Why was Kalaripayattu banned?

In the history of Indian martial arts, Kalaripayattu stands as a testament to a rich tradition of physical prowess, mental discipline, and cultural heritage. Originating in the southern state of Kerala, Kalaripayattu encompasses a diverse array of combat techniques, weaponry skills, and spiritual practices. However, despite its illustrious history and profound cultural significance, Kalaripayattu has not been immune to the specter of prohibition and suppression.

Colonial Suppression

Back in the colonial times when the British ruled India, they didn’t like local traditions and practices that made people strong and independent. Kalaripayattu, which was a big part of Kerala’s culture and made people physically strong and skilled in fighting, was seen as a threat to the British rule. People who practiced Kalaripayattu felt confident and empowered, which the British didn’t like because it could challenge their control. So, they made strict rules and sometimes even banned Kalaripayattu to stop any chance of people rebelling against them.

Martial Law and Rebellion

Kalaripayattu fighters, called Kalari warriors, were often leaders in standing up against unfair governments. They didn’t just use their fighting skills for battles but also to show they wouldn’t accept being controlled. Because of this, those in power saw Kalaripayattu as a spark for protests and revolts. In some places where people were unhappy with rulers, Kalaripayattu was banned to stop any chances of uprising.

Misconceptions and Stigmatization

Some people wrongly thought of Kalaripayattu as a savage and old-fashioned fighting style. This misunderstanding, along with prejudices against traditional practices, led to Kalaripayattu being pushed aside in society. In a time when modern ways and Western culture were becoming more important, indigenous martial arts like Kalaripayattu were looked down upon. These unfair views influenced policymakers to ban Kalaripayattu because they gave in to societal pressures and didn’t understand its true value.

Cultural Shifts and Decline

Kalaripayattu started fading away because Kerala was changing quickly. More cities and factories were being built, and old customs like martial arts weren’t as important anymore. Younger people were more interested in Western ways of living, so they didn’t want to learn Kalaripayattu’s tough training anymore. With fewer people practicing it, Kalaripayattu became less popular and started to disappear.


the ban on Kalaripayattu is a multifaceted phenomenon rooted in historical, political, and cultural dynamics. While colonial suppression, rebellion, misconceptions, and cultural shifts have all contributed to its marginalization, the spirit of Kalaripayattu endures as a symbol of resilience and cultural pride. Efforts to revive and preserve this ancient martial art serve as a testament to its enduring legacy and timeless significance in the tapestry of Indian heritage.


Q: When was Kalaripayattu banned?
A: Kalaripayattu faced bans due to various reasons, including colonial suppression, misconceptions, stigmatization, martial law, and cultural shifts. It was perceived as a threat by ruling authorities and misunderstood by some as a primitive form of combat.

Q: Who banned Kalaripayattu?
A: Colonial administrators, local authorities, and policymakers were involved in banning Kalaripayattu, driven by political, social, and cultural factors.

Q: Was Kalaripayattu banned everywhere?
A: Bans on Kalaripayattu were not universal; they varied in scope and intensity depending on regional dynamics and the attitudes of ruling powers. Some regions faced stricter regulations than others.

Q: Was Kalaripayattu banned permanently?
A: Bans on Kalaripayattu were not necessarily permanent. They could be lifted or relaxed over time, especially as cultural attitudes and political landscapes evolved.

Q: Are there still restrictions on Kalaripayattu today?
A: While the bans contributed to a decline in the practice and patronage of Kalaripayattu in certain periods and regions, the martial art has persisted through efforts to preserve and revive it.