An actor, a daily-wage worker: Two women who will perform Pulikali today in Thrissur

Nimisha Bijo (right) and Thara (left) will participate for Sitaram Mill Desham. Photo: Special arrangement

Thrissur: Thara, a daily-wage labourer from Thalikkulam was heartbroken four days ago. Her wish to participate in Pulikali, an annual visual extravaganza hosted in Thrissur on the fourth day of the Onam festival, had been turned down by various Deshams.

Then she rang up the district collector of Thrissur. “Since childhood, I’m really fond of Pulikali, its costume, thunderous music and more than anything, the way the tigers dance and walk. In 2017 women performed as tigers for the first time in Thrissur Pulikali. Next year, Pulikali was not held due to floods. In 2019, things changed and Pulikali organisers were not ready to include women due to various reasons. At last, I got a chance to perform for Viyyur Desham along with two other women,” Thara said. But the coronavirus pandemic took the sheen out of the festivities in the following years.

Thara. Photo: Special arrangement

“This year, when I contacted the organisers of each Desham, nobody was ready to include me, once again. That's when I called up the Thrissur district collector and convinced him that I pledged to dance as a tiger this year. The collector immediately intervened in the matter and I was contacted by the organisers of the Sitaram Mill Pulikali to be part of their team,” said Thara, a mother of three.

Sitaram Mill returns after 11 years
Meanwhile, the Sitaram Mill group is set to return after a gap of 11 years. “This time, we will have 51 performers and two of them are women: Thara and Malayalam actress Nimisha Bijo,” said a member of the organising committee for the Sitaram Mill Desham.

Nimisha, who was snubbed by another Desham before being accepted by Sitaram Mill, said she was eagerly waiting for this opportunity. “I have been watching Pulikali for many years and always wanted to participate in it. I contacted the organisers of various Deshams for six months. They replied that it was really risky to take care of the women tigers in the crowd, which was nothing but an excuse. Anyhow, I have finally got an opportunity,” said Nimisha.

Nimisha Bijo. Photo: Special arrangement

Thara and Nimisha have said that they can safeguard themselves. “Men do not need to protect us, they just need to learn to respect us,” said the women.

Chappals for tigers for the first time
For the first time in the history of Pulikali, Sitaram Mill Desham has introduced chappals for tigers. Till this year, Pulikali which lasts about six hours at a go, was performed barefoot. “After a gap of 11 years, the Sitaram team is coming up with many innovations. The chappals are painted to match the tiger costumes. It was designed by an artist Thottappath Prasad,” said a member of the Desham's organising committee.

For the first time in the history of Pulikali, Sitaram Mill Desham has introduced chappals for tigers. Photo: Special arrangement
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