A Sword & a Sari
Meenakshi Raghavan ‘Gurukkhal’, 76, has been training the ancient South Indian martial art ‘Kalaripayattu’ since 69 years. In her school ‘Kadathanad Kalari Sangham’, located in a small village in Kerala, India, she teaches around 150 students of all ages and genders fighting techniques and weaponry.
In January 2017, Meenakshi received the ‘Padma Shri’ award, one of the highest civilian awards in the Republic of India, for her lifelong commitment to Kalaripayattu. Since then, she is celebrated as a national hero. Meenakshi is frequently invited to speak at events. She uses the exposure to encourage all females to practice Kalaripayattu, to be able to defend themselves. Her strength is an inspiration to many.
Since several rape cases in India received extensive media coverage and triggered protests in 2012, more young women have begun training at the school and an increasing number of parents allow their girls to train Kalaripayattu. Nowadays, one third of Meenakshi’s students are females aged between six and twenty-six.