Silambam and Kuthuvarisai are among the most ancient forms of martial art originating from Tamil Nadu, South East India. Archaeological research in the region has confirmed the use of weapons of war for this martial art from earliest times. Silambam formed the basis of the art of Kung Fu, carried overseas by Buddhist monks who travelled frequently between India and China. Tamil literature indicates that the ancient Greeks made excursions to this region of India in order to purchase weapons used for Silambam.
Silambam remains a deeply traditional art form of Tamil Nadu. It is passed down from master to student through years of rigorous daily practice. Today, young disciples remain under the constant guidance of their guru, as they practise to achieve physical balance and the perfect mastery of body and space. Among many of the techniques learnt are the natural mimicry of animal movements, namely, the cat, cock, monkey, snake and tiger. Ancient weapons of war have evolved into weapons of display, with skilled exponents of the art employing swords, knives, animal horns, fire and bamboo sticks to dazzling effect. Silambam also incorporates elements of folk dance whereby sinuous movement is combined with determined rhythmic cycles. Percussion instruments such as the ‘Pombai’ and ‘Udukkai’ are often played to accompany demonstrations of this ancient martial art.