Thrissur: Heavy rain on Saturday evening did not dampen the enthusiasm of revellers as they egged on Pulikkali dancers to gyrate with wild abandon at the finale of Onam celebrations in Thrissur. Drenched in rain, as many as 600 dancers, donning animal masks and their bodies painted, frolicked along the Swaraj Round in Pulikkali, a carnivalesque expression of ethnic spirit. Eleven teams were in action.
Tigers love water, but the ones in Pulikkali do not. Because once the body is rain-soaked, it would not be easy to wipe off the paint with kerosene. The dancers, however, braved the downpour. Some of them used their masks as caps. At times, when huge sheets of rain pounded the city, it looked the show had to be cancelled. But it was not.
Ambushes of ‘tigers’ slithered into the city through Palace Road, Karunakaran Nambiar Road, Shornur Road, A. R. Menon Road and M.G. Road. Thousands of spectators lined the streets to watch them.
There were ‘tigers’ of all kinds—lean, scrawny and fat ones. And in every imaginable colour. There were green, magenta and silver-coloured tigers. Fitted with battery-powered LED bulbs, some of the tiger masks worn had glittering eyes. After sundown, as the bulbs glowed, it seemed the animals were glaring at you.
Traffic regulations and elaborate security measures were in place in the city. The Traffic Police chose the occasion to stage an awareness programme on traffic safety featuring Pappu, a zebra foal it had adopted as its mascot.
The ‘tigers’ tried the best to entertain. They wagged their tails to make children laugh and somersaulted to win the admiration of young women. When their tummies, on which animal faces were drawn, bobbed, it seemed the faces were smiling. When they gyrated like disco queens, bunches of bells wrapped around their hips pealed.
Pulikkali stakes no claim to classical elegance. It is a street dance powered by uninhibited gusto, rustic naiveté and child-like excitement.