The Indian state of Kerala is renowned for its varied martial arts. Amongst the many forms of martial arts of Kerala are Kalaripayattu, Parisa Kali, Velakanni, Valeru, Kunderu and Njaninmel Kali.
Kalaripayattu is one of the oldest martial arts in the world. The original martial art form evolved in north Kerala. In Malayalam, Kalaripayattu means 'the fighting art of the Kalari'. In ancient Kerala, Kalari was a place of learning subjects such as medicine, philosophy, architecture, astrology and geometry, besides, combat arts and yoga. Translated into English, kalari means: the battlefield, and payat implies training in the art of combat. The technique is based on the science of yoga for its forms and exercises, and its medical treatments are based on the science of Ayurveda.
The origins of kalaripayattu are obscured by time, since it has been nurtured from the oldest martial traditions of South India, with influences that came in with time from north Indian Aryan martial traditions, which have links with Dhanur Veda-the science of the art of war in ancient India. Kalari in its present form has existed, for over 1,500 years, according to the traditions of the masters. Today the martial arts form is a fusion of north and south Indian fighting traditions, embodying the martial and spiritual practices of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islamic Sufism.
The Parisa Kali of North Malabar and Velakanni of Travancore are two other martial arts forms of Kerala, which involve considerable physical training and knowledge of the use of the arms. Velakanni represents the battle between Pandavas and Kauravas at Kurukshetra, and is played out during the temple festival at Cherthala and Ambalapuzha as well as Sree Padmanabha Swami Temple at Thiruvananthapuram. There are also other martial arts forms of Kerala like Valeru (sword throwing), Kunderu and Njaninmel Kali (tightrope walking), which are performed in temple festivals.
In recent times, the field of martial arts in Kerala has given the basis of circus training. The Kannur and Thalassery area of north Kerala are known as the "home of the circus in India".