Once a year in September, the small town of Thrissur in Kerala (a state just west of Tamil Nadu) comes alive with swarms of "tigers." The display, called Pulikkali, meaning tiger play or tiger dance, has been taking place annually for over a century. It is part of the larger festival of Onam, which is especially popular in Kerala.
Hundreds of men, and a few young boys, spend hours getting their body painted from head to toe to resemble a tiger. Some don tiger face masks or attach tiger masks to their bellies. They then prance through the town in a choreographed, exuberant display, sometimes mimicking a tiger moving on its hind legs, at other times doing a frenzied dance to the beat of indigenous drummers. This spectacular display is crowded and rowdy (more on that later!), but great fun. Below, a selection of scenes from tiger-play.