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December 31, 2017

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  MEENAKSHI: 78-YEAR-OLD EXPONENT OF KALARIPPAYATTU
Meenakshi, Kayakkandy, Puthuppanam, Vatakara, Kozhikode

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At the age of 78 when most men and women would nurse the maladies of old age, here is a woman exponent of Kalarippayattu who is actively handling the weapons of the martial art with effortless ease.  This model grandmother is Meenakshi from Kayakkandy, Puthuppanam, Vatakara, Kozhikode who has been conferred the Padmashree by the nation.

As a young child her interest was in dance.  It was her dance teacher Damu master who noticed that her sharp body movements were more suited for the practice of Kalari.  So at the age of 7 she offered dakshina to the guru and started practicing kalarippayattu.

Within a short while, she started outshining even boys in the kalari.  Even when other girls dropped out as they reached maturity, she continued the practice- so much was her dedication. 

Her guru was 16 year old Raghavan master who later became her husband.  During the festival seasons, there would be the exhibition of kalarippayat at local temples.  At that time, the exhibition duals of husband and wife used to attract breathless attention from spectators.

A Kalarippayat trainee has to pass through four stages: bodily flexibility, fighting with sticks, fighting with weapons and finally bare handed combat.  Only those who pass through each stage successfully get admission to the next stage.

Her guruís motto was never to treat kalarippayat as a means to make money.  Except for the gurudakshina that the trainees offer at the time of joining the academy, there is no obligation to pay any money.  However, when the kalari school is in financial need, it so happens that former students or some others will come forward to help tide over the situation.

After the demise of her husband-guru, her two sons and two daughters are assisting her in running the kalari school.  There is a healthy interest in Kalarippayattu these days and families come together to practice it - the parents as a way to combat lifestyle diseases and the children as a form of self-defence and health.

 

 

Courtesy: T. Aneesh (text), Vanitha, March 1-14, 2017

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