Manjur (Kerala): If you think Muslim women in India are leading a conservative lifestyle, think again. Belying all notions, Shamcera, a Muslim woman in Kerala, is teaching rural children and women with Kalari, the ancient martial art form of Kerala.
Trained in the art of Kalari, the martial art native to Kerala, Shamcera, is today a woman with a mission.
How did it start? Once Shamcera became a victim of eve-teasing by a miscreant who also attacked her little boy. The helplessness suffered on that occasion left a deep impact on her mindset and she decided to learn Kalari.
"I have practised the art of Kalari for the past eight years and now I am also teaching this art in various rural parts of Kerala. At present I have more than a thousand students who practise this fight. I go to various parts of rural Kerala and teach Kalari. I also want to teach this art to school and college girls," says Shamcera.
Kalari Payattu combines both physical and spiritual discipline and is claimed to be one of the oldest martial art forms existing in the world.
The training involves severe physical fitness exercises. The practitioners are also trained to use weapons like swords, shields and "Urumi" a metre-long flexible sword.
Shamcera belongs to the conservative Muslim community and is just one among the many women who are now trained in martial arts. Religious restrictions did not deter her in pursuing her mission.
Today, Shamcera frequently visits various villages with the aim to pass on this skill, to ensure that women like her do not find themselves helpless.
"My ambition is to teach each and every girl Kalari so that these girls are able to protect themselves from the evil-eyed in the society," says Shamcera.
According to Khalid, another Kalari fight master, learning the art is a necessity for women these days as crimes against them are on the increase.
"Nowadays, here in Kerala, an increased number of women and children are learning the Kalari fight, which is very useful for their self protection and with the increasing crime against women day-by-day, learning of this art is essential and for this reason we are conducting Kalari classes for women and children," he said.
The ring where it is fought is also called Kalari. Built with the door facing the east, it is also revered as the temple of learning and worship.
The martial training became popular during the medieval period. There is evidence that the form, as practiced today, evolved between the 9th and 12th century A.D.
Legend has it that Hindu warrior sage Parasurama created the land of Kerala, retrieving the land from the Arabian Sea. He had then trained 21 of his disciples in "Kalari Payattu" to protect the land and maintain peace. It is customary that a student starts training after an invoking to the Gods