Every year, during the harvest festival of Onam, there is a merry making event called ‘Pullli Kalli’. Literally translating it to English, I call it ‘the Tiger Sport’.
Trichur, the central Kerala district is the heart of ‘Tiger Sport’. Long years of my stay in Trichur have always captivated me to this temple based cultural festival. The beauty of this pageant is the simplicity of expression from the ‘Tigers’ of the street. These ‘Tigers’ are real flesh and blood. But for a moment, they transform themselves to the wild... they transpose themselves to the urban jungles...they roar and growl...they howl and snarl. In a distinct choreography, they pace through the streets to the drum beats of their leader.
Times have changed this event very much. I was told that many young ‘Tigers’ went in for shortcuts in their habits: they started to use synthetic colours and were too cosmetic in approach. Nevertheless, there are the real ‘Tigers’ who use only natural vegetable dyes as their colouring materials. It makes more sense to use natural materials as they are user friendly and they allow the skin to ‘breathe’.
As I stand in the company of these ‘Tigers’... as I hear the drumbeats in the a
ir... I ask myself what I can carry home from this traditional gala of prosperity and joy. What really perplex me is the fact that there are little ‘tigers’ in all of us. The ‘Tiger Sport’ only high-lighten me the fact that there are little sleeping ‘tigers’ within me and all of us! Did tradition allow this strange enactment of our friends in the city jungles to tell us that life has to be viewed with a little ‘animal in us’? Is the Onam ‘Tiger Sport’ pointing me to that direction? The freedom of letting this ‘animal in me’ escape in these dances were so obvious in the roar and the growl of the ‘tigers’. What a novel idea it is to dance and please gods and also to let out the ‘animal’ nature in us! Will ‘Tiger Sport’ help us to be gentle and humane?There are love stories too to this carnival. I was told of the story of a girl who wouldn’t fall for the boy who deeply loved her. Ultimately, the boy, together with his friends, had to bring out the ‘animal in him’. He took a ‘tiger’ walk to her house on an Onam season, and growl at her to captivate her heart! She fell for him!!
Photos Location: Trichur...friends as 'Pullies'