C V N Kalari
Location: East Fort, Thiruvananthapuram, at a walkable distance
from the central bus station.
Kalarippayattu, considered to be the mother of
all the martial art forms in the world, is a priceless asset to
Kerala's heritage. An intricate blend of physical prowess, mindset,
martial techniques and indigenous medical system, this form of armed,
close quarter, hand-to-hand combat is unique to this State.
The Kalari is a practice ring or training centre on the lines of
a gymnasium and Payattu is a duel. Hence, Kalarippayattu means martial
skills learnt in a ring or training centre.
The C V N Kalari Sangham in Thiruvananthapuram was established
in 1956 following the lifelong dedicated efforts of C V Narayanan
Nair, C V Balan Nair and Kottackal Karunakara Gurukkal, who popularised
the art which was on the verge of dying, by staging demonstrations,
collecting information and establishing Kalaries all over the State.
The C V N Kalari is built in an east-west direction about 4 feet
below ground level, and is closed on all sides except for a small
door on the eastern side. This cocoon-like traditional Kalari architecture
is greatly suited for the tropical, humid climate of Kerala. There
is not much light within the Kalari other than the light from the
traditional wick lamps or nilavilakku.
Since Kalarippayattu is considered a sublime martial art, certain
deities are placed in the Kalari and devotional rituals performed
before every session to obtain their blessings. The main deity is
Kalari Paradevata, or the Goddess of Kalari. Idols of Ganapathi,
Naga (the serpent god), Bhadrakaali and others are also placed along
with. The rites of worship are a part of the Kalari tradition.
Rigorous training and perseverance creates a Kalari fighter
The training usually starts at the age of seven for both boys and
girls. For most Kalari exponents, the training becomes a way of life.
Besides the physical aspects, the Kalari training includes meditation
and Ayurvedic oil massages. The massages are of prime importance in
conditioning and making the body supple. This is done by the Gurukkal
or the Master Trainer himself.
The Kalari fighter depends only on his alertness and agility, and
the use of various stances and swift movements for attack and self
defence. Long years of systematic and rigorous training hones these
reflexes even while cultivating mental abilities like concentration,
confidence and courage.
The training is imparted in four stages. First the Chuvadu or stance.
This is followed by Vadivu or body postures which are eight in number:
gaja (elephant), simha (lion), aswa (horse), varaha (pig), sarpa
(serpent), marjjara (cat), kukkuda (rooster) and matsya (fish).
The trainee who masters the Chuvadu and Vadivu goes on to Meyppayattu
(the use of the body in fighting) which aims at perfecting neuro-muscular
coordination. Then begins the training with weapons. Commencing
with cane weapons, the trainee graduates to using the Cheruvadi
(small stick), Ottakkol (poles), Gada (mace) and Kadtaram (steel
dagger), and then the most glamorous of combats - fighting with
the sword and shield.
Another weapon is the Urumi, a long, springy, double edged, coiled
sword which can even recoil and hurt the user if not wielded with
skill. Fighting with spears is the last in the weapon training syllabus.
The spears called Kuntham are long poles made of cane, bamboo or
wood with a sharp double edged metal tip.
An entire system of medicine evolved around the art
Kalari Chikitsa, or Kalari treatment is an integral part of the
Kalari tradition. It is mainly used to treat sprains, fractures,
wounds and other injuries. Performers of other traditional arts
of Kerala also undergo the Kalari Chikitsa to improve the suppleness
of the body. The masters of Kalarippayattu are extraordinary healers
adept at curing physical ailments with the ancient Ayurvedic system
of massages and herbs.
Kalari performances at C V N Kalari
Performances are organised both in India and abroad on request.
Lecture demonstrations are presented to interested groups at the
Kalari at Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. The timings are usually
6:00 am to 9:00 am and 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
The C V N Kalari sangham has recently published a book written
by P. Balakrishnan titled Kalarippayattu both in English and Malayalam.
Nearest railway station : Thiruvananthapuram central, about 1 1/2
Nearest airport : Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, about