Women are considered weak for martial arts. At 76, Meenakshi Amma is proving all of them wrong
“Learning Kalari boosts the self-confidence but it should not be used to attack anyone. Assaults against women have increased these days. They can learn Kalari for their self defense.” says, Meenakshi Amma. She is an expert in Kalaripayattu, a form of martial art in Kerala and now a Padma Shri awardee. “I dedicate all of this to my mentor and husband V V Raghavan, who showed me the world of Kalaripayattu.” Amma adds.
76 years old Meenakshi Raghavan, fondly called Meenakshi Amma, is India’s oldest Kalaripayattu exponent. Even at this age, her hits and blocks, continues to amaze people. She has been training this art to the students in Vatakara, Kozhikode. She has students from all age groups; not only kids but their parents also join her classes. Every year, around 150 students learn the martial arts in her school, Kadathanadan Kalari Sangam.
Remembering her early life she says, “I was seven when my father brought me to guru Raghavan for learning Kalaripayattu. With Kalaripayattu, I used to practice classical dance too. When I reached 17, I got married to my guru only.” While saying this she makes it clear that her marriage was not a love marriage but it was arranged by parents. After her marriage she left practicing dance and continued with Kalaripayattu. “In my time, not many women used to opt for martial arts. Now, situation has completely changed. One third of my students are women,” she adds.
At Kadathanadan Kalari Sangam, caste, creed and gender are no bars. Whoever has the passion to learn this art is welcome.
Amma starts the course in June which ends in September every year, during the monsoon season. Classes are held three times a day, where they teach the northern style of Kalaripayattu. There is no fee system in her institute. They still follow the age old system of guru dakshina. Disciples can give according to their capacity and wish.
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