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Indian martial art Kalarippayattu needs to be a part of educational curriculum

I did not think that Kalaripayattu (called Kalari in short), the famous martial arts from Kerala in India could ever be attempted by non-athletic persons. I have seen skilled experts leaping around with their sticks, swords and shields, but it always seemed like a very esoteric art. At many traditional schools in India such as VidyaKshetra, Kalari is being taught and when I observed the students, I felt a sense of regret that my aging body is not flexible like theirs.

Recently, however, at the National Youth Conference organized at Chinmaya Vishwa Vidyapeeth (CVV) in Kerala under the auspices of the Indian Knowledge Systems (IKS) initiative of the Government of India, I found that all delegates were expected to wake up early in the morning and join the Kalari class. Jet-lagged as I was after travelling from America, I barely slept four hours in the night and made my way to the area where a number of people had lined up. To my surprise, I found many prominent delegates participating in the exercises including the Director of CVV herself. As we went about following instructions and copying movements, I observed that it was not as hard as I thought. The only problem was that mosquitoes had decided to extract all their lunches and dinners from my body, and I had no option but to try and kill them even as I made the moves. After a while, I was surprised to find that I felt a lot more energetic and agile than I was when I woke up.

Both the science and art behind the martial discipline were palpable. I marvelled at the dance-like moves of the instructors and felt a sense of wonder for the knowledge-centred Bharatiya civilization that integrated balance, breathing and aesthetics into every discipline, even the martial arts. It is well-known that an Indian yogi named Bodhidharma took the martial arts of India to China where it developed further in the temple of Shaolin.


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