Hulivesha or Pili – yesa (Tiger Dance) is a folk dance which is unique to the Tulu Nadu region of Karnataka. The name Huli-vesha or Pilyesa literally means Tiger-costume in Kannada and Tulu respectively. It is performed during Dussera to honour the Goddess Sharada whose favoured animal is the tiger. Hulivesha or Piliyesa (Tulu)is performed during Krishna Janmasthami at Udupi and during Ganesh Chaturthi in Moodbidri in the Tulu Nadu region of karnataka.
Typically, young males form troops of five to ten members or more, which will have three to five males painted and costumed to look like tigers, and a band with two or three drummers. This troop is accompanied by the manager of the group. During Dussera these troops will be roaming the streets of their towns, with the accompanying drum beats of their bands. They stop at homes and businesses or on the road sides to perform for about ten minutes after which they collect some money from the people who have observed their performance.
The troops perform till the last day of Dussera, and almost all of them form part of the Sharada procession. After the procession is over the performances are stopped and the paint removed.
While the dance is called a tiger dance, the characters also themselves painted with the motif of a leopards or a cheetah. Each person will be wearing just a knicker which usually has a tiger skin motif. The rest of his bare body and face is painted with various designs that denote tigers, cheetahs and leopards. A mask made of fake fur and sometimes a tail is worn to complete the ensemble.
The paint causes a burning sensation on the skin. But this is endured by the persons to be part of the celebrations and also to earn some extra money in the holiday season. Originally people used to do this as a part of a religious vow. The paint is kept on the body for a couple of days and repainted or retouched as desired.