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Kalaripayattu to Thang-ta: Ancient Martial Arts That Reflect India’s Diverse Culture


India, a vibrant country with ethnic and cultural diversity, is an abode of ancient martial arts that are timelessly practised and recognised even today. These graceful martial art movements were once fierce fighting techniques employed in the battlefields. But today, they’re practicing for self defence as well as to acquire physical fitness. From Kalaripayattu to Thang-ta, here are a few ancient martial arts that pave the way for mental, physical and spiritual journey to empower and discover oneself. 


Kalaripayattu, the mother of martial arts, is the oldest martial art of India that stemmed from Kerala in the 3rd century. It was founded by Parashurama, the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu,  to protect Kerala from evils. This martial art flourished in the 11th century but was unfortunately met with a ban under British rule. Despite the test of time, Kalaripayattu was later revived and is timelessly practiced even today as a performance art to entertain tourists.


Silambam or silambattam, another south Indian martial art that originated in Tamil Nadu, has been around for over 5000 years.  It was introduced by the sage Agastya Munivar. Just like other ancient martial arts, Silambam was employed as a sophisticated fighting technique in battlefields. This martial art was employed in a war against British colonialism but was briefly met with a ban. Today Silambam has garnered attention as a performance art as well as an activity that showers a plethora of mental and physical benefits. 


Gatka, a blend of sword fighting and acrobatics, is a martial art employed and practiced by Sikhs for thousands of years. This Punjabi martial art was put forward by Guru Hargobind. Gatka was practised to wage war against the Mughal during the 17th century, and was later considered a threat by the British to bury it with a ban. From fighting with sword to stick to barehanded, gatka has now emerged into a nationally recognised sport. 


Thang-ta also known as Huyen Lallong is an ancient Meitei martial art that is deeply rooted in their Cultural tradition. Thang-ta was ritualistic and carried out only at special occasions. During the mediaeval times, thang-ta was practised to war against enemies. Gurumayum Gourakishor Sharma is widely known as the Guru of this unique Meitei martial art. Today, this is practised for self defence and to boost one’s strength.

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