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Martial Arts in Kerala

The birth-place of one of the oldest and richest civilizations of the world, Kerala is home to a culture that is unique in all respects. One of the many aspects in which the ancient wisdom of the land manifests itself is through the martial arts practiced in the state. The practice of martial arts in Kerala dates back to the birth of Kalaripayattu, possibly the oldest martial art that is still practiced in the world. Besides this, the land is the birthplace of a number of other forms of martial arts that include:


Kalaripayattu is made up of two separate words, "Kalari" (the arena in which the combatants fight) and "payattu" (practice in Malayalam, the language of Kerala). Combining the philosophies of yoga and Ayurveda, this ancient form of martial art is basically an expression of the strength and flexibility of the body with the discipline and focus of the mind. This ancient martial art is again divided into two forms depending on the region it originates from, differing from each other on the speed and flow of their movements. These include:

  • The Vadakkan form or the Northern Style
  • The Thekkan form or the southern style

part of the training in this martial art form involves the practice of healing wounds with the help of Ayurvedic oil massages. It is only after a student has mastered in all the aspects of this ancient martial art form of Kerala that one can claim to be a Gurukkal or grandmaster of the martial art of Kerala, Kalaripayattu.

Chavettu Pada

Chavettu Pada was an ancient martial art form practiced in Kerala which can be said to be the forerunner of modern day suicide squads. Agile and devoted to their cause, the followers of this ancient martial art believed in the motto of to kill or to get killed. These groups were often associated with particular deities of famous temples and believed that they were carrying out the orders of the goddess in fighting the enemies.

Social Benefits:

Though at a glance, these practices of warfare seem inhuman and dangerous, yet they did have a positive influence on the society as well. Through this, individuals maintained their physical fitness and agility which in turn went a long way in building a healthy society. Besides this, these fighters were also beneficial in maintaining a society in which the weak and the unarmed could be protected.