Padma Shri honour for Meenakshi Amma - Kerala's oldest woman KalariGurukkal now in her seventies

Do you know that Meenakshi Gurukkal who is now given Padma Shri award is probably the oldest woman Kalari teacher in Kerala? She is now in her seventies and is practising Kalarippayattu-Kerala's martial arts since age of six i.e for last more than sixty eight years. Read the article to know more on this awe inspiring woman who shows energy like that of a seven year old.


Smt.Meenakshi Amma is awarded Padma Shri in the Republic Day Padma Awards 2017. She is given the award under category Others-Martial arts.

Meenakshi Amma is wielding the sword and defending herself with the 'Paricha' or shield for the last sixty years and more. But that is not for any destructive or harmful activity, but for sports and developing strength and self-defence. The awe inspiring matter in this that, she is not a dame of twenties or thirties, but well into the second half of seventies. But, seeing her jump and rise in the air and turning swiftly to defend a swish from an 'opponent' under training shows that her energy is even now like a seven year old. She is practicing 'Kalarippayattu' since her childhood, now well into the seventh decade.

Importance of Kalarippayattu

Kalarippayattu is Kerala's traditional martial arts .Kalarippayattu was popular in the northern parts of present Kerala in the medieval period. The Vadakkan Pattukal or 'northern folkloresongs' are full of the heroism and valour the youths showed in Kalarippayattu.It is believed that Lord Parasurama is the father of Kalarippayattu. In modern days this learned for sports exhibition and also for keeping fit and for self defence.

Kalari and Kalari Gurukkal in service

Meenakshi Amma now better known as Meenakshi Gurukkal. Gurukkal means master, and as she teaches Kalarippayattu, she is Kalari gurukkal. She is now teaching Kalarippayattu in her 'kalar' or school for martial arts- Kadathanadan Kalari Sangam, in Vadakara, near Calicut in Kerala. She is practicing the martial arts for at least last sixty years. Now there are about two hundred students training under her in each season. There is good number of girl students in her school, aged as low as six and as old as twenty six.

She herself started learning kalarippayattu at the age of six. It started as her father took her and her sister to a Kalari-a school where kalarippayattu is taught. That was a time when only very few girls learned kalaripayattu and they also stopped on attaining puberty. However seeing her natural flair and excellence, her father allowed Meenakshi to continue.

Service and and satisfaction

After marrying Raghavan master , who owned the Kadathanadan Kalari Sangam, Meenakshi Amma started teaching there . Her husband's goal in starting a kalari was to make kalaripayattu accessible to everyone. After the death of her husband Meenakshi Amma has taken over the responsibility of the Kalari and is involved fully in that. Meenakhi Gurukkal now feels satisfied in attaining that goal. She does not take any fees for teaching Kalari, but is satisfied with whatever Gurudakshina offered. There are good number of students and significantly girls in her classes.
Apart from teaching, Meenakshi Gurukkal also makes performance shows.

Family and support

Meenakshi Amma's family is also into Kalarippayattu. Her two sons and two daughters also started practicing payattu from the young age of six. One of her sons is also a 'Gurukkal' now.

A well deserved honour

It is a well deserved honour that Meenakshi Gurukkal is given the honour of Padma Sree in recognition of her services to the martial sports of Kalarippayattu. This grand lady of Kalarippayattu defies age when she says that 'I will practice kalarippayattu as long as possible physically for me'. While congratulating her on the Padma Shri award honour being given to her, we also pray that let it be possible to her to prove that age is just a number and live long many more years in good health. Let her be an example and icon to the youth of this country.


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Author: Partha K.22 Feb 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3

Just now I have read the article and got the information that the famous Kalarippyattu exponent Meenakshi Amma has been honoured with Padma Shri this year for her contribution in this field. In this context, I would like to state that I first heard about Kalarippyattu in a film of Kamal Hasan way back in 1990s. I first visited 'God's own country' in 2011. At the time of my visit, I heard about legendary Meenakshi Amma and her contribution to Kalarippyattu. I also got the opportunity for the first time to appreciate this great martial art form ( and Vaaleru) in 2011. The performance and swiftness of the performers were simply mind-boggling.
I thank Mr. Venkiteshwaran, the author of this article, for informing all of us that the legendary exponent of Kalariyappayattu, Meenakshi Amma, has received Padma Shri award this year. I think that by honouring this great lady, the Government has honoured the great performing art, Kalarippyattu.

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