Discover the ancient martial art of Kalaripayattu and its unique training ground, the Kuzhi Kalari. This traditional pit, deeply rooted in Kerala’s cultural heritage, is more than just a physical space—it is a symbol of discipline, knowledge and the rich history of southern India’s martial arts.
The Architecture of Kuzhi Kalari
Kuzhi Kalari, a term derived from the Malayalam words for ‘pit’ (kuzhi) and ‘training space’ (kalari), is designed in accordance with Vastu Shastra, the ancient Indian science of architecture and energy. Practitioners of the northern style of Kalaripayattu regularly use this space, which is excavated to a depth of four feet and is surrounded by earthen walls. The floor is a special mixture of red sand and medicinal herbs, aiding in the healing of minor injuries that may occur during vigorous training sessions. Typically, it measures 42 feet in length, 21 feet in width. These dimensions are deliberately chosen because they are thought to capture specific energies that are beneficial for practicing Kalari.
The Spiritual Essence
The eastern-facing entrance of the Kalari leads to a spiritual domain, symbolized by the Poothara—a seven-tiered platform that embodies the annamaya kosha, or the physical sheath of the human body. The lotus bud-shaped kumbha at its pinnacle signifies the divine presence and the subtle light of consciousness within the heart.
The Sacred Corners
The Kalari is also a place of worship, home to the Ganapatithara and Guruthara. These sacred spaces honor Lord Ganapati, the deity known for removing obstacles, and the Guru, the revered teacher who continues the lineage of Kalaripayattu masters. Symbols such as the otta (a tusk-shaped wooden stick) and the paduka (footwear) are placed in these areas, representing the divine and the tradition of the Gurukkals, respectively.
Rituals and Practices
Daily rituals are integral to the Kuzhi Kalari, with lamps lit near the Poothara, Ganapatithara, and Guruthara to honor the divine. Offerings of tulsi leaves and hibiscus flowers are made, and both the Guru and students show their reverence through traditional gestures of respect.
The Kalari becomes a hub of festivity during auspicious days like Durgashtami, Mahanavami and Vijayadashami. Weapons are worshiped, and rituals such as the Ganapati homa and Bhagavati seva are performed, followed by the Kalari puja, reinforcing the spiritual discipline that underlies this martial art.
Kuzhi Kalari is not merely a physical space for martial arts training but a sanctified arena where body, mind, and spirit are honed under the watchful eyes of deities and the guiding hands of masters. It is a testament to the timeless traditions of Kalaripayattu, embodying a holistic approach to personal development and martial proficiency.
Q: What is the significance of the Poothara in Kuzhi Kalari?
A: The Poothara represents the physical aspects of a practitioner, with each of its seven steps symbolizing the seven elements that constitute the human body according to Ayurveda.
Q: Why does the entrance of a Kuzhi Kalari face east?
A: The east-facing entrance aligns with traditional Vastu Shastra principles, channeling positive energy and auspiciousness into the Kalari.
Q: What are the rituals performed in Kuzhi Kalari?
A: Daily rituals include lighting lamps and offering prayers at the Poothara, Ganapatithara and Guruthara, with special ceremonies conducted during significant festivals.
Q: How does the construction of Kuzhi Kalari aid in martial arts practice?
A: The structure, built as per Vastu Shastra, and the use of medicinal herbs in the sand are believed to create an environment conducive to physical training and spiritual growth.
Q: Who are the Kalari devatas?
A: The Kalari devatas are various deities, including Brahma and the presiding deities of the eight directions, invoked to protect and bless the Kalari and its practitioners.