kerala tourism


weapons in kalari
E. N. S., Nettur

The founder of E. N. S. Kalari at Nettur, Ernakulam is Sripathi Embranthiri, a native of Mangalapuram. Also known as Mani Swamy, Sripathi came to Nettur along with his paternal uncle’s daughter when he was an infant of two. He started training in Kalaripayattu at the age of 14. But since it went against the orthodoxy of his caste, he had to overcome a lot of resistance. He braved it with a strong sense of determination and mastered the Northern style under the tutelage of Krishnan Gurukkal and the Southern style under Narayanan Gurukkal, taking eleven years to complete his studies. He simultaneously learnt Marmachikitsa during this period. Even while officiating as a priest at the Nettur Mahadeva temple, he offers free service as a masseur to the common people of the locality. Sripathi established the kalari in 1954. He was a Kalaripayattu instructor at the Shoranur High School for ten years from 1960, became an instructor at the Ernakulam Gymnasium from 1974, and Kalaripayattu trainer at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan from 1982. Alongside this, he trained hundreds of students at his own kalari at Ernakulam.  At present, the reins of the E. N. S. Kalari are held jointly by his children, E. S. Narayanan Embranthiri and E. S. Vijayasree Embranthiri. The two had started training under their father at the ages of 14 and 11 respectively, and Narayanan has been an instructor at this centre from 1990 onwards. In 1992, on an invitation extended by the World Seido Karate Association, Narayanan Gurukkal went to South Africa for a Kalaripayattu performance and training session. By now, he has been to various parts of India and the world on a similar mission. Narayanan Gurukkal has designed programmes which have a mix of traditional Kalaripayattu, yoga and classical dances. Besides all these, he regularly undertakes action choreography for various performing arts. His sister Vijayasree is also a teacher at the E. N. S. Kalari, and is its official spokesperson.   The E. N. S. Kalari has been officially recognized by the Kalaripayattu Federation, and is affiliated to the Kerala Kalaripayattu Association. It teaches both the Northern and the Southern styles. Students from outside Kerala and from abroad come here in huge numbers to learn Kalaripayattu. Besides the traditional training, books and videos are also used to impart and perfect the training. Over and above the regular training sessions, special classes and short-term courses ranging from one week to one year are also offered at this centre. On request, accommodation facilities are also provided to students. Marmachikitsa is also done here, alongside oil massage. A one-hour Kalaripayattu show is organized at the centre on a daily basis, and provisions have been made for visitors to see Kalaripayattu performances between 3 and 7 in the afternoon on Sundays. Video documentaries on Kalaripayattu, small models of Kalari weapons, post cards and books on Kalaripayattu as well as audio and video CDs of traditional instrumental music are available in the boutique attached to the kalari.

weapons displayed in a kalari
Bhargava Kalari Sangham, Kozhikode

The Venad region (southern tip of Kerala) went through tough and tempestuous times in early 18th century when the tussle for power between Marthanda Varma, the sovereign, and the Ettu Veettil Pillamar, the eight aristocrats of the region, reached a flashpoint. The young king succeeded in vanquishing the men who sought to usurp his position and either killed or exiled them. A descendant of one of those exiled aristocrats, Bhargavan Pillai, established a kalari in Kozhikode and gave it his name. That is the reason why the southern style of Kalaripayattu is taught at this centre, located in one of the northern districts of Kerala. The asan (master) who is in charge of it now is S. K. Rajesh Gurukkal. Nearly fifty students are on its rolls, and there are a few who come occasionally for training. Among the trainees are those who are in their mid-forties. Even girls have joined the Kalaripayattu training programme offered here. Mastery in this martial art is particularly useful to them because they experience a higher level of self-confidence, and are also able to face crowds and interact with the public without fear or shyness. They feel that nothing can upstage Kalaripayattu in helping them in matters related to self-defence. In earlier times, Kalaripayattu followed a strait-jacketed approach. But of late, it has permitted and accommodated experiments and also allowed the inclusion of certain additional components. The manner in which the kalari itself has evolved over the decades can be perceived by an observant eye. In the initial days, Kalaripayattu was studied solely for the purpose of self-defence from attacks by enemies and even predatory animals. Lances and spears were used more frequently then. Today, few students feel compelled to gain mastery in the use of these weapons. In fact, there are youngsters who sign up for Kalaripayattu training in order to bring some element of discipline in their lives. Rajesh Gurukkal is of the opinion that Kalaripayattu can be practised by people who follow any profession. His own life is an eloquent example. Rajesh Gurukkal dabbles in diverse fields and has acquired proficiency in playing football and volleyball, sculpting, practising Vaastu, painting and acting. Besides, for the past fifteen years or more, he has been assisting Mafia Sasi, a prominent stunt master in Malayalam cinema. More importantly, he has been lending his professional services in the department of action choreography in Bollywood (Hindi cinema) and Hollywood. Rajesh Gurukkal has even earned a doctoral degree from King’s University, USA, for his study on the importance of Marmachikitsa [traditional massage treatment of the vital spots of the human body] in the field of Indian traditional medicine. For all this eclectic spirit that he exudes, he is a staunch purist in the field of Marmachikitsa. In fact, the Bhargava Kalari is famous in Kozhikode for the quality treatment it offers. Patients can get themselves admitted here anytime for relief from pains and aches. Besides Marmachikitsa, the centre offers Uzhichil, Chavutti thirummu [a regimen where the masseur uses his legs to massage], Panchakarma chikitsa [a five-fold rejuvenation therapy] and Ayurvedic treatment. Effective treatment is administered to reset broken bones, remove problems like back ache, and cure spondylitis. Although in-patient treatment facilities are already available at this centre, the Kalari is on an expansion drive. The Bhargava Kalari has been regularly exhibiting Kalaripayattu at Navarasa, the dance-theatre organization that is famous in South Asia. Rajesh Gurukkal himself is an expert at taking on two opponents simultaneously in sword fight, while remaining blindfolded. He goes to Russia and Germany to take classes and conduct performances. Many people from these countries visit his kalari at Kozhikode, either to learn Kalaripayattu or to undergo treatment. The kalari has made arrangements to showcase the traditional artforms of Kerala – like Kathakali, Theyyam, Chendamelam and so on – along with Kalaripayattu performances for the benefit of the foreign visitors.

C. V. N. Kalari, Kozhikode

K. Narayanan Gurukkal is the founder of the C. V. N. Kalari at Nadathara in Kozhikode. C. V. Narayanan Nair Gurukkal, the student of Kotakkal Kanaran Gurukkal, was his contemporary and close friend. Narayanan Nair was born into a family that was famous in North Malabar for their expertise in traditional medicine. He learnt Kalaripayattu and Marmachikitsa from his ancestors. He has won numerous awards at the national and international levels, including the American Excellency Award in 2000 for his expertise in Kalaripayattu and Marmachikitsa. Narayanan Nair was the District Secretary of Kalari Association for nearly 30 years and a leader of the same organization at the state level for five years. Following his death in 2000, his sons Anil Kumar, Sunil Kumar and Gopa Kumar took over the stewardship of the C. V. N. Kalari. This kalari had gained international fame in the time of Narayanan Gurukkal. He used every opportunity to make Kalaripayattu popular among the masses. His connection with Kalaripayattu and the field of Malayalam cinema began right from the time of the release of the famous blockbuster Thacholi Othenan (1964), in which the famous thespian Sathyan played the eponymous role. Thereafter the C. V. N. Kalari could make its presence felt in the field of Tamil cinema, Bollywood and even Hollywood. Its stamp on the action scenes in Jackie Chan’s The Myth, and Hindi movies like Dil Se, Asoka, Ravan, Bajirao Mastani and others has made C. V. N. Kalari a force to reckon with. Moreover, it has been regularly showcasing the beauty and grandeur of Kalaripayattu in various prestigious opera houses in Europe, and organizing programmes in Europe, the Middle East, Japan and China. In fact, every year, the C. V. N. Kalari team undertakes foreign trips for six months on similar projects. Although Kalaripayattu training is recommended for children by the time they turn seven, it is possible to start at relatively advanced ages too and gain mastery over this martial art under the tutelage of a good, skilled asan. The C. V. N. Kalari gives a kind of customized training to each of its students, according to their requirements, be it for maintaining good health, increasing flexibility of the body or studying self-defence techniques. The methodology is decided after taking into consideration the physical nature of the trainee. There are students who have been undergoing training for a long time here. But there are others who sign up for short-term courses. Special training sessions for foreigners have also been planned and put into action. Many a foreign student of C. V. N. Kalari has set up their own training centres in their homelands as well.   The Kalari also caters to demands by certain students who wish to be trained in Kalaripayattu, classical dance and music too.  All traditional medical procedures associated with the kalari are provided at the C. V. N. centre. It is well known for effectively treating disorders of the bone, nerve and muscle, and for the thorough Marmachikitsa and Thirummu [massage] protocols it follows. Finer aspects of Thirummu like Raksha Thirummu (for healing), Sukha Thirummu (for relaxation and rejuvenation) and Kacha Thirummu (for suppleness and stamina) are also practised here. The oils and medicines required for all these procedures are prepared at the kalari itself. There is the Ayush Ayurveda Ashram attached to the C. V. N. Kalari where patients can stay for long-term treatment. A wholesome vegetarian diet is provided to the in-patients. It also has facilities to host indigenous art forms for their entertainment. Besides, it conducts guided tours for interested visitors. 

Choorakkodi Kalari, Kasaragod

This kalari was established at Paravanadukkam in Kasaragod in 1987. P. K. Abubaker Musaliyar is the Gurukkal here. He learnt Kalaripayattu from Chelavur Mamu Musaliyar Gurukkal and Maulavi Gurukkal, and gained mastery over the Northern, Southern and mid-Kerala styles. He imparts training in all the three. Nearly forty students – which include school-going kids as well as adults – have currently enrolled themselves in his sessions, conducted during evenings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They compete at national and international levels. Training at his kalari becomes more rigorous when the time for such competitions approaches. Besides, Kalaripayattu, Choorakkodi Kalari teaches Judo and Yoga to interested students. Foreigners, mostly from Scotland and New Zealand, also seek him out occasionally. Accommodation facilities are not available at present. Foreign students stay at the Bekal Fort Resort close by, and come to the kalari for classes. The rest of his students come from the neighbourhood. All the treatment facilities associated with a typical kalari are available here too.

C V N Kalari, Thiruvananthapuram
C. V. N. Kalari, Thiruvananthapuram

The C. V. N. Kalari at East Fort in Thiruvananthapuram has been working dedicatedly in the fields of Kalaripayattu and kalari-related treatment ever since its inception in 1956. It was established by Govindankutty Nair Gurukkal, a descendant of Chambadan Veettil Narayanan Nair, and is the first of its kind in South Kerala to train students in the Northern style of Kalaripayattu. C. V. Narayanan Nair was the student of Kottakkal Kanaran Gurukkal who had tried his best to take the marital art to the masses. Together, Kanaran Gurukkal and C. V. Narayanan Nair Gurukkal took Kalaripayattu away from its traditional confines of the enclosed kalari, and brought it to open public spaces in order to attract widespread attention to this ancient form of attack and self-defence. They founded the first kalari at Thalassery in North Kerala. When C. V. Narayanan Nair Gurukkal succumbed to early and untimely death, his brother C. V. Balan Nair took over the reins. Govindankutty, the eldest son of C. V. Narayanan Nair, joined his uncle in running the kalari. They travelled all over Kerala and outside to conduct Kalaripayattu performances and popularize it. In the course of their travels, in 1954, they got an opportunity to perform in front of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India. This incident changed the course of their fortunes altogether. Later, with the help of Lt Colonel Goda Varma Raja, a member of the Travancore royal family, tourism and sports promoter, administrator and Sanskrit scholar, the stature of C. V. N. Kalari grew. It was affiliated to the Kerala Sports Council, and made a recognized Kalaripayattu training centre. Until 1973, it sported a traditional look, with a thatched roof. The modern structure it has today was designed by the famous painter, sculptor and architect, M. V. Devan. Through all these years, the C. V. N. Kalari has evolved to become one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the city of Thiruvananthapuram. It is one of the rare centres in South Kerala to train students in Northern and Southern styles of Kalaripayattu.   The C. V. N. Kalari is a kuzhi kalari. The deities worshipped here are Kalari paradevata [Bhagavati, the patron goddess of Kalaripayattu], Ganapathi and Bhadrakali. The kalari is so vast that it can train up to twenty students at any time. The centre works on the principle that it takes long years of training and practice to make one a skilled Kalaripayattu combatant. Students enrol themselves for the training here from the age of seven but there are senior individuals as well who start rather late. Most of them are from the neighbourhood and belong to the 9-18 age group. There are a few foreigners as well. For the training to be comprehensive, besides imparting lessons systematically and insisting that students take regular exercises, C. V. N. Kalari includes the Ayurvedic pattern of massage and Yoga regimen in its course.   Kalari chikitsa or treatment is an indispensable part of Kalaripayattu. There are specific treatment procedures and various kinds of massage to cure sprains, breakage of bones, bruises and other injuries.  The Gurukkal is in charge of the treatment too. Long years of experience in the training field and deep scholarship in Ayurveda as well as Marmachikitsa have equipped him to shoulder such a heavy responsibility. He closely follows the instructions laid down in the ancient Ayurvedic texts, and the wisdom that has come down from the previous generations. The medicines required for the treatment are manufactured at the kalari itself.   Courses in Kalaripayattu are offered twice every year – in June before the rains begin and in October during the time of Vidyaarambham [ritual initiation into learning]. The C. V. N. Kalari is also a recognized centre that has the powers to grant international scholarships that the ICCR [Indian Council for Cultural Relations] sanctions through the agency of the central government. It offers long-term courses, and has three-to-six-month short-term courses for foreigners. The kalari also has a visitors’ gallery where 25 people can sit and watch Kalaripayattu performances that are usually conducted between seven and eight in the morning every day. Special performances are also arranged for visitors if they give the authorities a fortnight’s notice. Taking photographs will be allowed only if prior permission is sought. 

Deva Vidya Gurukulam, Thiruvananthapuram

Deva Vidya Gurukulam boasts of a 600-year-old ancestry. It is part of Ayurmudra Heritage Project and located in Kottukal village in Thiruvananthapuram. Legend has it that the ancestors of the Gurukkal came to Kerala, on specific orders issued by Cheraman Perumal of the Pandya kingdom in Tamil Nadu. They accompanied the Perumal as Siddha vaidyas of his court, and were gifted land and other facilities by the ruler of Travancore. For generations they have been practising physicians and Marmachikitsa experts, and their latest link in the chain is Premnath, the Gurukkal of Deva Vidya Gurukulam. The centre was given government accreditation in 2000 to practise Siddha medicine.  The tradition of medical treatment followed at this kalari focuses on and follows the instructions laid down by Sage Agastya. Premnath’s guru was his grandfather Vizhinjam Narayanan Vaidyar. His reference texts on Siddha marma therapeutic treatment, the arcane secrets of the science and medicines were part of the family’s own heirloom of palm-leaf manuscripts, totalling to 400 in number.   In the ancient times, Kalaripayattu was not accessible to all. In course of time, many restrictions were lifted. But by then many modes that had gained currency in various regions disappeared from memory. Siddha marmachikitsa is also facing a similar threat. The concept of Ayurmudra Heritage came into being following a desire to see the benefits of this precious science reach the masses. Usually training in Kalaripayattu begins early, ideally from the age of seven, and latest by 18. But such conditions do not apply in the case of training at the Marma kalari. All it requires is a will to learn and the stamina to complete the course. It helps if the student is mentally mature for the task. Besides Marmachikitsa, special courses on Prana Yoga and Mudra Yoga are also taught at Deva Vidya Gurukulam. A course called Atmarakshitam has been formulated by focusing on and customizing the adavus for girl students to help them defend themselves from attack. It has been so designed that the techniques can be mastered in a very short span of time (a fortnight or three weeks). A crash course has also been created for those who come from far-off places and stay here for a very brief period. Accommodation facilities at the centre ensure maximum closeness with Nature. It also offers online courses in traditional Siddha, Siddha Marma, Siddha Yoga and Marma Kalari. This ensures uninterrupted training from anywhere in the world. Students from 23 countries, including Sweden, Italy, Hungary and Portugal, have signed up for various courses at Deva Vidya Gurukulam. Nearly 30 are undergoing training at the centre at present. The Ayurmudra Project has designed many types of treatment procedures too. Some of them are Marmachikitsa, Siddha Kayakalppam, Pancha Pranasuddhi, Tripurasundari therapy and so on. Besides, it also offers Sukhachikitsa (rejuvenation therapy) and post-partum therapy. All the medicines required for treatments given at the centre are manufactured here itself. And the regulated diet of each patient is also taken care of. The centre has its own vegetable garden where it does organic farming. Besides conducting performances for the entertainment of visitors, the centre also holds classes and exhibitions on demand within India and abroad. The personnel of Deva Vidya Gurukulam are regularly invited to conduct programmes in countries in the Middle East as well as in Malaysia.  

Ekaveera Kalaripayattu Academy, Alappuzha

The Ekaveera Kalaripayattu Academy was established in Thalavady, Aryad in Alappuzha in 2008. The founder-Gurukkal of the centre Harikrishnan has acquired mastery over the Northern, Southern and mid-Kerala styles of Kalaripayattu. He was trained in the Southern style initially and his instructor was Sylvas Gurukkal at Alappuzha. Even while undergoing training, his interest in Kalaripayattu grew stronger. In a bid to learn the Northern style he went to Vadakara, in Kozhikode in North Kerala, and gained expertise in it too. Subsequently, he learnt the mid-Kerala style as well. It was a deep-rooted desire to disseminate information about this martial art to the maximum number of people and to generate interest for it in them that inspired him to set up his academy in Thalavady.   The Ekaveera Kalaripayattu Academy has a kuzhi kalari, although the geographical features of Alappuzha does not yield itself easily to this structure. Digging as little as one foot into the ground is enough for water seepage to begin. So Harikrishnan had to get the sand removed and opt for a concrete floor. The unprecedented floods that ravaged Kerala in 2018 were particularly severe in Alappuzha district. The Ekaveera Kalaripayattu Academy was inundated, and as a result, a fresh concrete floor had to be laid. It follows the traditional dimensions – being 42 feet long and 21 feet broad. The centre gives training in Northern and Southern styles of Kalaripayattu. The age of students range from 5 to 40 or more. The group is a mixed one that includes school- and college-going students, employed people and even stay-at-home wives. They are trained in practically all aspects of Kalaripayattu – using the body and the arms, and employing long as well as short sticks, spears, sword and shield, urumi and so on. The centre encourages promising trainees to participate in district- and national-level competitions by giving them special training. Customized short-term training programmes have been devised to help visiting foreigners understand and practise the basics of Kalaripayattu. The latest group of aspiring students from overseas to visit Ekaveera Kalari Academy was from Russia. Classes are usually conducted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On demand, special classes are held in the mornings. Convenient timings for training are arranged for foreigners as and when they come to the academy. Although the centre has no accommodation facilities, it has provisions to arrange board and lodging on special request.   The centre has branches in other districts as well – Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Kollam. His former students run these branches. Harikrishnan makes weekly visits to each of these centres to supervise their activities. At present, nearly 1,200 students are being trained in them. Within the last decade, more than 2,000 students have undergone training at Ekaveera Kalari Academy. On a special invitation, Harikrishnan conducted a one-month-long training programme in Sharjah. He has also made overseas visits for Kalaripayattu performances. He also conducts lecture-demonstration sessions and special Kalaripayattu shows on one day’s advance notice. Marmachikitsa used to be conducted earlier but presently, due to lack of time, it is not offered to outsiders. The centre organizes massage sessions for its students regularly during the rainy season, in the Malayalam month of Karkidakam (July-August).

weapons on kalari floor
Gopalan Gurukkal Smarka C. V. N. Kalari, Kozhikode

This kalari was set up in 1962 by Gopalan Gurukkal, a member of the family of Kottakkal Kanaran Gurukkal and one of the most prominent disciples of Kanaran Gurukkal and Narayanan Gurukkal. During his lifetime it was known as C. V. N. Kalari. It was renamed after his demise. His son V. M. Vijayan Gurukkal is the asan at the kalari now. Vijayan Gurukkal‘s son Vikas and daughter Kavitha who learnt Kalaripayattu in the traditional style under him are instructors at the centre. The Gopalan Gurukkal Smarka C. V. N. Kalari is a kuzhi kalari, and the Northern style is taught here. Among the 100 who have enrolled themselves for the training at present, there are resident students as well as day scholars. Twenty of them are girls. Besides them, there are others who have been training for several years, some of who are in their fifties, sixties and even eighties. Since its inception, more than 3,000 students have gained training at this centre. Students come here regularly from countries like France, Italy and Canada. Most of them are theatre artistes, and for the past five-six years, they have been coming here each year for three-, four- or six-month training. A few have started their own kalaris in their homelands. Sportspersons seek out Gurukkal’s help because they believe Kalaripayattu will help them improve body flexibility as well as powers of concentration. They are either players of basketball or shuttle badminton or swimmers. Ms Aparna Balan, a national badminton player and resident of Kozhikode, trained at Gopalan Gurukkal Smaraka C. V. N. Kalari for a long time. She has won medals at Commonwealth and Asian Games and comes to the centre occasionally. Dancers and performing artistes also come here for help in choreography. Help for action choreography in films and plays is also sought. The centre conducts Kalaripayattu performances regularly, and its students participate in programmes conducted by the Cultural Affairs and Tourism departments of the state. On prior notice, the centre makes arrangements for Kalaripayattu shows as well as Kathakali recitals, Theyyam dance and other traditional art forms. It has facilities to take in-patients, and give them Marmachikitsa as well as various kinds of massages.

Hindustan Kalari Sangham, Kozhikode
Hindustan Kalari Sangham, Kozhikode

The Hindustan Kalari Sangham at Puthiyara, Kozhikode has a 70-year-long history. It was established by Veerasri Swami Gurukkal in 1950, and is today famous for its Kalaripayattu training as well as Ayurveda and Marma treatment therapies. Its professional staff – which includes Kalaripayattu performers, Theyyam artistes, instrumentalists, technical experts and other theatre artistes – are in great demand all over the world. Their skill is sought at Award Nights, Fashion Shows and other cultural programmes too. A unique feature of Hindustan Kalari Sangham is Shakti, a women’s Kalaripayattu team led by Radhika Gurukkal. Its aim is to increase women’s self-confidence, make them self-sufficient, and empower them. This team is an active presence at Kalaripayattu training grounds, academic seminars, entertainment fields, theatre and other cultural arenas. This centre encourages doctoral research in Kalaripayattu, and takes steps to popularize it far and wide by conducting seminars and workshops. Research scholars from various parts of India and abroad come here for data collection. There are good facilities, like board and lodging, and an excellent library in the centre. Classes are held regularly to train students in Kalaripayattu, Panchakarma therapy, yoga and so on. Online courses on Kalaripayattu have also been designed. Online consultation facilities have also been arranged here. A centre for Ayurvedic treatment, named Dhanwantari Ayurveda Academy, also works in the same premises.  

Lubaina Kalari, Ernakulam

Lubaina Kalari was established by Abdullakutty Gurukkal at Edapally, Ernakulam in 1959. His training in Kalaripayattu began at the tender age of four under his father. Later he studied under Ponnani Bapu Gurukkal, a famous Kalaripayattu expert in central Kerala. Abdullakutty Gurukkal also acquired expertise in the Tulunadu style under Abdu Khader Gurukkal at Bhatkal in Karnataka. The Lubaina Kalari was first set up at Thalassery. In the course of his 40-year teaching career, Abdullakutty Gurukkal has trained more than 10,000 students, including Moses Tilak, the Indian Karate master. At present, Abdul Jaleel Gurukkal, Abdullakutty Gurukkal’s son, is the asan at Lubaina Kalari, and works as an instructor at Ernakulam Regional Sports Centre.  His sons Mujeeb Rahman and Shuhaib are also Kalaripayattu trainers. Besides, the main centre, Lubaina Kalari has 10 branches in Ernakulam itself and another at Bengaluru. Abdul Jaleel Gurukkal has been training students for the past 25 years. He is an expert in treating and curing bone-, nerve- and muscle-related issues too. Lubaina Kalari teaches the traditional mid-Kerala style of Kalaripayattu which focuses on body control and self-defence. It does not offer short-term or crash courses because Gurukkal believes that even a full lifetime is inadequate to learn the nuances of Kalaripayattu. Besides, he believes, regular exercise and practice is the only way towards mastering the martial art. Despite such an uncompromising stand, Gurukkal has many students, among them, foreigners from Malaysia, France and other countries. The centre at Edapally offers training all year long. The others in Ernakulam give training only three days a week, and the one in Bengaluru, twice a week, on Saturdays and Sundays. Lubaina has conceptualized a special training programme for girls in self-defence, called Pink Shields. It does not require any physical training but equips girls to face attackers and resist them in a crisis situation. Over the past two years, more than 1,000 girls have been given training in Pink Shields. This programme is conducted at schools, colleges and voluntary organizations, and has received very enthusiastic response so far.  Lubaina Kalari conducts Kalaripayattu performances and action choreography all over India.   

Shifa Kalari, Kalpetta

Shifa Kalari that has been in existence for over 40 years follows the gurukulam system of educating residential scholars. Ibrahim Gurukkal, the founder of this kalari, is the student of Muhammed Gurukkal, one of the Trinity of Northern Kalari (the others being Ali Gurukkal and Yusuf Gurukkal). He started his training in Kalaripayattu at the age of seven. Today, at the age of 61, he is helped by his son, Rasik Ali, an Ayurvedic doctor by training. Shifa Kalari is a thara kalari, and has no Poothara or any deity. As a result, there are no propitiatory rituals either. Anyone interested in learning Kalaripayattu, no matter what his religion, is welcome here. Shorn of all traditional and ritualistic paraphernalia, this martial art is taught as a useful technique of self-defence for the modern generation.   Training is imparted to students after enquiring about their aims or purposes and analysing their physical stamina. Some people come here to reduce their obesity, others to improve their levels of concentration, yet others to find cure for their aches and pains. At present, 20 students have enrolled themselves here for the training. They have earned gold medals at state- and national-levels. Classes are conducted twice a week to suit the convenience of school- and college-going students. Those who wish to compete for championships are given appropriate, high-level training. Foreign students from Italy, Germany, France, South Africa, the Netherlands, Ukraine and Russia come here to learn Kalaripayattu, Marmachikitsa and so on.  Special training programmes have been designed for girls to help them ward off attackers and defend themselves. Recently 33 girl students from Chundel R. C. School underwent this training here. Thus Shifa Kalari excels in imparting need-based training. On invitation, the personnel at Shifa go to tourist resorts in the region as well as foreign countries for Kalaripayattu performances, to schools and other institutions to conduct lecture-demonstration sessions, and participate in activities organized by cultural institutions like the Nehru Yuva Kendra. Shifa Kalari is a member of the Kalari Federation of India (KFI).  Ibrahim Gurukkal has been a member of the judging panel of the National Kalari Championships for the past five years, and is also a member of the Technical Committee of the Kalari Grading Committee. 

Shyni Marma Thirummu Kalaripayattu Sangham, Neyyattinkara

This kalari excels in imparting the Southern style of Kalaripayattu, under the leadership of Babu Gurukkal who has been at the helm for the past 34 years. He was trained by his father Keshavan Asan. Babu Gurukkal has trained all his four daughters in Kalaripayattu. Two of them Sheena and Shani were champions at the district- and state-levels in Kalaripayattu championships. Sheena is now a Kalaripayattu instructor in a school in Poonthura in Thiruvananthapuram. Babu Gurukkal has taught more than 10,000 students so far. Currently, 200 students are undergoing training, and classes are conducted on Sundays to suit their convenience. On demand, Babu Gurukkal goes to individual houses too to train people. Occasionally he gets invited to do a Kalaripayattu performance in front of tourists at Kovalam resorts. Enthralled by it, many from France, England and America have sought his expertise to learn the art. He takes in students as young as five years and as old as 65. According to him, genuine interest is the most important aspect. He offers massage treatment too at his centre to cure sprains, bruises and related ailments, using medicated oils brewed under his personal supervision.

Spears and shield
Sri Rudra C. V. N. Kalari, Kottayam

Sri Rudra C. V. N. Kalari is situated close to famous tourist centres like Kumarakom and Wagamon. Ajithkumar Gurukkal, the founder of this kalari, was the student of Malabar Vasudeva Gurukkal who belongs to the C. V. N. tradition. He established it in 1996, after having first learnt under his father Karunakaran Nair too. Sri Rudra is a kuzhi kalari and it focuses on Meypayattu, which is the cornerstone of the Northern style. Besides daily Kalaripayattu classes from 5 to 8 in the morning and 5 to 7 in the evenings, it offers yoga classes as well, three times a week. Children from the age of seven are taken in for training programmes. No upper age limit has been fixed to induct interested pupils. According to a rough estimate, Sri Rudra must have trained at least 4,000 students in Kalaripayattu by now. At present nearly 80 students have been given admission for Kalaripayattu training. Women too enrol themselves for his courses, most of whom are physical education instructors at schools. Foreign students from countries like Japan, Switzerland and France have come here and signed up for short courses. Most prefer short-term programmes. Gurukkal travels all over Kerala and India to give Kalaripayattu performances in front of invited audiences, and participates in cultural events as well. Students are given massage treatment and Marmachikitsa in the month of Karkidakam (July-August). Many foreigners also come here for treatment or rejuvenation therapies. All the oils required for massage and treatment are manufactured here itself. Accommodation facilities for up to eight inpatients are available, along with Kerala food. Sri Rudra Kalari is a recipient of the Membership Certificate issued by Responsible Tourism Mission of the Government of Kerala, that is valid for a period of three years, from 2018 to 2021. As it is a member of the Arts and Cultural Forum of Responsible Tourism Mission, many foreign tourists flock towards the kalari to watch the performances conducted there.   On advance notice, Sri Rudra Kalari arranges Kalaripayattu performances, as well as Kerala’s own traditional dance forms, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam. 

Gadhas and sticks
Thekkady Kalari Centre

The Thekkady Kalari Centre is only seven years old. It is not a traditional Kalaripayattu training centre. A team of seven men that run this unit conduct regular Kalaripayattu performances in a kuzhi kalari. All of them have been trained in the Northern style of Kalaripayattu. Until sometime back, students used to come here for training. But that has come to a stop. The practice is now to pick students and put them through training, usually in the mornings. The Thekkady Kalari team does not go anywhere for conducting programmes. When bookings are done at the tourist resorts at Thekkady, the team arranges a one-hour show. Besides Kalaripayattu, they perform Kathakali as well.

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