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kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india
Posted By Sarin on Apr 15, 2013     RSS Feeds     Latest Hinduism news

Of all south Indian states, Kerala is the only state that has preserved Vedic culture and traditions despite the anti-Hindu periyar community in the adjacent state of tamilnadu. One of such Vedic tradition is martial art of Kalaripayattu. This martial art is so famous that most ancient popular notion of Kerala is is that “girls are sent for dancing (Kathakali) and boys are sent for fighting (Kalarippayattu).”
Introduction to Kalarippayattu
Regarded to be at least 3000 years old, Kalaripayattu is the traditional martial art form of Kerala, often said to be the mother of all martial arts. Kalari means “training ground” and payattu means “fight”. According to discovery channel, Kalarippayattu is possibly the world oldest martial arts.  
kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india
Kalaripayattu, Mother of all martial arts

Their documentary further states “Shaolin chuan" and “kung fu” to be evolved from Kalarippayattu, brought to china by Indian Buddhist monks. Art of Kalaripayattu is incorporated in Kerala dance forms like kathakali. Traditional dance schools in Kerala still have kalaripayattu lessons as part of their dance and exercise regimen.
Origin of Kalarippayattu
This martial art was introduced by Sage agastya and later taught by Warrior saint Parashurama, Sixth avatar of lord Vishnu. Strength and meditative powers of sage Agastya is very well documented in Indian scriptures. When Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati at Kailasa in Tibet, all deities attended the wedding due to which the land surface in the south tilted so much that sage Agastya was sent to the South to restore the balance.
kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india
Lord Shiva marriage
Sage agastya started this martial art to make body agile and quick because martial art is not about punching, kicking or stabbing, it is about using your body in all possible way. Broader aspect of this martial art was to teach the flow of energy in the body and to make the disciple understand the energy system within the body. Kalari Chikitsa is the technique of knowing the secrets of the body thereby learning how to heal your body quickly and effectively.
It’s just another dimension of doing yoga.  

Parshurama revived Kalarippayattu
If you are not aware of Parashurama, then Parashurama(sixth avatar of lord Vishnu) was the master of all martial arts, fiercest warrior who defeated all other warriors of the world except bhisma Pitamah(my favorite warrior of Mahabharata).
kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india
Great warrior saint Parashurama(Parashu means axe)

Note the fact that Parashurama is the same warrior who reclaimed the submerged Kerala back from the Arabian Sea by throwing the axe into the sea. The point till the axe went, today is known as Kerala. Now I wonder why Kerala is known as God’s Own country. No doubt the Land reclaimed by bhagwan parshurama had to be beautiful. After reclaiming the land, Parsurama taught the art of kalari to twenty one masters who became the protector of the land he created.  
Kalarippayattu in ancient Indian scriptures
Some believe Kalaripayattu to be the mix of Dravidian martial art such as 'varma ati' or 'marma adi' and Aryan culture brought by Parshurama.
Kalaripayattu is mentioned in Rigveda and atharvaveda, world oldest texts, atleast 10,000 years old.. In rigveda, there is a verse which states Lord Indra defeated demon Vritasura using one of the marmam techniques of Kalari. Marmam are weak pressure points in the human body which the expert Kalaripayattu practitioners use to either disable or kill the opponent by mere touch.  
kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india  

Sadya Pranahara; - On the spot death causing.
Kalantara Pranahara: - Delayed death causing
Vishalyaghana: - Fatal if pierced
Vaikalyakara: - Disability causing
Rujakara; - Excrutiating pain causing
According to Sushruta, world oldest doctor and ayurvedic medical practitioner of 6th century BC, there are 107 vital points of the human body out of which 64 are lethal ones that could lead to death if properly hit or struck, others would immobilize, incapacitate or paralyzed. All such lethal points are mentioned in his book “Sushruta Samhita”.  Knowledge of marma is given only when the guru feels that the disciple is not arrogant/egoistic and will not make wrong use of this knowledge of vital weak points.
kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india
Various marmas in human body

In Vishnu purana, it is said that Kalaripayattu originate from Dhanur Vedic texts.  Dhanur Vedic texts encompass all fighting arts and are said to be one of the eighteen traditional branches of knowledge.  
Kalarippayattu in modern historical records
In modern history, Kalariyapatttu is mentioned by historian Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai of 12th century AD. He said Kalariyapatttu was used in an extended period of warfare between Chola and Chera dynasties. Kalaripayatu was taught to all warriors in Kerala to defend the state and the king
After the invasion of Muslim rulers and brutal destruction of Buddhist and Hindu cultures, many of the kalari warriors were killed treacherously which led to its slow demise. Very soon, this indigenous art was limited to only state of Kerala which also got lost after the advent of British Empire. Fearing revolt and rebellion, Angrez ka aulaad(British) banned kalari and imprisoned all kalari warriors/teachers specially the nairs, who had the custom of holding swords in their body just like the modern Sikhs keep daggers in their body. Despite of the ban, Kalaripayatu was taught in secrecy confined to inner rural areas. After independence, due to massive public interest in martial arts, Kalaripayattu  was resurrected and is emerging today in a new avatar in marital schools of Kerala.
Kalarippayattu in Indian movies
If you are a fan of Indian movies then you may have seen this martial art in movie “Indian (Hindustani)” played by veteran actor “Kamal Hassan” who fights against corruption in this movie. Some of the other regional and international movies where this art can be seen is as Ondanondu kaladalli (Kannada),  Asoka(2001), The Myth (2005), The Last Legion (2007), and manga Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple (Japanese).
kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india
Aishwarya rai showing kalari moves in the movie ‘The last legion’

Who were trained in Kalarippayattu in ancient times?
Traditionally, Kalarippayattu was taught only to Kshatriyas. Kshatriya(Warrior) were an elite royal or noble warriors specially trained since infancy in military weapons, armed and unarmed martial arts. In case the Kshatriya(Warrior) is without weapons or is unseated in his chariot or horse, he has to fight with his arms and foots. Sometimes they have to fight with an immoral opponent for whom they need to learn an effective art of Body combat that includes the techniques of throws, wrestling, and hand strikes. 
Kalarippayattu is a very violent dangerous martial art
Kalariyapatttu is a very violent martial art and involves several stages from unarmed combat to Sharpened flexible metal blades, swords, and three-bladed daggers. It is so dangerous that it is taught in modern schools only to extremely experienced kalari professionals. Kalari warriors are taught to take inspiration from powerful strong animals like Tigers, Lions, Crocodiles, and Elephant etc. Kalari warrior stops only when the opponent is dead or severely injured. Kalari is taught in an open isolated field or training hall constructed according to Vaastu Shastra.
kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india
Martial art of Kalarippayattu taught in open isolated fields

Styles, customs and various exercises of Kalariyapatttu is well documented with photograph in book of Luijendijk
Daily rituals followed by Kalari warriors
There are strict rituals and guidelines in Kalariyapatttu. On the first day, there are formal initiation rituals which includes touching the mother earth and putting tilak on forehead. Student should prostate guru by offering Dakshina(Some money) with folded betel leaves. Guru then touches the student head and blesses him by chanting some mantras. This ritual of touching the ground and guru’s feet - is repeated every day, a sign of complete submission to the motherland, kalari guru and the art of Kalariyapatttu itself. Guardian Deity Bhagavathi(Shiva Shakti) must be worshipped with flowers, incense, agarbattis and water before every starting session.
How the training begins
Before starting education of kalari, you have to undergo ayurvedic body massage to make your body agile and supple.
Trainings usually start from seven years of age where the kid is usually taught dancing, leaping and other movement based arts that would make the body nimble, supple, flexible and agile. Once their body becomes flexible and agile; they are taught the lethal weapons martial arts where they play with swords, spears, daggers, poles etc. Training starts from unarmed punches and kicks and slowly graduates to kurunthadi (short stick), bamboo staves, double deer horns,  neduvadi (long stick),  katar (dagger), katthi (knife), three-bladed daggers, valum parichayum (sword and shield),chuttuval (flexible sword), double sword and marmas(107 weakest spots in the body where a blow can kill).
kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india
Some of the weapons used in Kalarippayattu
  Futhermore, Sciences like tantra saastra, mantra saastra and marma saastra are utilized to balance the space energy level in the field or training hall. At the start and end of the day, oil massage is done to relax the body of pain, injury and also to improve flexibility of the body.

Dangerous Techniques of Kalarippayattu
Kalariyapatttu requires rigorous to develop flexible muscles, stamina, healthy and balanced body. Out of all weapons used in kalari, “Urumi” is the most dangerous weapon similar to a whip. This length double edged flexible is wrapped around the waist and suddenly whipped at the opponent to trigger heavy mortal blows. In real war, tip of urumi is saturated with arsenic or mercury to cause severe damage to the opponent. Seeing Urumi, the opponent is intimated since the spear or sword is of no use against urumi. The ultrasound produced by the whip of the urumi mentally kills the opponent. One of the other powerful combat techniques is Vajramukhti, meaning "thunderbolt clasped - or closed hands." This skill of Vajramukti referred to an art of using hands in a powerful manner like Vajra(Lord indra weapon).  
kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india
Indian actress Shriya sharan learning the art of Vajramukhti

Some of the other dangerous weapons used in Kalaripayattu are axe and Trishul (Trident) weapons of choice. Lord Shiva used Trishul whereas Lord Parashurama used an axe. Kalari fighters are taught to fight only if all other legitimate ways of convincing the opponent fails. One of the best techniques of kalari is to make the opponent fall down on his own weight. This will make the opponent aware of your fighting skills and hence, will probably go away from you.
Unlike Kung fu, Kalaripayattu doesn’t make massive use of fist and palm since it can cause injury to wrist and finger bones. Instead, it taught of transferring the energy from within the body to cause heavy blows and massive injury. For EX: A boxer causes  
Rules of kalaripayattu
• Fighting must begin after sunrise and end before sunset.
• Two or more warriors cannot attack a single warrior.  
• Warrior and its opponent must use the same weapon.  
• Warrior should not injure or kill a warrior who has accepted defeat.
• No warrior should injure or kill an unarmed warrior.
• No warrior should injure or kill an unconscious warrior.
• No warrior should injure or kill any person not participating in the war.
• No warrior should kill or injure a warrior on his back.
• No warrior should attack a woman.
• No warrior should kill or injure an animal unless attacked.
. No warrior should engage in any “unfair” warfare.
• Rules specific to each weapon must be followed. For example, in mace fighting, hitting below waist is prohibited.

Variation of Kalarippayattu in different parts of kerala
There are several variations to Kalaripayattu in different geographical regions of Kerala like southern style, northern style and central style. Northern style was practiced in Malabar region of northern Kerala by dominant nairs, Thiyyas and some Christian communities(Like Saint Thomas Christians)  in the late eighteenth century, Southern style in Travancore region of southern Kerala practiced largely by Nadar community and Central style in inner central Kerala. Southern form of kalari is exitinct but Kerala Kalarippayattu association recognizes Tamil kalari style "Adi Murai" as Southern kalari style of Kerala. Some of the other warrior caste that practiced Kalarippayattu was Kaniyar, Panickar , Asans and Mappila Muslims. Northern style is focused on weapons training flexible/elegant movements like jump, evasions etc while southern style is focused on hard impact techniques hitting high pressure points by empty hand.
kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india
Northern style Kalarippayattu

 Southern style included hitting arts like marma ati (hitting vital spots), varma ati (the law of hitting), or varma kalai (art of varma).  Central style had its on disctinctive technique and focused on sped and using lower body strength. Southern style is practiced in specially built roof pits with floor made of wet red clay built 3.5 feet below ground level to protect the practitioner from hot winds that can increase body temperature. On the other hand, northern style is practiced in open air in an enclosure of palm trees. Mapilla muslim called this martial art as Parichamuttu.  

Kalarippayattu in islam and Christian culture
Mapilla Muslims replaced Hindu tradition by their own tradition like praying to allah/prophet Muhammad, wearing white shirts, green skull turbans etc. Saint Thomas Christians who practiced Kalaripayattu was managed by a Christian trainer (Panikkar) who had about 8000-9000 disciples. One of the well known Christian panicker was Vallikkada, whose training ground was situated on the banks of Muvattupuzha River. Bishop Geevarghese, who founded the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, was ancestor of Vallikkada Panikkar.
The earliest western account of kalaripayattu is that of the Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa.  

Kalariyapatttu in modern schools
To revive Kalariyapatttu, it is taught free of charge in traditional Kerala schools. You have to just register and a place will be allocated as per the availability. Additionally, Spiritual lessons and guidance can be received from kalari gurus.  
Krishna Das(Kalari guru), son of famous Kalaripayattu exponent and vice-president of Kerala Kalaripayattu Association, said that it takes almost 12 years rigorous training to learn the martial art. However, the basic fundamental martial arts are taught to students in three years. Swami Anuraganada, secretary of Ramakrishna Mission says “In addition to Kalaripayattu, students are also taught Ayurveda and Yoga in this three year diploma course or four year degree course." Diploma course is of three years where the student is given a grade while degree course is of five years where the student is awarded with a higher grade. For passing diploma, you need to show expertise in 10-12 weapons while for degree certificate; you need to short expertise in 15-18 items.  
kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india
One of Indian Kalariyapatttu training School
Some of the Kalariyapatttu institution has started awarding Kaccha grading system (Similar to belt grading system in karate) to indicate various grades. “The persons who did not have any recognition till now after years of practice will see a new light. They will be able to show the world that they have also recognition,’’ said soman (Kalariyapatttu student) about kachha grading system.
In Mumbai, three year degree course on Kalariyapatttu is taught in K.J Somaiya College by well known Kalaripayattu trainer ‘Belraj Soni’.
What students says about Kalariyapatttu
  1)     We felt that this art form must be learnt by people outside Kerala too and wanted to give them an opportunity to do so” says Sundarajan T S, manager of student’s academic affairs.
2)   “Unlike other martial arts, Kalaripayattu is very graceful and requires you to utilize your entire body. Performing the graceful movements involved in the martial art form gives you a different high altogether. Being a theatre person, I have also greatly benefited from the improvisation of expressions that are taught in class.” said Gunjan Gupta, student of K.J somaiya college.
3)     “I am very excited about sword-fighting that will be taught next year. Kalaripayattu can be used for self-defence and is useful for women in Mumbai. Moreover, attending the course for a month has done wonders to my body. It has become more flexible and resilient,” said Mitali Wagh, eighteen year old student of K.J Somaiya College.
        kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india
Training in Kalraipayattu School
  4)    Another student, Soni says “A martial art practised by warriors, Kalaripayattu has great potential to improve the health of a student. The limbs and systems in one’s body, from head to toe, are brought into play in the practice of the martial art. It has the power to diagnose and heal many physical ailments of a non-congenital nature. Muscles and ligaments remain supple by regular practice. Wear and tear can be cured by applying specific ligaments and following remedial exercises.”. “Breath control is an integral part of the practice and lung-related problems reduce with time. Many of the exercises help avoid coronary and circulatory disorders. Obesity, more prevalent among womenfolk, can be controlled by regular Kalari practice. Kalaripayattu gives the practitioner the self-confidence to face any testing situation - physical and mental” adds Soni. Soni concluded by saying “In short, inexpensive care and cure is one of the hallmarks of Kalaripayattu which is quite welcome in an era, when one finds what is achieved for a song from Kalari, cost a fortune in today’s medical setup”
5)     "Though we have been learning and playing various sports as part of our curriculum, Kalaripayattu is exceptionally interesting and refreshing for us," says Sanat of Tripura who plans to open a Kalaripayattu institution in Tripura.
6)    "The exercises and steps taught here not only bring in discipline, but also help in perfect control of body and mind. When it works in tandem, the movements becomes more swift and fast," says M Prabhu, student pursuing Masters in Physical Education
kalaripayattu- World oldest martial art from india
Kalaripayattu-the best martial art
Ending this article with a few verses on warfare lessons taught by Lord Krishna to arjuna
"Also your own duty demands that you should not hesitate, for Kshatriyas there is nothing more fruitful than a battle fought in the path of duty.”
“O Arjuna, such Kshatriyas are very satisfied who get such a good opportunity to join a war coming to them like an open door to heaven.”
“If you do not join this lawful battle, you shall fail in your duty and renown will not be gained and you will commit sin."
Kalaripayattu reflects the great ancient history of India, the cradle of human civilization. This traditional martial art form of Kerala is literally one of the most valuable treasures of ancient India. Help to let it flourish...share this article to let it flourish
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