Tiger Dance is a unique form of folk dance in Dakshina kannada that fascinates the young and the old alike. Since tiger is considered as the favored carrier of Goddess Sharada (the deity in whose honor Dussera is celebrated), this dance is performed during the Dussera celebration. It is also performed during other festivals like Krishna Janmasthami. 
There are more than 50 troupes who perform this famed folk dance. Popular and probably the oldest one among them is the Kesari friends circle group headed by Bajilkeri Kamalaksha. The Mangalorean style is distinctive by its body paint, the satin chaddi or knicker and the headgear which is made of papier-mache and adorned with raw wool - the 'fur' of the Tiger. 
The grand Hulivesha performance  is preceded by a long body painting session. Several layers of paint is applied on the artist's body carefully. Each layer is applied such that the end result reflects the grandeur of the carnivore. Typically the body colour is layered with yellow and black colour with occasional touching of red near the mouth. During this period which lasts several hours the artist stands erect so that the paint doesn't get distorted. 

Hulivesha is accompanied by the familiar drumbeat which can be heard from very far off places. On hearing the beat, herds of children flock to place where the dance is being performed and start moving with the troupe. Every child in Kudla can play the popular Hulivesha drum rhythm (of course with their mouth). We wish we could play it here. 

During the dance the artists perform many heroic acts which depicts the power of the carnivore. 'Killing sheep' is one the famous acts performed. A skillful tiger dancer is expected to kill  a sheep, which means the artist holds the sheep by his teeth toss it in the air and throw it away. The sheep is not actually killed and it is only a ritual. Many such acts are performed, some of the popular ones being picking the note with his mouth by bending backwards, swinging the mace etc. 

A typical troupe consists of 7-15 members. But there are troupes of much larger sizes also. The formal dance begins with a Ganesh pooja following the Navarathri festival. The tiger dance occupies a prominent place throughout the Dussera procession. It is a tribute to the royal cat which is the favored carrier of many gods and goddesses. 

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