Lonely Planet Writer

In Pictures: see the amazing Pulikali Tiger Dance in India

Crowds of people were decorated in vibrant, colourful body paint that mimicked tigers for a traditional dance event that took place in Kerala, India this week.

Crowds take to the street in Kerala, India for Pulikali, a traditional dance that sees men painting themselves as tigers.
Crowds take to the street in Kerala, India for Pulikali, a traditional dance that sees men painting themselves as tigers. Image by NurPhoto/Cobis via Getty Images
An artist paints a man's belly in vibrant colours in preparation for the event.
An artist paints a man’s belly in vibrant colours in preparation for the event. Image by NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images

Pulikali, also known as Kaduvakali, means the play of the tiger, and is a folk art event that sees groups of pot-bellied men bringing their most fierce dance moves to the streets in the districts of Thrissur and Palakkad in Kerala. The dance is done as part of the Onam festival. This year, for the first time ever, the male-dominated event saw three women joining in on the festivities as part of a partnership with Women Integration and Growth through Sports. Men with large stomachs are usually encouraged to take part in the dance, the idea being that a bigger belly gives a better bounce!

This year's Pulikali saw women taking part in the dance event for the first time ever.
This year’s Pulikali saw women taking part in the dance event for the first time ever. Image by Bobinson K B / CC BY 2.0
Indian school children perform the Pulikali during a rehearsal for the Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi.
Indian school children perform the Pulikali during a rehearsal for the Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi. Image by Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images

Parts of the dance included performers depicting a tiger catching a goat and being hunted down while traditional percussive instruments like the udukku and the thakil are played.

Two colourful dancers wait for the event to begin.
Two colourful dancers wait for the event to begin. Image by Subhendu Sarkar/LightRocket via Getty Images
The crowd shows their fiercest dance moves.
The crowd shows their fiercest dance moves. Image by Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images

The traditional folk event dates back 200 years in India and is a carefully-kept tradition by artists of the area.