Raging into the well known martial art from the age of 7, Meena Raghavan is breaking all stereotypes being the oldest practitioner of Kalayaripayattu at 74. According to the traditions and laws of the sport, women did not participate in a game dawned by men. But with valour and determination, Meenakshi changed the norms and opened doors for women to practice the sport without suppression.
Origin of Kalaripayattu
Kalaripayattu commonly known as Kalari originated back to the 3rd century BCE. It is fighting martial art practised predominantly in Kerala. The game is fought with swords, sticks, substantial swords, shields and other apparatus. However, sometimes the sport is played with bare hands. The sport demands immense dedication and focus. Followers of the sport believe that Lord Vishnu in the avatar of Saint Parasurama began the heritage of Kalaripayattu in southern India.
Who is Meenakshi Raghavan?
Meena Raghavan is a living example for every woman to rise above the customs set for them. At the age of 74, when most men and women suffer mighty health risks Meena exhibits extreme strength, flexibility, and mobility in the art. She believes anyone with the will to learn can at any age and time under the expert training. Kalari bestows its students with confidence and ability to defend themself in the cruel world. A calm mind and a strong body is the gift of the art to each disciple. Continuous practise helps students to bring a balance in mental and physical health.
Over her years of teaching, Meena has schooled many students. Each year more than 130-140 students pass out of her school. Students fly from different parts of the globe to learn the art. People from Spain and Africa often come here and train with Meena for years. Affectionately known as Amma, runs the school for free for all students without any discrimination. The aim of the school to stronghold the ancient tradition and not let it sink in oblivion in the modern world.
Padmashree Awardee 2017
The Iron Lady of Kerala as she is predominantly known for her service of six decades to the martial sport. Countless leading newspapers and channels have proudly covered the brave story of Meena. Hindustan Times, India Times, News Minute, Deccan Herald, The Indian Express and Times Of India are some of the many. Meena is a Padmashree awardee – the fourth highest civilian award by the GOI (Government Of India) for the year 2017.
Meenakshi’s family also embraced the sport largely. Her sons and daughters started practising the sport at the early age of six. One of her sons is a Gurukkal – Kalari teacher in the school run by Meena. The school resides in a greenest and lushest part of Kerala, Wayanad a crucial part of the Western Ghats. The school is about 2.5 kilometres and makes a secluded and peaceful place for training and practice.
Meena Amma – An Inspiration To All Women
With years of training and teaching, she aspires more women as well as men to take up the sport and keep it alive in India’s roots and traditions. She is the flag bearer of women in the sport and regards it with respect and utter responsibility. Thousands of women have practised and trained for the sport in different parts of the country. The sport is spreading all over the country and witnesses huge women participation. This is the motivation that makes Meena pick up her sword and walk to the battlefield every single day. The danger posed by the game is no alien to each student. but yet they realize the importance of the sport in their life and urge for improvement each day
The sport is a wonderful amalgamation of yoga, meditation, flexibility, strength, alertness. The training harnesses mind-body balance for a fight inside or outside the battleground. KADATHNADAN KALARI SANGAM was founded in 1949. Since then Meena Raghavan has been a profound student, disciple, teacher and inspiration to each one of us. With no intention of stepping out of the battlefield, Amma dreams to fight till the end of her life.