Kalaripayattu is the ancient martial art of the State. It is
considered as the forerunner of Karate & Kung-fu. The Kalari is treated as the
temple of learning. Age-old traditions and customs are still practiced inside
the Kalari. The Gurukkal system consists of rigorous physical training besides
training in self-discipline. The weapons used were the sword, Dagger, Shield,
short sticks, spears etc. The co-ordination of the body and mind is given
maximum importance in this art.
The Orient's treasure trove, a gift to the modern world and the mother of all martial arts. Legend traces the 3000-year-old art form to Sage Parasurama- the master of all martial art forms and credited to be the re-claimer of Kerala from the Arabian Sea. Kalaripayattu originated in ancient South India. Kung- fu, popularized by the monks of the Shoaling Temple traces its ancestry to Bodhi Dharma - an Indian Buddhist monk and Kalaripayattu master.
Architectural design of traditional kalari
The art is trained in an enclosure called 'Kalari', which is 21 feet by 42 feet. The entrance faces the east. In the south-west corner is a seven-tiered platform called the "poothara", which houses the guardian deity of the kalari. These seven steps sy
mbolise seven abilities each person requires. They include Vigneswa (Strength), Channiga (patience), Vishnu (commanding power), Vadugashcha (the posture), Tadaaguru (training), Kali (the expression) and Vakasta - purushu (sound). Other deities, most of them incarnations of the Bhagavathi or Shiva, are installed in the corners.
The origin of the Kalaripayattu
Kalaripayattu is perhaps the most ancient martial art in the world. Religions have incorporated Kalaripayattu into their realm. The origin of Kalaripayattu is still in the midst of obscurity. Traditional Kalari masters attribute mythological stories and legends to the origin of the art. Legend traces the 3000-year-old art form to Sage Parasurama- the master of all martial art forms and credited to be the re-claimer of Kerala from the Arabian Sea.
At the turn of the 6th century A.D., marital arts spread from Southern India to China by Daruma Bodhidarma - an Indian Buddhist monk and Kalaripayattu master. From China, martial arts have spread to Korea & Japan. Kalaripayattu is derived from the words Kalari - which means "place, threshing floor, or battlefield", and payattu - which means to "exercise in arms or practice".
Kalari's influence on other arts
Kalaripayattu has strongly influenced the evolution of several of Kerala's theatre and dance forms, most prominently Kathakali and Theyyam. Kathakali practitioners are required to train under Kalari masters to develop various attributes such as fitness, stamina, and martial movements enacted in their performances. Kalari practitioners claim that Bodhi Dharma, a Buddhist monk who was responsible for training the Shaolin monks in kung-fu, was in fact a Kalari master.
Resuregence of kalaripayattu Following the collapse of the princely states and the advent of free India - Kalaripayattu had lost its significance as a mortal combat code. Fortunately, Kalaripayattu has successfully survived the steady and sad decline in popularity. Kalaripayattu now has a compelling global audience and its fame and glory has won hearts all over.
In a Phoenix like resurrection, Kalaripayattu is today emerging in a new avatar - an ancient art form - a source of inspiration for self-expression in dance forms - both traditional and contemporary, in theatre, in fitness and in movies too.
About the Author:
eKnow Inc. Staff, Joined eKnow Inc. in 2008 as a part time content editorial.