Kalaripayattu Silambam Weapon
The Kalaripayattu | What is Kalaripayattu | Martial Art of Kerala | Origins of Kalaripayattu | Styles of Kalaripayattu | Kalaripayattu Stages | Kalari Treatment | Silambam Weapon | Thekan Weapons | Vadakkan Weapons | The Oldest Martial Arts
The word Silambam immediately brings out the picture of two or more martial artists fighting or training with long staff. In Silambam there are many different types of weapons. But this art can be safely said to have deviated a little from Kalarippayattu in the sense that the long staff has been given a major part while other weapons have been given only a minor roll. But the long staff techniques are so advanced and sophisticated that almost all kalari practitioners will find it very difficult to stand up to the true Silambam specialist.
Why Silambam places so much emphasis on long staff and sidelines all other conventional weapons of kalari? There can be many reasons for this. The first and foremost is the easy availability of the wild trees from which the long staff are made. Then unlike the swords, spears etc., a wooden staff can be owned and carried by the common man. Sage Agasthya in his Agasthyar Kampu Soothram describes the uses of long staff: While traveling the staff can be used to clear the bushes and thorny trees, can be used to pick fruits from trees, will help to escape from wild animals, can be used to check the depth of streams before crossing them and so on.
It can be seen that in rural areas of India a long stick has multiple uses and the stick can be obtained from wild trees and practically there is no expenses to get one. Then a spear head can be attached to the long staff and turn an already lethal weapon onto a more deadly one. The swords, pattas and other weapons were mainly used in battle field and certainly special training did exist in olden days.
The British rulers confiscated all of the weapons of warfare from the Tirunelveli district of present day Tamilnadu and the masters who escaped and went into hiding from the colonialist forces just could not afford to keep the conventional weapons. There may be many other reasons but one can assume from the available records that the art of Silambam is a complete martial art comprising of empty hand sets, long staff, swords and shields, daggers, katars, flexible swords, chain flails, battle axes, halberds and many other weapons, some of which are not normally used in Kalarippayattu.
Here is a short description of the weapons used in Silambam:
1.Â Â The long staff
The long staff is the main and in some schools the only weapon used in Silambam. The long staff is usually a stick cut from certain wild trees and hardened using some traditional methods. The length of the staff is from the ground up to the nose of the standing practitioner and about one inch to one and a half inches in diameter. Some people use bamboo or rattan staff.
2.Â Â The short stick or kurunthadi
Same as the muchaan or kuruvati used in Kalarippayattu. Some times two sticks are used. This short stick training was used as a stepping stone for more sophisticated swordsmanship.
3.Â Â Madu or Maru or Kavari
Two deer horns fixed in such a way that when the weapon is held in the hand one of the horns projects from the thumb side of the fist while the other projects from the little finger side. Used usually in pairs, one held in each hand, this Madu or Maru or Kavari can be used with devastating effect, both for offence and defense. Since the wild life acts and other anti poaching rules put restrictions on the use of wild deer horns, in modern times this weapon is made of steel. This weapon is used only in Silambam and no other martial art in the world uses this.
4.Â Â Sword and shield
No special description is necessary
5.Â Â Patta
Patta or Ko Patta is specially designed sword mainly used by Kings. (Ko = King hence the name Ko Patta). It is a double edged sword. The grip is perpendicular to the blade and there is a wrist/forearm guard that extends up to the elbow. When gripped, the blade will extend from the knuckles of the warrior. The Patta acts as an extension of the arm of the warrior.
6.Â Â Surul Patta or flexible sword
Same as urumi in Kalarippayattu but often longer and having multiple blades and used in pairs.
7.Â Â Chendu
Chendu is a long staff with a battle axe, spear and another hook like device all at the same end. Similar to the western halberd.
8.Â Â Lesam
A chain flail. A kuruvati or kurunthadi with a length of chain attached to one end. Some designs have a barbed ball at the free end of the chain
9.Â Â Katari or Katara
One cubit in length and sharp on both edges and somewhat zigzag in shape. It is held like a hacksaw and the finger guards extend upward to the forearms
10.Â Â Valari
The same as boomerang of the Australian aborigines.
11.Â Â Idikkattai or Knuckle Duster
Knuckle dusters made of buffalo horns are used as an accessory weapon for empty hand fighting and to hit the vital points in the human body. Vajramushti another Indian martial art that uses knuckle dusters called as Hora, ,made from horns or animals.
Many different types of knives, machetes and battle axes are used for training and fighting in addition to the above mentioned weapons.You might also like: