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We all are familiar with karate, judo, kungfu and a lot of films also came with these martial art backgrounds. But sadly we don’t know much about the oldest martial art Kalaripayattu which was originated in India and gave birth to other known martial arts around Asia.
Kalaripayattu – Kalari means the school or learning centers and Payattu mean training practice. Payattu word was derived from the Tulu language garodi pettu (fight).
Kalaripayattu is an old deadly martial art form and one of the most famous sport from Kerala state (Gnana Bhoomi) which is enjoyed by tourists even today
Kalarippayattu martial art origin and history:
Kalarippayattu is called as mother of martial arts and it is a deva vidya Its history goes back to tretha yuga and its origin begins with 6th incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
The 6th avatar of Lord Vishnu is Lord Parashurama. In his period the kshatriya kings did a lot of misdeeds on Brahmins and in the same way his father was killed and the cow kamadhenu was taken from them.
So to take revenge of the kings misdeeds lord Parasurama did tapas for lord shiva and lord shiva gave him an axe and various boons.
At the request of Parashurama, lord shiva taught him kalarippayattu. Lord shiva introduced to humans which is part of atharvana veda (dhanurveda ).
Lord Parasurama was asked by shiva to teach this art to sage Agastya.
Lord parasurama was the father of northern kalarippayattu which is called as vadakkan Kalari (They use weapons).
Sage Agastya was the father of southern kalarippayattu which is called thekkan Kalari which is the use of legs and kicks, limbs.
Central Kalari which is a mix of north and south styles.
History of kalarippayattu martial art:
The first and primary source of Indian martial arts is in Tamil language in Sangam literature which describes swords, shields, bows, spears in Sangam literature. Akananuru Andpurnanuru describes the above things.
In the 11th century, hundreds of wars occurred between Chera and Chola kingdoms. So kalarippayattu was developed as military training for various subgroups as a privilege. Mainly Namboothiri Brahmins learned and after that nayars and nadars and Muslims, Christians also learnt this art.
Kalari arts trainers say the Goldern period for this art is from the 11th century to 18th century. With the advent of invasions and the British, this art started declining slowly.
Bodhi dharma who is a Pallava king in Tamilnadu and later he adopted Buddhism and became a famous Buddhist monk. He is 28th disciple for lord budda who took this art to china and established Shaolin temple. From China, it spread to Japan, Thailand and other parts of Asia. Kungfu and karate originated from this.
Bodhi dharma transmitted this martial arts knowledge to them. He also taught marma kala also but they are practicing martial only.
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School for Kalarippayattu Training-
The training school for kalaripayattu martial art is called as kalari. It is constructed as per vaastu and that enclosure is 21” width and 42” length and mud are dug up to 3 feet deep.
The Poothara is seven steps platform located in the southeast corner of the of every Kalari.
The seven steps resemble strength, patience, posture, expression, commanding power, training, expression, and sound. Poothara is consists of oil lamps and flowers and god photos.
It is performed with certain rituals and chanting mantra with the salutation of the god and guru.
Mainly they worship Durga Devi before starting this art form.
First of all is they should start with exercise. Some important kalarippayattu techniques are a combination of steps and postures and the postures are based on animal and they are elephant posture, Snake, Boars, lion, fish, cat, cock, horse.
There are 4 categories for Kalari training-
Maithari – physical method
Kolthari–wooden weapon fight
Verunkai prayogam- unarmed combat.
I will write a detailed article on how the training, weapons, training schools and marma art, its benefits, practitioners.
Famous Kalaripayattu Training schools-
They are Residential Gurukuls centers in Kerala and in many cities in all over India and foreigners are also coming to Kerala to learn this art form.
Buddakalari in Trivandrum.
Bharath kalari in kannur,kadatahndan
kalari sangam in waynad.
The kalaripayattu training fees in Kerala would we Rs500 to Rs600 per month.
Kalarippayattu Training Benefits:
Yoga, meditation is coordinated with this Kalari which is the basic step to start. To get the best result one should connect his mind and body.
- Removes abnormal sleep,
- Improves nervous system
- Cardiovascular functioning improves
- Balance improves patience and self-awareness, discipline
- Concentration improves,
- Improves intelligence and strategic thinking.
- Grip, eye power. Etc and they are so many things to mention.
How Kalarippayattu benefitted Bollywood personalities-
Nowadays Bollywood actors are so crazy about this art. So let us see who they are?.
Parineeti Chopra told this martial art technique helped her is balancing the diet and weight loss and a massive increase in fitness, agility. This helped her in her film career. It gave her concentration, good posture, confidence and blood circulation.
Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone had learned for Bajirao Mastani film.
Salman khan also learned about the film sher khan and kick.
Tiger shroff also underwent training for baaghi film.
He gave a statement that kungfu originated from India which stunned actor Jackie chan.
South Indian actress (Tamil) Anu Hassan said her basic training and the stunts helped her to perform action scenes in a film “valla desam”
One more important and inspiring thing I want to tell about another person of Bollywood actor Vidyut jamwal.
Vidyut is performing excellent stunts and action scenes with the help of Kalari. He explains his connection with Indian martial art.
Vidyut started learning weaponry, kicks, healing etc from the age of three and he stayed up to the age of 13 in an ashram in Palakkad town of Kerala. Vidyut mother used to train in this training center.
He says it helped him to connect his body with the soul by learning. He performed stunts in commando and bullet raja films and he taught action stunts to his entire action team for his films.
Vidyut Jammal says he wants to make our ancient martial arts popular and also planning to start an open university in Kerala to teach to training seekers.
One great thing is we should praise this actor for making this art popular. HE is one of the top among 10 top martial artists in the world.
American website looper named him 6th rank in the top 10 martial artists of this world.
So he is trying to make this art popular and inspiring the next generation to learn it. We should encourage such people.
Famous practitioners in kalarippayattu-
Gangadharan, we should speak about this person because he is the 2nd person in the world and 1st Indian to do P.HD and he is a role model for learners and trainers.
He says he has learned and developed interest and he started in the year 1977. He says we can barely find books on this. Kalari literature is very little and it is mostly found in theyyam (color ritual form and folk songs). There are no authoritative books or manuscripts for this art.
He understood it needs recognition like karate and judo and decided to create awareness for this art and in 1991 he registered for Ph.D.
In 1994, Gangadharan chose to name his proposed thesis Kalaripayattinte Kaayikavum Anushtanaparavumaya Ghadakangal (The Physical And Ritualistic Elements of Kalaripayattu).
As part of the research, he visited so many training centers, met experts and red books. He completed a Ph.D. in 1998 and he was honored by the University of Calicut. He worked as an editor to Kalari and Ayurveda magazines.
He published the book “ kalarippayattu nighandu” which is a dictionary for this martial art. This book was released by the Kalari samurai Meenakshi Amman. It explains gym procedures, rules and competition, and martial arts relations with countries, vocal syllables and human sensory and philosophy of yoga, healing, diet, weight lifting, weapons, postures, oil massage techniques.
Special Mention of kalaripayattu martial art -Padma Shree Meenakshi Amman Gurukkal–
Meenakshi Amma with her students
Meenakshi Amma is from a town (Vatakara) in Calicut district of Kerala.
She has other honours like samurai, maestro and Kerala grandma. She started at the age of 76 and his father encouraged her to learn and at that time very few girls use to learn.
SO many girls stopped learning after puberty and marriage but she continued to learn and after she married Raghavan master a school teacher for this training.
She started her training centre at the age of 17. She has been practising for 60 years. She has dedicated her life to this art. Now her husband is no more and she is carrying the legacy of her husband to save this fading art form with strict.
Amma teaches for free and takes guru Dakshin whatever her students give. Institute is training around 150 students and in that 1/3rd of the students are female. Meenakshi Amman institute’s name is ‘Kadaat Nandan Kalari Sangam. She performs on average 60 shows per year.
I was wondered when I saw the videos of her practice how she is fit, skilled and fast at the age of 76 and nobody can defeat this legend. The audience who sees her performance will be mesmerized and they will utter OMG.
The interesting part is she never performs with kalarippayattu traditional attire and always practice with saree which is comfortable.
Indian govt honored her with the Padma Shree award in 2017 for her service to this art.
Her training centre contact details are:
Address: Puduppanam, Janatha Rd, Narayana Nagar, Vatakara, Kerala 673105 Phone: 094956 41722
Woman warrior “Unniyarcha” –
She is a legendary warrior in kalaripayattu martial art of Kerala.
And also one more important Person Reshma who achieved Indian book of records for rotating stick for 3 hours and 50 minutes.
Kalari in movies:
7 aum aviru tells bodhi dharma journey and how he gave martial arts to china, Asian countries and it’s a new thing which so many don’t know. They had shown in the starting of that film. I liked this film.
In a lot of Malayalam films, it is featured and a few Hindi films, one Telugu film manasara which is my mother tongue. And 2-3 Chinese, English films.
In bharateeyudu film (Indian ) in the year 1996, south Indian star kamal Hassan performed marma art techniques and few scenes are there how he hits his opponents with fingers. After watching this film people came to know more about these and started showing interest in learning.
Now part 2 of Indian film is now progressing and for that film actress Kajal Aggarwal started learning kalaripayattu martial art and she went to Kerala for special training.
Is kalarippayattu mother of martial arts?
Yes. I spoke to kalaripayattu martial art master and they told me this martial art was given to China and to Southeast Asian countries by bodhi dharma and in the film 7 aum aviru also says bodhi dharma taught to them.
It is said to be 3000 years old and at that time our Indians are more advanced in civilization and which other countries don’t know proper civilization but china is also an older civilization.
In the starting of civilization, most of people use to live in forests and they might have some techniques and small wars to hunt and defend but they are not like advanced arts and organized.
This art gave inspiration and so many new martial arts originated from this.
Why kalarippayattu is not popular like other martial arts?
It is sad that our great martial arts not recognized by this world. In India also people and govt also not encouraging much except that state govt of kerala.
The invasions made this art weak. The Travancore kings challenged the British with Kalari arts and the British understood this kalarippayattu will cause damage to them in wars..
The Britishers banned this art and killed so many practitioners in 18th century so, learning this art declined and some people use to learn secretly.
Due to these reasons, it has not become popular and the updating and promotion didn’t happen properly.
After independence, it was revived and till Indian film even I also don’t know what is kalarippayattu and marma
Why kalarippayattu is not taught to our defense forces?
Generally, it is a long-form of art and it cannot be taught in 2-3 months. The defense forces are given training on how to defend themselves.
In my view, it makes a man mentally strong and physically strong and it is pride in our country so in my view this training must be given to defense forces during and after training also.
The ancient martial arts of India was not recognized by our country people it is very disheartening. we are showing interest in karate and kungfu and a lot of films came with this background but not on kalaripayattu martial art background.
I saw training centers
in kerala and in metro cities but not in villages and towns of outside
More centers must be opened all over India and govt, education centers must encourage youth to learn this and it will change their life a lot.
The Government must make this an important sport in India and must encourage awards and rewards.
We see Jackie Chan, Bruce lee in the same way we need such people from india who should become worldwide experts and bring a lot of fame to our country and this kalaripayattu martial art.
Our country citizens, media, government, and intellectuals must highlight this. We should have at least kalaripayattu basic training.
In my next article Kalaripayattu training, I will write in detail about the training, marma and other important points and my views
We bharatiyagnanacharitra.in trying level best to make people aware of our ancient glory and history.