Ashta Vadivukal

One of the most intriguing and captivating aspects of Kalaripayattu is the concept of “Vadivukal,” which refers to the animal forms or postures that are an integral part of this martial art. These animal forms not only add a unique dimension to Kalaripayattu but also hold spiritual, cultural and physical significance. In this blog, we will delve into some of the key Vadivukal in Kalaripayattu, including Gaja Vadivu, Ashwa Vadivu, Simha Vadivu, Sarpa Vadivu, Marjara Vadivu, Malsya Vadivu, Kukkuda Vadivu, Mayoora Vadivu and Varaha Vadivu.

1. Gaja Vadivu – The Elephant Form

Gaja Vadivu, also known as the Elephant Posture, emulates the strength and stability of an elephant. Practitioners perform this form by adopting postures that resemble an elephant’s movements and stances. The Gaja Vadivu emphasizes the importance of balance and control, promoting both physical and mental strength.

2. Ashwa Vadivu – The Horse Form

Ashwa Vadivu, or the Horse Posture, draws inspiration from the grace and agility of a horse. This form emphasizes swiftness and speed, making it a crucial component in Kalaripayattu. Practitioners learn to move with the fluidity and elegance of a horse, which enhances their mobility and reflexes.

3. Simha Vadivu – The Lion Form

Simha Vadivu, representing the Lion Posture, incorporates elements of fearlessness and ferocity. In this form, Kalaripayattu practitioners harness the powerful attributes of a lion to develop courage and self-assuredness. Simha Vadivu teaches practitioners to confront challenges with unwavering determination.

4. Sarpa Vadivu – The Snake Form

Sarpa Vadivu, or the Snake Posture, embodies the serpentine movements of a snake. This form emphasizes flexibility and the ability to move with agility in tight spaces. Practicing Sarpa Vadivu enhances a practitioner’s adaptability and stealth.

5. Marjara Vadivu – The Cat Form

Marjara Vadivu, known as the Cat Posture, focuses on cultivating the grace and agility of a cat. By emulating the fluid and agile movements of a feline, practitioners develop a heightened sense of balance and flexibility. This vadivu is crucial for enhancing overall body control.

6. Malsya Vadivu – The Fish Form

Malsya Vadivu, the Fish Posture, draws inspiration from the aquatic world. It encourages Kalaripayattu practitioners to explore buoyancy, fluidity and the ability to move seamlessly through various spaces. This form aids in developing breath control and body alignment.

7. Kukkuda Vadivu – The Rooster Form

Kukkuda Vadivu, or the Rooster Posture, mirrors the strength and agility of a rooster. Practitioners learn to strike with precision and develop powerful leg movements. Kukkuda Vadivu is essential for building strong legs and enhancing kicking techniques in Kalaripayattu.

8. Mayoora Vadivu – The Peacock Form

Mayoora Vadivu, the Peacock Posture, imitates the grace and beauty of a peacock. It helps practitioners focus on balance and precision, requiring them to perform intricate movements and stances with elegance. Mayoora Vadivu is often associated with aesthetics and poise.

9. Varaha Vadivu – The Boar Form

Varaha Vadivu, representing the Boar Posture, emphasizes strength and defense. Practitioners emulate the boar’s strong and forceful movements to develop power and resilience. This form is crucial for mastering defensive techniques in Kalaripayattu.


The vadivukal in Kalaripayattu are not just physical postures; they represent a harmonious blend of physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of this ancient martial art. These animal forms play a vital role in shaping the skills and character of Kalaripayattu practitioners, making them not only formidable fighters but also individuals who embody the strength, grace, and courage of the animal kingdom. Each vadivu has its unique significance and contributes to the holistic development of those who practice Kalaripayattu.


Q: What are the Astha Vadivu in Kalaripayattu?
A: The Astha Vadivu are the eight animal postures in Kalaripayattu that mimic the traits of an elephant, horse, lion, snake, cat, fish, rooster and boar, each enhancing specific martial skills.

Q: How do the Astha Vadivu benefit Kalaripayattu practitioners?
A: Practicing the Astha Vadivu improves strength, flexibility, balance and agility, while also cultivating mental focus and embodying the animal kingdom’s spiritual essence.

Q: Can beginners in Kalaripayattu practice the Astha Vadivukal?
A: Yes, beginners are introduced to the Astha Vadivu early on, as these forms are fundamental to building the core skills required in Kalaripayattu.

Q: Do the Astha Vadivu have health benefits?
A: Yes, the Astha Vadivu can improve physical health by enhancing flexibility, joint mobility and overall body strength. And they also have mental health benefits like stress reduction.

Q: Are the Astha Vadivu unique to Kalaripayattu?
A: While inspired by common animal movements, the Astha Vadivu are unique to Kalaripayattu, tailored to its specific martial techniques and spiritual practices.

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