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August 27, 2010

'Tiger Dance' performed in Kerala

Thrissur (Kerala):The 10-day long Onam festival of Kerala came to an end, with the traditional tiger dance, or Pulikali, being performed by villagers of Thrissur district. The tiger dance is an ancient dance form in which the performers paint their whole body in the likenesses of tigers and other big cats, and wear matching masks. The dancers, from nearly 25 villages in the district, were divided into 10 teams or 'Sangams', and performed the dance, showing off their colourful and intricate body art, complete with stripes, spots, whiskers and fangs. The dancers' bodies were painted in natural pigments extracted from charcoal, earth, coloured stones, spices and leaves. They danced to the beat of the traditional percussion instruments, the steps of the dance mimicking the gait peculiar to big cats. The dancers, comprising men and boys, donned hand-painted tiger masks with twinkling electric lights in the eyes. "I have been doing this for the past 16 years and took part in many troupes. It's just the interest with this art form, which drives me to participate in it and not to fulfill the need for money," Gopi, a veteran dancer said on Thursday. Spectators gathered in droves to watch the colourful performance. "After Thrissur Pooram (a ritual of Onam festival), the main festival is Pulikali, or tiger dance, and with this, our Onam festivities come to an end, and everyone from in and around the villages takes part in it and enjoys a lot," said Anil Kumar, a spectator. Pulikali, also known as the Kuduvaklai dance, is a traditional recreational folk art form of Kerala. History cites that the tradition of Pulikali dates back to more than 200 years when the King of Thrissur, Maharaja Ramavarma, introduced the ritual at the behest of his soldiers, who wanted to celebrate Onam with a dance that reflected the wild and macho spirit of the force.

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