THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As Gayathri A V and Gopika A V performed ‘Ottachuvadu’ throwing several punches into the air, the enthralling audience comprising girls of their age burst into thunderous applause. These sisters along with a team of 10 boys made a performance exhibition of ‘kalaripayattu’ in the Cotton Hill Government Girls’ Higher Secondary School here as part of launching a campaign ‘Health and Confidence through Kalaripayattu’ to equip students to fight and flight in an emergency. Organised by Travancore School of Kalaripayattu at Poonthura, the exhibition is being conducted in the city schools by a team of trained ‘Kalaripayattu’ performers for the next two months. Propagating a message for the physical and mental well-being of students through learning ‘kalaripayattu’, the campaign has stepped into its second phase, by successfully completing the first stage in September.
Intended to inculcate the values of physical and spiritual discipline, the team has made 13 performances belonging to five major attacks in Kalaripayattu. Three varieties of ‘Kaiporu’, two moves in ‘Kuruvadi’, ‘Chuvadu’ and ‘Vandanam’, ‘Kattara’, ‘Valum Valum’, ‘Mei Payattu’ and ‘Urumi’ offered the student gathering a visual treat on various levels of the traditional martial art.
On a mission to teach school students ‘kalaripayattu’, G Radhakrishnan, secretary of the Travancore School of Kalaripayattu says, “In the present scenario, students are found to be lacking the ability to overcome physical and mental troubles. Our aim is to enable them in strengthening these faculties through martial arts. And all the expenses towards training will be afforded by us.”The study package includes providing training for students in the five major steps in Kalaripayattu, beginning with ‘vandana chuvadu’, a prayer sequence, where the Kalapayattu performer offers prayers to the almighty. Based on the sloka ‘Ekam thath Vipra Bahuda Vadanthi’ adopted from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the almighty can either be god, nature, sun or any source of energy. In the south Kerala style, male gods dominate whereas in Northern parts goddesses are worshiped. ‘Mey Payattu’ equips oneself to proceed to further steps. It readies the arms and body to carry out other steps.
‘Kaipporu’ enables a performer to defend themselves in the absence of equipment. ‘Kuruvadi Neduvadi’ , is an attack using a short stick, ‘Kuruvadi’ of 18 inches and ‘Neduvadi’ of five feet. Vital points of the body are attacked using these sticks. ‘Ankathari’ is fighting with sharp weapons. The pair includes, two swords, sword and ‘paricha’, ‘spear, sword and ‘paricha’, curling blade (urumi) and ‘paricha’.
The fiery performances kept the student audience spellbound for minutes. The fire spark from the weapons and the flexible movements of the performers captivated the students. Gayathri who has been learning Kalaripayattu for years is “thrilled” to have studied the art. In her opinion, “practicing ‘Kalaripayattu’ helps in gaining more concentration and withstand fears.”
Mary Sislet Princela, principal headmistress of the school said that “At a time when girls are receiving threats of varied kinds from the society, practicing art forms like ‘kalaripayattu’ would be good for self-defence.” The performance lasted for nearly half an hour.