THRISSUR: The Covid pandemic has prevented the famed Pulikkali performers from the state’s cultural capital from hitting the streets over the past two seasons. But those belonging to the Ayyanthole Desam Pulikkali Sanghataka Samithi are earning plaudits for their social interventions.The team has 51 ‘tigers’ while more than 250 people are involved in their activities.
After the nationwide lockdown last year, the Pulikkali Samithi stepped into farming to make the days productive and also to help those rendered jobless. Their organic farming initiative, that began as a rooftop vegetable gardens, has now expanded to a three-acre farm. That too within the heart of the city.
For nearly a year, they have been into organic farming for this year’s Onam. They grow vegetables like cucumber, ladies finger, tomato, pumpkin, bitter gourd, snake gourd, amaranthus and peas. Krishna Prasad, convener of the Samithi, says, “What makes our farming different is that women lead the activities.”
Ahead of the Onam season, they have harvested 728kg snake gourd, 650kg amaranthus, 420kg pumpkin and cucumber each, and 348kg peas. They have also taken paddy fields on lease, managing to harvest 2,180 kg.
The group, led by a bunch of energetic youngsters, haven’t stopped there. The Samithi started a free coaching centre for government job aspirants. “So far, 156 youngsters who took classes from our centre received jobs,” says Prasad.Dheera, another member of the group and a government official, leads the classes and manages the coaching centre with the help of volunteers from their group. The centre depends on donations to meet expenses towards utilities and furniture.
In 2018, when the deluge devastated the state, the Pulikkali performers of the Ayyanthole team were busy with rescue activities. As the flood repeated the following year, they used the money collected for Pulikkali to make a boat suitable for rescue missions. “When you paint your body with colours, you may look like a ‘puli’ (tiger). But when you extend a helping hand to others, you become a real ‘puli’,” says Prasad.
Launched in 2016, the team was led by Chathunni Ashan who had performed the tiger dance for almost 60 years during Onam. Ashan died in 2019 but the team has imbibed his spirit. The Covid escalation has kept them from performing Pulikkali with all its charm. Last year, the Ayyanthole team conducted a virtual Pulikkali that attracted several viewers.