kerala tourism


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. 

C V N Kalari Chikitsa Kendram Private Limited
Fort P.O., Thiruvananthapuram, Pin: 695023
Tel : 91 471 2474182
Mobile : 91 9746474182

Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, Park View, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India - 695 033
Phone: +91 471 2321132, Fax: +91 471 2322279, E-mail:
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