Not even a second after hearing the noise of Band, “Anna, pili batthund ye pili!” in Tulu the words means, “brother, tiger came tiger!” , young kids run to see those painted wild animal Tigers, running around, screaming and dancing. Let it be Dasara, Chowthi (Ganesh Chathurthi) or Ashtami/Mosuru Kudike or any other Hindu Festival, without these “pilis” the show will not be beautiful.
The Tiger dance or pili vesha (in Tulu)/huli vesha (in Kannada)/vaagancho ves (in Konkani) is most famous festive dance in Dakshina Kannada. I do not know the history or how this dance was originated, but looks like a tribal dance that humans want to imitate the dance of Tiger as an offer to God.
Before they paint their body then they shave their entire body as a preparation, then they go to the temple with the band carrying their costumes and even after they get painted, they offer the first dance to God. And then it starts from there, to go house to house by giving their extraordinary performance and get collection.
“Don’t be scared my son, those are human beings.” Some children are scared about this pilis (painted dressed up tigers) while some are distracted by the loud noise. Whatever it may be, this dance has its own beauty.
I have been missing these festive look for several years, but happened to see this time in Mangalore. You may happen to see these in Mangalore or Udupi especially during Dasara. So, don’t miss it during Dasara if you happen to be in Mangalore/Udupi! If you are watching this dance for the first time, it is really a life time experience to cherish.
Author: Gration Crasta- USA