Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kalaripayattu, A Beautiful Blend of Art and Weaponry

Kerala, the God’s paradise of India is the haven of tradition and culture. Kalaripayattu, one of the many art forms of Kerala, is a wonderful fusion of dance and martial art. Although concrete evidence of its date and place of origin is missing, it is believed to have originated in Kerala around 3000 years ago. It is also believed that sage Parsurama, the master of all martial arts crafted it. It is known from the Dhanur texts and Vishnu Puranas which document the history of Kalaripayattu that the Chera and Chola dynasties of the south India pursued this art with religious sincerity to defeat the enemies.

Kalari which means the battleground or place to practice weaponry is an adaptation of the Sanskrit word khaloorika. Kalaripayattu is a set of techniques to fight the opponents and showcase the cultural competence and physical prowess.There are two forms of Kalari, one Vatakkan ‘Northern’ and another one Tekkan ‘Southern’. The Kalaris are also of two types: cherukalari or Kuzhikalari and Ankakalari. Poothara is the sanctum sanctorum of the Kalari. Lotus-bud shaped deity Kalariparadevta is the presiding deity of Kalaripayattu placed on a seven-step high podium. The trainee starts the day’s practice by first exercising which is termed as Mey Payattu. Katcha, a long strip of cloth wrapped around the waist in a particular fashion was the dress code for Kalripayattu which with time has undergone change. Chuvadukal is the basic lesson of Kalaripayattu which is used in all other poses. Vadivukkal are the eight basic positions formatted to attain particular results.

The oil message done by the guru or master acts as lubrication to bring about flexibility and frisk in movement. The guru massages the entire body except the face with his feet. In the lines of Guru Shiksha Parampara that form the pillar of Indian traditional education system, the students obey and respect the guru even outside the Kalari. The guru in turn presents himself as a source of inspiration, embodiment of virtues and expert of the art. It would not be wrong to interpret that Kalaripayattu is also an art to worship the almighty or a path to spiritual solace. The guru always left the Kalari after the students did and the students entered the Kalari only after the guru. The students first place their right foot inside the Kalari, pay homage to the Kalari deities and then smear Kalari oil before they start the practice. 

Kalaripayattu is more than just an art form. It requires the learners to have a thorough knowledge about the human body structure because an injury to any part may lead to lifetime dysfunction. Therefore the Kalaripayattu practitioners are disciplined and devoted in their persuasion of this art. Films and theater have improvised this ancient art form to make it contemporary and use it as an artistic tool to express the protagonist’s emotion. The popularity of the dance form after its revival in the recent past has crossed the cultural boundaries and won the international appreciation.

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