In Malayalam and Tamil the word Kalari means “threshing floor” or “battlefield”. It is believed that the term Kalarippayattu has its origins in the Sanskrit term Khaloorika. In Sanskrit, the word KHALOORIKA denotes a place where weapons training were imparted.
The institution of Kalari is generally traced to the period immediately after the disintegration of the Perumals of Kodungallur in the first quarter of 12th century AD. It was an integral part of the socio-political system of medieval Kerala. The land of Kerala was divided into a number of minor chieftaincies. The enmities of these small power-centres resulted in constant warfare. In such a situation, each power centre was forced to maintain a body of fighters on its call. It was in such circumstances that the body building and combat training provided by the Kalaris became not only necessary but also essential. The systems of physical and weapon training imparted within the Kalari came to be called as ‘Kalaripayattu’.
Construction of Kalari
The Kalari is constructed by digging a hollow in the ground forming a sunken area which is four feet in depth, forty-two feet in length and twenty-one feet in breadth. This is usually called Kuzhi Kalari. In Malayalam Kuzhi means ditch formed by digging in the earth. The Kalari is mainly built in the south-west side of the main plot. All Kalaris have a Guruttara inside. Guruttara is a place where a lamp is kept burning in reverence to all the gurus (masters) of the Kalari. The floor of the Kalari is levelled by using mud. Ankathattu is a four to six feet high platform constructed temporarily to practice fighting and located in the centre of the arena from where spectators can watch the bouts. The entire arrangement is called Anka Kalari.
Kalaripayatt is an institution similar to the traditional Guru Kula system where students stay with their guru from their childhood and undergo training until they become experts. The Kalari will be maintained like a Temple and the space has to be respected as the sanctum sanctorum. There are no restrictions of religion, caste or sex. The training opens with the lighting of Bhadradeepam (The Holy Lamp) and the blowing of the holy conch.
Kalarippayattu becomes very lethal when weapons are used. Some of the weapons used are Axe, Spear, Arrow & Bow, Deer-horn dagger, Trident, Sword & Shield. A flexible long blade like sword called Urumi is a distinct and lethal weapon used in Kalari. This increases the kill distance and hence very deadly. Some of the advanced exponents of Kalari can kill someone with just their hands by touching on vital spots on the body called marmam. This advanced skill is only revealed to advanced, matured and dedicated students of Kalari. The Kalarichikitsa is a medicinal system based on this knowledge of marmam to touch, massage and cure diseases. Kalarichikitsa has its base on the traditional form of medicines like the Sidhaveda and Ayurveda practised in Kerala. It’s gaining widespread acceptance as a naturopathic rejuvenation treatment for the body.
Other Places of Interest
Indian School of Martial Arts, Thiruvananthapuram, Sanghumukham Beach, Kovalam beach, Napier museum and Zoo, Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary and Neyyar Dam, Agasthyarkoodam peak, Kuthira Malika palace, Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple, Ponmudi, Poovar, Varkala Cliffs and much more.