A kalari derived from the Sanskrit 'kalaoorika', literally meaning a 'design space' is a traditional training space.

Various forms of kalari were designed to meet various requirements of society. Lord Parashurama redesigned the evolving eight forms of kalari and established the eight house playschool.

Currently, the martial and therapeutic school of kalari is the most popular, having adapted ayurveda, yoga, yama, niyama and other forms in it.

Kalari teachersEdit

Gurukkal with Student

The teacher in kalari is called Guru or Gurukkal or Asan. Teachers of Ezhuthu Kalari or Ezhuthu Palli[1] too were known as Asan or Ezhuthassan. According to L. Anantha Krishna Iyer, the traditional astrologer caste Ganaka or Kaniyar were the preceptors of fencing techniques.[2] They are still addressed by the title Panickar in certain regions of Kerala.[3] It has been mentioned in the ancient historical work Keralolpathi. Although the contents are chiefly of legendary in nature, according to Keralolpathy, Kalaripayattu was brought to Kerala by Lord Parashurama.[3]

Construction of a kalariEdit

Traditionally the kalari is constructed by digging a hollow in the ground forming a sunken area four feet in depth, forty-two feet in length and twenty-one feet in breadth. This is usually called kuzhikalari. Kuzhi means "portions formed by caving in the earth" in Malayalam.

The entrance to the Kalari is in the east, to let in the morning sunlight, and leads into the 42-foot leg running east–west while the 21-foot leg runs north–south. Another consideration taken when constructing the kalari is that it is built in the south-west side of the main plot, just like the puttara which is kept in the south-west corner of the kalari itself. The floor of the kalari is leveled using mud.

In the southern and central Kerala some kalaries were constructed in circular form, and weapons and other instruments were placed on one end, and outside the circular arc the students used to sit and watch the training.

Ankakalari and ankathattuEdit

Ankathattu is a four- to six-foot-high platform constructed temporarily for the purpose of fighting duels. "Ankam" means "war" in Malayalam. This platform is constructed as per tradition and is in the center of the ground from where people can watch the fight. The entire arrangement is called ankakalari.

Historically, in Kerala, quarrels between local rulers were resolved by fixing an ankam, a duel to the death, between two ankachekavars, each ruler being represented by one ankachekavar. The ruler represented by the surviving ankachekavar was considered the winner.

Kalari in literary worksEdit

Information about kalari is found in the Tamil literary work Purananuru. The word "kalari" appears in the Puram (verses 225, 237, 245, 356) and Akam (verses 34, 231, 293) to describe to both a battlefield and combat arena. It speaks of the kalari talents of the Cheras.


  1. ^ Mohan, Anupama (2012). Utopia and the Village in South Asian Literatures. New Delhi: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 142.
  2. ^ L. Krishna Anantha Krishna Iyer (Diwan Bahadur); The Cochin tribes and castes; 1909
  3. ^ a b Edgar Thurston, K. Rangachari : Castes and tribes of Southern India: Volume 1 :2001 :Page 178