Context: Kalaripayattu, considered the oldest surviving martial art of the country, with a legacy of more than 3,000 years, is set to see a surge in popularity with the establishment of an academy in the Kerala capital.


Indian Martial Arts

  • India has a long history of martial arts.
  • Shaolin Kung Fu, a term that includes a large variety of Chinese martial arts, traces its lineage to Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who, according to popular legend, introduced Buddhism to China during the 6th century AD.
  • Sadly, while Chinese and Japanese fighting forms such as kung fu and ju-jitsu have become national institutions, many of India’s ancient fighting techniques languish as forgotten art forms.


  • Often known as the ‘Mother of All Martial Arts’, this 3000-year old art form originating from Kerala, draws inspiration from the raw power, swift movements and sinuous strength of majestic animals – the lion, tiger, elephant, wild boar, snake and crocodile.
  • The term ‘kalari’ refers to the place where this combat style is taught while ‘payattu’ means to practise.
  • This combat style has different levels through which one learns how to fight, with and without, hand-held weapons.
  • This legendary warrior art form most was recently popularised by 76-year-old Meenakshiamma’s heroic exhibition of swordplay against a man half her age.

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