Meenakshi Raghavan Gurukkal is the oldest practitioner of the ancient Indian martial art form Kalaripayattu.
She walks into the arena like a tigress, with her magnificent aura and a friendly yet doomy smile.
Carrying her saree, a sword and a shield, her persona has a certain enigma that you won’t be able to ignore.
Amma, 74, hails from the small town of Puthupadam in Kerala. She was first introduced to Kalaripayattu at an early age of seven by her father. Later on, she took classes under V P Raghavan Gurukkal, after which she really started improving in this ancient art.
She initially started taking classes to increase her flexibility while dancing, but, over the years, she has become more and more keen towards Kalaripayattu and today she is addressed as “Meenakshi Amma” or by her disciples. Many also call her "Samurai Amma" for her skills.
Kalaripayattu originated with the idea of art on the battlefield.
Her energy and moves at 74 make her seem like half her age and twice her stature. There are around 150 students learning under her at her school Kadathanadan Kalari Sangam in her locality in Vatakara in Kerala.
When she was 17, she married her ‘guru’ but strictly maintains that it was not a love marriage.
It was because of this union that she was able to continue her training in the art of Kalari.
She has been practicing for nearly six decades now and believes that there is still a lot more to learn.
After her husband’s unfortunate demise in 2009, she took up the role of the teacher at their school which she adores fulfilling.
Amma’s children and grandchildren are taking the legacy ahead. She is very positive and faithful about the art's future and quite optimistic that the next generation is ready to serve.
Title image: youthensnews