Showcasing the Oldest Indian Martial arts
Sharmila is a trained classical yoga teacher promoting Kalari and Kalari Vaidya. Sharmila shares her story with The Hans India
Kalaripayattu or the oldest surviving Indian Martial arts is supposedly coming from God's Own Country, which is none other than Kerala. I had the opportunity to witness these amazing artists at work, whose swift movements would stun even the kung-fu experts.
Those who have seen the value and worth in Kalari have been practicing and promoting this ancient art and one such teacher who decided to showcase this cultural heritage on her platform is Sharmila –a trained Classical Hatha Yoga teacher from Isha Foundation.
From a yoga practitioner to a teacher and promoter of Kalari and Kalari Vaidya, Sharmila decided to offer an amalgamation of all the above to those interested in their holistic well-being. Attributing her perseverance, flexibility and focus to Yoga, she insists this is one investment that will pay off rich dividends.
Let's look and the toil behind this saga of kalari and what it takes to get there. Here's her story, in her own words
How and when did this thought originate?
My stint with Yoga started in May 2009 after completing Inner Engineering program. I happened to see Isha Samskriti children performing Kalaripayattu at various events. These children amazed me in many ways.
Their extraordinary performing skills, bending and twisting their bodies in unimaginable ways, their focus, alertness, above all the equanimity and exuberance bowled me over. More than anything else, it's their pleasant demeanor to which I was drawn.
I just admired the way they were. The urge to understand this art form was getting intense within me. It was through Sadhguru's talks I got a better understanding of this incredible art.
Could you share the history of Kalari and science behind it?
(In Sadhguru's words) This martial art form was essentially taught by Agastya Muni as self-defense against wild animals. It's not just about kicks and punches but learning to use the body in every possible way. So, it not only involves exercise and other aspects of agility, it also involves understanding the energy system.
The Kalari practitioners who dedicate enough time, energy and focus they will naturally move towards yoga because anything that came from Agastya cannot be any other way than being spiritual. This is a consciously evolved art that comes from a deep understanding of the human system and the science of how to evolve it to its highest potential.
It is also said that Parashurama was another great teacher of Kalari. He single-handedly slaughtered armies because of his phenomenal martial art capabilities.
He taught one school which flowed from the North of Malabar, and Agastya Muni's school came from the South. Parashuram's method used all kinds of weapons – hand weapons, throwing weapons, various kinds of weapons – but Agastya Muni's martial art grew without any weapons, it was all hand.
How did it become a game-changer for you?
This inspired me to take a huge step in my life to get trained as Hatha Yoga teacher. I got certified as a Hatha Yoga teacher in 2014.
Fired with a strong sense of responsibility and a deep urge to take these precious tools and knowledge to the people, I started travelling to many places teaching Yoga.
These 6 years of journey as a hatha yoga teacher was incredible. At the same time the dream to establish a yoga studio and Kalaripayattu training was getting intense. This led me to start Shyama Yoga studio in June 2019.
I was in search of Kalari master and also to get treatment for my spinal injury. At this juncture I happened to meet Kalari master and Vaidya Sri Anandan Gurukkal in Kerala, humble and a great guru. While undergoing treatment I got an opportunity to train his children on Angamardana ( Intense fitness module of Hatha Yoga) and also to observe Kalaripayattu training.
Every day I spent a few hours in his Kalari premises, watching children practicing kalari. It demands enormous levels of physical capabilities and mental discipline. This enables children to realize their full potential and to their overall development which I feel is mandatory today.
I realized that Hatha Yoga and Kalaripayattu can offer an ideal environment for children to grow up with phenomenal discipline and strength within. So, I started working on realizing my second dream of establishing Shyama school of Kalaripayattu.
Could you briefly tell us about the kalari process done in your school?
We have an experienced master or Guru Sri Anandan. Here in Shyama school we follow Parasurama Kalaripayattu. As the tradition demands we mounted a Poothara, which is a small, upwardly tapering, seven-tiered structure standing at the south-western corner of the kalari.
Symbolically, it is said to represent the seven chakras or wheels of power embedded in the subtle body of humans. A Shiva linga is placed on the topmost step. This entire structure is Poothara and is worshipped with offerings of flowers.
There is another elevated spot in the kalari, between the Poothara and the western pillar, called the Guruthara where the ancient, nameless masters of Kalaripayattu are worshipped.
The weapons used during the exercises are placed in the vacant space between the Poothara and the western main pillar.
We here in Shyama offer a unique blend of classical Hatha yoga practices and kalaripayattu training to children from 7 years and above.