully preserved by the artists of the state. Literal meaning of Pulikali is the 'play of the tigers' hence the performance revolve around the theme of tiger hunting. The folk art is mainly practiced in Thrissur (Trichur) and Palghat districts of Kerala. Best place to watch the show is Swaraj Ground at Thrissur on the fourth day of Onam, where Pulikali troupes from all over the district assemble to display their skills.
Striking feature of this folk art is the colorful appearance of the performers. To get the semblance of a tiger artists paint themselves in bright yellow with patterns of black and red. A tiger mask on the face completes the get up.
It is a painstaking job and artists spend a whole night prior to the performance day on their make-up. Patience of artists must be appreciated, as most paints contain toxic chemicals which create a burning sensation when applied on newly shaved bodies.
It is a wonderful sight to see humans in the guise of tigers roaming in the streets. Children, specifically take great delight in their performance as the entertainers dance, pounce and walk like a tiger. Scenes of tiger hunting goats and tiger being hunted by a human beings are also beautifully depicted by them. Beat for the dance movement is provided by percussion instruments like 'udukku' and 'thakil'.