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The ancient martial art of Kalaripayattu in Delhi

Kalaripayattu may have been born years ago, in the deep south of peninsular India, but it arrived in Delhi, in 2008, with the setting up of Kalari Kendram, now in Noida and Mayur Vihar.

The movements of this martial art form are controlled, training body and mind, in deliberate moves inspired by the strength and power of animals like lion, tiger, elephant, wild boar, snake and crocodile.

“It can be practiced by people of all ages. In fact, there are even female gurus who practice at the advanced age of 73,” says Vani Bhalla Pahwa, a Gurugram–based functional fitness expert and founder of Body In Motion. And you don’t need any previous training in any traditional form, like yoga.

The training follows the guru-shishya tradition, so students begin training in a 21x42ft mud pit only after paying to obedience at the Kalari temple. Since Kalari means battlefield or sacred ground, students first apply a tikka on their foreheads with the soil and then on the idol, before bowing in front of it.

There are two traditions of Kalaripayattu, and Kalari Kendram teaches the northern style which focuses on flexibility. The movements here are more linear. For instance, students start and finish the movements at the same place. The southern style is more martial, with movements more lateral: zig-zag or star-like.

The session starts with warming up exercises like leg raises. Next, exercises that focus on building flexibly are performed so that animal movements can be done easily. Then you progress to combined movements, including jumps, kicks, low stances and circular movements. These body-conditioning exercises are known as Meypayattu where most of the muscles of the body are engaged.

The ancient martial art of Kalaripayattu in Delhi

Once students master individual animal movements, they learn to use and defend themselves first with sticks, then with weapons and shields of metal. The training progresses to bare-hand fighting techniques, self-defence when one is unarmed.

“In its truest sense Kalari is not a form of aggression but one of self-discipline. It is designed to teach humility and an understanding of physical movement,” says Shinto Mathew, Kalari trainer and founder of Kalari Kendram. Over the years this ancient martial art has under gone tremendous changes. Today it has found a place in theatre, where it is embraced as a dance-form for self-expression.

Besides toning your body and helping you lose the jiggle, Kalari is a great way to perfect the gentle grace of a dance while maintaining the agility of a warrior. It will improve balance, strength and flexibility. It also trains you to stand your ground.

Kajal Srivastava, 26, who is a UPSC aspirant, was looking for something to help her unwind after hours of study, so she started Kalaripayattu a year ago. “I suffered from thyroid and migraine,” she says. After the lifestyle changes that came with Kalari, “I no longer need to take a thyroid medicine and my migraine headaches also disappeared. It has changed my life,” she says.


Book a session at kalarikendramdelhi.com; classes are at 8 a.m. on weekends; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5:00 p.m.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 3:58:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fitness/the-ancient-martial-art-of-kalaripayattu-in-delhi/article28136442.ece

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