Monday, December 12, 2011

Contribution of Tulunadu Garadis to Kerala Kalarippayattu

Garudi/Garadi/Garodi is the place where martial art is practiced usually known as Garadi Saale. It is the center of Gymnastic exercises or Gymnastic games. The feudal chiefs of Tulunad brought Balli Brahmins from Kerala to look after 64 Garadis of Tulunad from Gokarna to Trikarapura. These were popularly known as Practicing Garadis (saadhaneya garadigaLu). But at present these Practicing Garadis are not found in this region as such except a few like Vaaramballi Mudu, Padu Garadi, Nanayar Garadi of Pangala, Chitrapu Garadi near Mulki, Sarantaya Garadi of Sasihitlu, and Chengala Garadi in Kasaragod etc.

Kalarippayattu is considered as the most ancient traditional system of physical culture, self – defense as well as for vanquishing the enemy and martial art still in existence. It is believed that Lord Parashurama handpicked four of the most aristocratic Brahmin sects known as ‘Ugram Valli’, ‘Dronam Valli’, ‘Khoram Valli’ and ‘Ullur Thuruthiyad’. He imparted to them special methods of warfare. The folk songs known as ‘Vadakakan Paattukal’ still popular in North Malbar, comprising the northern-most part of Kerala, tell how Lord Parashurama commanded the ocean to move back by hurling a battle axe and brought into being the land of Kerala. The same legend is unique with reference to Tulunad too.

The land of Kerala was divided geographically into three regions, the Venad, the Malanad and the Tulunad. Venad was not easily accessible from Malnad area. But Tulunad and Malanad were easily accessible to each other. Naturally the systems of martial training in these two regions gradually blended with each other (ref: P. Balakrshnan, 1995,).
The heroes of Tulunad like Kotichennaya were the masters in the extraordinary martial powers to upload the social cohesion and values of the time. That martial art form is known as Garadi/Garodi in Tulunad. It might have been established more or less in 11th century. No doubt there had been internecine conflict during the decline of Alupa kings due to the decentralization of the rule administration. At that time, there was a need of the education and training of the gymnasium and martial art. In fact Garadis were the training centers for the warriors. Gradually during the Vijayanagara period, village level positions and status were obtained.  Simultaneously single rule method was also adopted. As a result the activities of the garadies were little bit diluted. However after the decline of the Vijayanagara rule in 1565 ad, these Garadies got importance and they attained active role as earlier. We get enough reference in legends about the heroes who had registered their valor in history of Tulunad like Kotichennaya. Enough evidences show that Tulunad was a well known center of martial arts.

The Vadakkan pattus of Kerala give many details about the heroes those who trained in these Garadis of Tulunad. It is well known that the Folk Poet Kunjan Nambiar of 13th century learnt Garadi art under Dronampalli Acharya of Tulunad. Venkataraja Puninchttaya has listed out 18 arts of adavus out of 22 such arts which were only known to the Garadi Gurukkals of Tulunad. The balled of ‘Kannappan Chegavar’ explains that “I would like to go over Tulunad and fetch to bring the Great Guru’’. It also tells, that the son of Chegavar began to learn under Aacharya in Thodavuur Garadi of Puttuur.
There is very important report regarding the child education of Garadi in a song of ‘Cheriya Aromanni’, a mother ‘Unniyarchi’ conveying the message to her son as, ‘Oh my son, you  had born when I was to be  enamoured of children. When you were 3 years old, I called the barber for the ‘Shaving Ritual’. At the age of five you had the ritual to perforate the auricle to wear ornaments and at the age of seven you had the Literacy Ceremony. I invited the Great Guru of Tulunad and got you educated for 3 years. Made you learn the secret knowledge and significance of the ‘Malla Yuddha’. However you learnt the martial art of Tulunad”.
In fact the folk literature of Kerala tells us how the heroes of Kerala used to come to Tulunad to get educated in martial art and return ‘Wearing the Heroic Swords’ with comprehensive knowledge of martial art. It also narrates how they were receiving the names specially qualified by the education of martial art of Tulunad.

There is a legend of two heroic brothers called Chaatu and Chandu hailing from Malayala Naadu, who came to Tulunadu searching livelihood. The Ballala of Panne Beedu at Sulia sheltered them. They were well trained in the Garadi especially Chandu became Great Hero. But incidentally and accidentally he vanished away magically somewhere. In due course he deified as Nair Bhuuta and the brother duo Chandu and Chaatu are being worshipped in the name of ‘Jodu Bhuta ’ at Mitturu - Manjanadka of Sulia Taluk in association with the Ullaaklu Daiva’. (re: Tudiyadka Vishnayya-1984). There is a scope to the comparative study of Tacholi Chandu the popular hero in Vadakkanppatu and the hero Chandu who deified as Nair Daiva.

Varamballi Garadi and Nayairi Maduve (marriage):
Marriage plays an important role in the life. For a man especially in Nairi community the marriage ritual is a must for the attainment of ‘Nairi Gandu’ means the real personality he earns through his achievement. That is the qualification of a ‘Nairi Man’. But he will not get any ‘Bride’ unless he practices and achieves the position of ‘Nairi’. It is only possible through the ‘Yodha Dheekshe’ and ‘Dvigvijaya’ by his community Guru who teaches the secretes of ‘Garadi Vidye’. Before to the ‘Maduve Shaashtra’ certain ritual steps must be over like ‘Guru KaaNnke’, ‘Choula Shashtra’, ‘Snaana Ritual’, ‘Teaching Shashtra’ of ‘Shashtra Vidye’, ‘Bandukolu  Hidisuvudu’, ‘Yodha Vidya Saadhane’, ‘Wearing the swords’ in the ‘House of Guru’/in front of  the War Goddess ‘Chandika Durga Parameshvari Sannidhi’.
Pair of ‘Nayairi Gandu’ with their family members before the ‘Dvigvijaya Ritual’
Offering the ‘Heroic Sword (Veeragatti)’ by the ‘Purohita Guru Aachaarya’of Vaaramballi Garadi
Deepaarati ritual to the ‘Nairi Gandu’ by his mother
Nayaris and 108 Kalari places :
Usually in these Garadis the place of the Goddess Chandika Durgaaparameshvari is situated facing towards South West direction. According to Shri Ramamurty of Padu Garadi originally the War Goddess Chandika Durga Parameshvari had been taken to Kerala from Tulunad. There is a Temple of Kaali in Punnottu Mutt. He is of the opinion that Nairs are nothing but the lineage family belongs to the Maharaja of Tiruvankur. The Brahmins of Dronamballi were the ‘Gurus’ for the 108 Kalari places needed for the Nayairs family. 
‘Guru Kamba’ at Paangala Garadi
Kalarippayattu Performance at C.V.N. Kalari Trivandrum
A Pillar of Chandika Durgaaparameshvari at Practicing Garadi
A Pillar of Chandikadurgaaparameshvari at Practicing Garadi
Structural design of Garadi and Kalari :
Basically Garadi and Kalari are one and the same. There is no much variation and difference in the structural design of the Saadhaneya Garadi (Practicing Garadi), Ritualistic Garadi and Kalari. ‘Padinaaji kolu (40 feet) Garadi’ (TuLu) and ‘Naapatrandadi (42 feet) Kalari’ (Malayalam). Normally of the dimension 42ft length, 21ft breadth and 20ft height.

The wooden icon of Chandika Durgaaparameshvari is facing towards North East direction inside the Mudu Gradi of Vaaramballi.
Practising (Saadhaneya) Mudu Garadi of Vaaramballi
At present in Tulunad there are more than 220 Ritualistic (Aaraadhana) Garadis. These are established after the deification of Koti-chennaya the Twin Heroes of Tulunad, during the end of 17th century. Paangala Gudde Garadi is one of such present Ritualistic Garadis. It is situated at Paangala Village, left side to NH-17, towards Udupi.
Pangala Gudde Garadi 
Statues of the Twin Heroes Koti –Chennaya at a new Ritualistic Garadi, Kanakarabettu, Mangalore
Aadi Enmooru Moola Garadi in the death place of the Twin Heroes Koti and Chennaya Sulia Taluk

Practising Garadi (sketch-10) :
1. Chandika Durgaparameshvari/Chandika Parameshvari
2. Ganapati/peetha/spherical stone
3. Brahmalingeshvara/a small cot on the Peetha
4. Veerabhadra/stone
5. Eeshvarakumara/a small cot
6. HomakunDa
7. Entrance
Present Garadi (sketch-11) :
1. Bermer
2. Koti
3. Cennaya
4-5-6. Entrance
Kalari (sketch-12) :
1. Puthara
2. Kalari Paradevata
3. Entrance
and Naga, Ganapathi Peetha
The Guru Peetha reserved for four Traditions and 21 Gurus.
Reference :
1. Balakrishnan P:1995, Kalarippayattu: The Ancient Martial Art of Kerala, Published by Shri C.V.Govindakutty Nair Gurukkal, C.V.N.Kalari, Fort, Trivandrum

2. Vamana Nandavara (Dr.): 2001, Koti Chennaya: Folkloristic Study, Doctoral Dissertation, Mangalore University, Published by Hemamshu Prakashana, Drishya, Lohitnagara, Mangalore-575006

3. Vasantha Madhava K.G. (Dr.):1990, Oral information

4. Venkataraja Puninchattaya (Dr.): 1985, Vadakkan Paattugallli VarnitavadaTulunadu, Kasaragod Souvenir-85

5. Vishnayya Tudiyadka: 1984, Tachcholi Chandu, Garadi mattu Sulia, Udayavani, Manipala


  1. Dear Sir,
    Thank you very much for sharing this wonderful piece of master work of yours related to Tulunadu Garadi & Kalari, in your blog.
    I was really overwhelmed to know about the traditional rich culture of our Tulunadu,through the above posting.
    Warm regards.
    Dr.Rangaprasad Bhat,
    Ayurveda physician & marma chikitsa practitioner,

  2. Hi, I am from Padu Gardi Mane , The picture you posted as Mudu Gardi, I believe is of Padu Gardi
    Sanath Kumar Varambally

    1. can you please give the address of the garadi mane

    2. I agree with Mr. Sanath Kumar Varambally. The picture you posted labelled "Mudu Garadi" is in fact of Padu Garadi.

  3. Interesting and insightful article

  4. great article.Thanks for sharing such wonderful information

  5. Excellent article. Very informative and reference materials for the researchers . Thank you sir

  6. Thank you Mr riyaz mohammed for your comment on my article Contribution of Tulunadu Garadies to Kerala Kalarippayyattu. It was the research paper presented at Kannuru University.
    -Vamana Nandavara

  7. Thanks sir,
    Its very Good to know our history and who we are,are there any garadi/Garudi who are still teaching Malla Yuddha/Martial arts in tulunad. I am from Bailur and next time around I would like to visit and learn these arts....

  8. Thank you for exploring on garadi and kalari - our good old tradition which we forgot to take it forward...., We will.

  9. Now is there any working GARADI in tulunadu ...if yes could you please share the details!

  10. You are a shudra Nair who write like this.
    It was tulunadan chekavar who were Masters at tulu kalari and not your shudra Nair or bunts.