Kalari Vandanam

Kalari Vandanam: The Sacred Salutation of Kerala’s Martial Tradition

In the heart of Kerala’s lush landscapes, the ancient martial art of Kalaripayattu thrives. While the combat techniques and postures are often highlighted, there’s a lesser-known yet integral aspect called “Kalari Vandanam.” This ritualistic salutation is not just a mere formality but a deep dive into the art’s spiritual essence. Let’s explore the significance of it.

What is Kalari Vandanam?

It is a series of salutations performed by Kalaripayattu practitioners before they begin their training sessions. “Vandanam” translates to “salutation” or “paying respects” in Malayalam. It’s a way of showing gratitude to the masters, the training ground and the divine forces that oversee the practice.

The Steps of Salutation

It starts with the practitioner standing at the entrance of the Kuzhi Kalari (training ground), offering prayers to the guardian deity of the Kalari, usually Lord Shiva or the warrior-saint Parasurama. Following this, the practitioner moves in a specific pattern around the Kalari, saluting the eight directions, representing the universe’s vast expanse.

Beyond Physical Acknowledgment

While the physical movements are essential, the mental and spiritual aspects of the Vandanam are paramount. As the practitioner moves, they meditate on the teachings of their masters, the wisdom of the art and seek blessings for a fruitful training session. It’s a moment of introspection, grounding and connection.

The Significance of Kalari Vandanam

The Vandanam serves multiple purposes:

  • Respect for the Tradition: By saluting the masters and the divine, the practitioner acknowledges the lineage and the rich history of Kalaripayattu.
  • Mental Preparation: The ritual helps the practitioner transition from the outside world, clearing their mind and focusing on the training ahead.
  • Spiritual Connection: The Vandanam is a bridge between the physical and spiritual realms, emphasizing that Kalaripayattu is not just about combat but also inner growth.

Kalari Vandanam in Modern Times

While Kalaripayattu has evolved and adapted to modern times, the essence of Kalari Vandanam remains unchanged. Today’s practitioners, whether in Kerala or globally, still perform this salutation, understanding its timeless significance.


Kalari Vandanam is a beautiful blend of movement, meditation and gratitude. It encapsulates the ethos of Kalaripayattu, reminding practitioners that martial arts are not just about physical prowess but also about respect, discipline and spiritual growth.


Q: What does “Kalari Vandanam” mean?
A: “Kalari Vandanam” combines two Malayalam words: “Kalari,” which refers to the training ground or arena for Kalaripayattu and “Vandanam,” which means salutation or paying respects. Together, they represent the ritualistic salutations performed before a Kalaripayattu training session.

Q: Why is Kalari Vandanam important in Kalaripayattu?
A: Kalari Vandanam is crucial as it sets the tone for the training session. It allows practitioners to show gratitude to their masters, the art itself and the divine. It also mentally and spiritually prepares them for the session ahead.

Q: Is Kalari Vandanam practiced by all Kalaripayattu students?
A: Yes, regardless of their level or expertise, all Kalaripayattu students are taught the importance of Kalari Vandanam and are expected to perform it before every training session.

Q: Can Kalari Vandanam be modified or changed?
A: While the essence of Kalari Vandanam remains consistent, different schools or “Gurukuls” of Kalaripayattu might have slight variations in the sequence or the prayers chanted. However, the core philosophy and purpose remain unchanged.

Q: How long does the Kalari Vandanam ritual take?
A: The duration can vary based on the specific practices of a Kalaripayattu school, but generally, it takes a few minutes, serving as a brief yet essential preamble to the training session.

Q: Is Kalari Vandanam unique to Kalaripayattu?
A: While the concept of paying respects or saluting before training is common in many martial arts, the specific rituals, prayers and sequences of the Vandanam are unique to Kalaripayattu and its rich tradition.