Thrissur celebrated Onam without the traditional Pulikali, or tiger dance, for the second consecutive year due to restrictions on mass gatherings in the wake of Covid-19, but a few ‘tigers’ from the district crossed the seas and pranced around the African country of Djibouti, enthralling thousands of global audience last week.
Pulikali is a major component of the fourth day of Onam in Thrissur when men paint their potbellies with the shapes of tigers and prance around Swaraj Round every year. Hundreds of people used to gather at the town to watch the tiger parade.
But the shift in venue to Djibouti did not lower the enthusiasm of the six-member tiger dance team from Thrissur.
‘Tigers’ Puthoor Kannan and Prashanth Moorkkinikkara drew wide applause from the audience when they performed the dance to the rhythmic Chenda beats from Jeevan, Sumesha and Nikhil Raj of Attam Kalasamithi in Kollannur.
Apart from the dance, the body art of tigers too won appreciation. “Many visitors touched their potbelly to know whether it was real painting,” said the troupe’s leader and body art expert Prasad Thottappath.
The ‘tiger dance’ team was invited to perform at the seven-day Indo-Africa Cultural Folk Festival. They got the invitation through Joby T Sam, a prominent industrialist in Djibouti who hails from Pathanamthitta.
“We performed in eight venues during these days. It was a nice experience,” Prasad said.
Prasad said the team felt happy to showcase Thrissur’s folk art at an international venue, but lamented the absence of festivities at home during Onam. “We couldn’t imagine the fourth Onam day without the tiger dance in Thrissur. We wouldn’t have travelled to Djibouti if there was Pulikali at home,” he said.