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Silambam – Stick Fighting In Tamil Nadu - Meaning - history

Silambam is the famous stick fight practiced in Tamil Nadu. It is also known as Kuchi Vilaiyattu and Kambu Vilaiyattu. It was originally practiced with bamboo sticks; later, steel swords and shields were used.

Silambam Meaning

The word ‘silam’ means hill and ‘bam’ means bamboo or ‘perambu’ out of which the staff (stick) is made. 

Silambam History

The 3,000-year-old martial art, perhaps one of the oldest has evolved from being an art employed in warfare, combats, competitive sports, performance arts to being a fitness regime.

Known as the pride of Tamil Nadu, Silambam was earlier used as self-defense by tribals and was eventually mastered by our ancestors to prove their vigour and masculinity.

Like how Sage Patanjali is to yoga, Sage Agastya is to Silambam. We can find information about the martial art in palm leaf manuscripts under the topic Kambusoothram. Silambam was practiced predominantly during the period of Chola, Chera and Pandyas. Eventually, through Bodhi Dharma, the awareness spread to other parts of world.

In the 18th century, freedom fighter Rani Velu Nachiyar practiced it.

Weapons - Stick Length In Silambam

The length of the staff depends on the height of the practitioner. Ideally, it should just touch the forehead — measuring around 1.68 metres (five and a half feet). 

Weapons are modified for different purposes. For instance, the chedikutchi or threefoot stick can be easily concealed. Even today, students learn this art from competent teachers and display their prowess during celebrations. It is considered to be the most lethal. Commonly used weapons are maru (deer horns), savuku (whip), vaal (curved stick), and sedikuchi (short stick). The weapons are said to be inspired by animal movements - a hopping deer, a frog’s leap, and a jumping monkey.

Silambam has multiple variations and it takes close to two years to master the basics.

Before the commencement of Silambam, the combatants pay salutations to Guru and to the four quarters.

In the sport, two persons opposing each other swirl the sticks.

In some instances, one person is surrounded by many opponents on all sides, and the attacked person in the center deals with the opponents.

Today, Silambam has become popular thanks to Tamil Movies.