CVN Kalari Sangham in ThiruvananthapuramLocated inside the historic East Fort in Thiruvananthapuram, CVN Kalari Sangham is dedicated to the preservation of Kerala’s unique martial arts form, kalarippayattu and in training those who would like to learn it. It was established in 1956 by C V Govindan Kutty Nair Gurukkal to impart training in the northern Kerala style of kalarippayattu. Kalari Sangham today attracts traditional martial arts enthusiasts, from all over India and many parts of the world, who come here to study and train themselves in the art. It has branches in other parts of the country and organises national-level workshops and performances to popularize the martial art. A kalarichikitsa, which specialises in ayurvedic orthopedic treatment, is attached to the Kalari.
CVN Kalari Sangham has played a pioneering role in reviving the ancient martial art of kalarippayattu which is recognised as the predecessor of other martial arts in Asia. Soon many others in Kerala followed in its footsteps and established their own schools resulting in a full scale revival of kalarippayattu. Kalari offers long duration courses of one and two years as well as short term courses of three and six months. Classes are held twice a day in a traditional arena with an earthen floor. Demonstrations and workshops are also organized for small groups with an advance notice of at least 14 days. Small groups of visitors are allowed in daily to watch the students training from the visitors gallery. The building which once had a thatched roof has been modernized today.
Training at CVN Kalari Sangham often begins at the tender age of nine. The novice has to attend practice daily and follow a set of rituals associated with the martial art that inculcate discipline and concentration. The training arena consists of a large pit 5-feet below ground level, covered with red clay. In the south-west corner is a seven-tiered platform that acts as the shrine of the guardian deity. The training consists of preparing the body for combat with a series of exercises and training in the use of wooden weapons and metal weapons. The combatants wear a white cotton loin cloth and smear their bodies with herbal oils at the start of each session.
The tradition of kalarippayattu was perfected by the warrior clans of Kerala, over the centuries and consists of a series of elegant manoeuvers with and without weapons. This can take the form of jumps, strikes, kicks and grapples. Weapons used in kalarippayattu include long wooden staffs, curved wooden weapons and maces as well as daggers, long knives, swords and shields. To be noted is the use of the flexible sword or urumi, unique to kalarippayattu. At the highest level, combatants were taught to disable opponents merely by striking vital points of the body.
Kalarichikitsa is a specialized branch of ayurvedic medicine dedicated to treatment of injuries sustained while doing kalarippayattu. It part of the training at Kalari and students learn about the application of special techniques, perfected over the years, for various sprains, fractures, dislocations, neuro-muscular disorders and other injuries.
Location: At East Fort, M G Road.
How to get there: In the heart of Thiruvananthapuram, not far from the Central Bus Depot and Central Railway Station.
Timings: 7.30 am – 8.30 am.
Restrictions: Permission necessary for photography.