Puli Kali festivities

More than an eye-catching parade, Puli Kali is an important part of South India's religious festivals. A centuries-old folk dance, it is one of the most curious bits of the ten-day Onam celebration.

This is one occasion when a big belly is prized, and the artwork is intricate and time consuming. Notice that this performer is holding a picture of the finished product so the artist can faithfully reproduce it.

On this day, you can see dancers with their faces and bodies painted like tigers, dancing in a frenzy, mimicking the movements of tigers. Puli Kali dates to the late 18th century and translates as ‘tiger dance’. The performance is accompanied by deafeningly loud beats of the traditional drums and percussion instruments that can be heard in every temple festival in Kerala.  

Usually, men with enviably large bellies dance around like tigers, but since 2016 women have pounced into the arena as well, majestically prancing to the beat of drums. 

Do you know the significance of the ten days of Onam celebrations?

 
 

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