|Kalari at Hindustan Kalari Sangam|
During my 8-day training in Kalaripayattu at Hindustan Kalari Sangam in Calicut, I had the opportunity to learn about Kalarichikitsa. Chikitsa means medicine and it is an important aspect of Kalaripayattu which deals with medicine and healing. Although Kalarichikitsa comes under the broader umbrella of Ayurveda, it is unique in its own way. Each Kalari ashram has its own unique and secret herbal recipe for various injuries and is not shared openly. The Kalari system is still very traditional in the sense that not all Kalaripayattu students are initiated into kalarichikitsa. It's only after the Kalaripayattu disciple after many years of Kalari practice has won the trust of the guru that he or she is initiated into chikitsa. Kalarichikitsa deals with different vital points of the body which are responsible for flow of energy. Even in Kalaripayattu, after many years of practice the disciple is taught the vital points or marmas. Different marmas when struck have a different effect. Striking some marma points can be fatal, some may render one unconscious, some may only cause pain, etc.
|Sketch of the process of the herbal preparation|
Kalari uzhichil or Kalari massage is a very important aspect of Kalaripayattu. The entire body is massaged with a herbal oil in a very methodical way. The strokes involved in the massage, is practiced in the way of Akshara kettu and Akka kettu, which means the strokes of the massage is executed in the form of letters and numbers. The massage is executed by hand as well as by the feet. I went for a massage by Radhika Gurukkal and saw that she held on to a thick rope suspended from the ceiling and worked her feet up and down my body. The massage helps to facilitate the healthy flow of the Vata energy in the system, in-turn helps to promote healthy tissue conversion, waste disposal and harnessing of body-mind-soul coordination and integrity. Kalari massage is an effective way to treat various disorders of the body such as, inter-vertebral disc prolapses, cervical spondilitis, frozen shoulder, and many other disease conditions pertaining to musculoskeletal and neurological origins.
|Kalari doctor examining a boy's leg|
|Herbal paste preparation|
I went to the room where the herbal medicine is prepared. The secret herbal paste is boiled with milk and mixed with arrow root powder and left to settle for the next day (this part I haven't sketched). Next is whenever a patient comes, one spoon of the herbal paste is mixed with an egg in a pestle. Meanwhile strips of cloth are torn and each strip is dunked into the egg and herbal paste and bandaged onto the affected area of the patient. Egg is used because it's a natural source of protein which aids in healing the skin. Depending on the injury, the length of the cloth, the pressure applied, the way it is tied varies. Patients came with diverse problems such as sprains, ligament tear, fractures, swelling and other musculoskeletal problems. Kalari Chikitsa is capable of healing any kind of bone fractures which are not in the category of surgical intervention such as, fractures of skull etc. The time taken to heal in Kalarichikitsa is drastically less than in conventional medicine. For example a fracture which would normally take around 4 to 6 months to heal in conventional medicine takes around a month to heal in kalarichikitsa. Amazing isn't it! There are different medicated oil preparations too, some oils are used for the head, some for the body and some for internal consumption.
I think Kalari Chikitsa should be more widely propagated and practiced outside of Kerala too, for the benefit of everyone.