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Template:Infobox martial art Template:Tamil transliteration Silambam is a Indian martial art originating in South India in the Indian subcontinent. This style is mentioned in Tamil Sangam literature.[1] The World Silambam Association is the official international body of Silambam.


References in the Silappadikkaram and other works of the Sangam literature show that Silambam has been practiced since at least the 4th century BC.[2] It derives from the Tamil word silam, meaning hill. The term silambambu referred to a particular type of bamboo from the Kurinjimala (kurinji hills) in present-day Kerala. Thus silambam was named after its primary weapon, the bamboo staff.[3] It may have earlier used for self-defense and to ward off animals in the Kurinji hills and later evolved into the present-day martial art.[4] Bamboo staffs – as well as swords, pearls and armor – were in great demand from foreign traders.[5][6]

The ancient city of Madurai formed as the point of focus of Silambam's spreading. The Silambam staff was acquired by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans and was spread back to the Middle East, Europe and North Africa.[citation needed] The Tamil Kingdom which encompassed Southern India and Sri Lanka spread it throughout the Southeast Asia.[7]

The Kings Puli Thevar and Dheeran Chinnamalai had armies of Silambam soldiers named "Thadii Pattalam." Veerapandiya Kattabomman, Chinna Maruthu and Periya Maruthu (1760–1799) relied mainly on their Silambam prowess in warfare against the British East India Company.[5] Indian martial arts and other related martial arts practices suffered a decline after the British banned Silambam and promoted modern military training, which favored firearms over traditional weaponry.


The first stages of Silambam practice are meant to provide a foundation for fighting, and also preparatory body conditioning. This includes improving flexibility, agility, and hand-eye coordination, kinesthetic awareness, balance, strength, speed, muscular and cardiovascular stamina.[8][9]


Weapons used in Silambam
Maru, Weapon used in Silambam

Silambam's main focus is on the bamboo staff. The length of the staff depends on the height of the practitioner. Ideally, it should just touch the forehead about three fingers from the head, typically measuring around 1.68 meters (five and a half feet). Different lengths may be used depending on the situation. For instance, the sedikuchi or 3-foot stick can be easily concealed. Separate practice is needed for staffs of different lengths. Listed below are some of the weapons used in Silambam.

  • Silambam: staff, preferably made from bamboo, but sometimes also from teak or Indian rose chestnut wood. The staff is immersed in water and strengthened by beating it on the surface of still or running water. It is often tipped with metal rings to prevent the ends from being damaged.
  • Maru: a thrusting weapon made from deer (more accurately, Blackbuck) horns.
  • Aruval: sickle, often paired.
  • Panthukol: staff with balls of fire, or weighted chains on each end.
  • Savuku: whip.
  • Vaal: sword, generally curved.
  • Kuttu katai: spiked knuckleduster.
  • Katti: knife.
  • Kattari: native push-dagger with a H-shaped handle. Some are capable of piercing armor. The blade may be straight or wavy.
  • Surul kaththi: flexible sword.
  • Sedikuchi: cudgel or short stick, often wielded as a pair.

Kuttu Varisai[edit]

Kuttu Varisai is the unarmed combat component of Silambam and also a stand-alone martial art. It contains animal forms.[10]

World initiatives[edit]

Silambam made its first historical appearance in the eyes of the world through the auspices of the committee of the United Nations Assembly, which recommended Silambam Asia for United Nations status. The inauguration was held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States on 21 January 2019. However, the China-Taipei government representatives raised questions concerning border conflicts in ancient records pertaining to Silambam. A request was lodged for the organization of Silambam Asia to resolve with ratification of the raised problems by member states. On 30 January 2019, substantive work was completed and concluded for Silambam Asia with Special Status in the United Nations.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

In many M.G.Ramachandran (MGR) films from the 1950s and 1960s, MGR had incorporated silambam fighting scenes to popularize these ancient martial arts in the 20th century. MGR himself was a practitioner of silambam fighting, learning this martial art from Master Madurai Maadakulam Ravi. Some of these movies include Thaikkupin Tharam, Periya Idathu Penn, Mugaraasi and Thanipiravi.

List of films featuring Silambam
Year Film Language(s) Lead actor(s) / Performer(s)
1956 Thaikkupin Tharam Tamil M. G. Ramachandran
1962 Thayai Katha Thanayan Tamil M. G. Ramachandran
1963 Periya Idathu Penn Tamil M. G. Ramachandran
1964 Padagotti Tamil M. G. Ramachandran
1966 Mugaraasi Tamil M. G. Ramachandran
1966 Thanipiravi Tamil M. G. Ramachandran
1970 Maattukara Velan Tamil M. G. Ramachandran
1971 Rickshawkaran Tamil M. G. Ramachandran
1976 Uzhaikkum Karangal Tamil M. G. Ramachandran
1978 Thai Meethu Sathiyam Tamil Rajinikanth
1980 Murattu Kaalai Tamil Rajinikanth
1982 Thooral Ninnu Pochchu Tamil K. Bhagyaraj
1983 Mundhanai Mudichu Tamil K. Bhagyaraj
1989 Karagattakaran Tamil Ramarajan
1992 Thevar Magan Tamil Kamal Haasan
1994 Periya Marudhu Tamil Vijayakanth
1995 Villadhi Villain Tamil Sathyaraj
1996 Amman Kovil Vaasalile Tamil Ramarajan
2008 Silambattam Tamil Silambarasan
2010 Vamsam Tamil Kishore
2011 7aum Arivu Tamil Suriya
2015 Baahubali: The Beginning Tamil, Telugu Prabhas
2018 Seemaraja Tamil Samantha Akkineni

See also[edit]


  1. Raj, J. David Manuel (1977). The Origin and the Historical Developlment of Silambam Fencing: An Ancient Self-Defence Sport of India. Oregon: College of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Univ. of Oregon. pp. 44, 50, 83.
  2. Balambal, V. (1998). Studies in the History of the Sangam Age. New Delhi: Kalinga Publications. p. 6. ISBN 978-8185163871.
  3. "Martial Arts (Silambam & Kalaripayattu)". Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  4. Sarkar, John (17 February 2008). "Dravidian martial art on a comeback mode". The Economic Times. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Raj, J. David Manuel (1977). The Origin and the Historical Development of Silambam Fencing: An Ancient Self-Defence Sport of India. Oregon: College of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Univ. of Oregon. pp. 44, 50, & 83.
  6. Sports Authority of India (1987). Indigenous Games and Martial Arts of India. New Delhi: Sports Authority of India. pp. 91 & 94.
  7. Crego, Robert (2003). Sports and Games of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-313-31610-4.
  8. Guruji Murugan, Chillayah (20 October 2012). "Silambam health and physical benefits". Silambam. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  9. Ministry of Education (1956). National Plan of Physical Education and Recreation Publication No.237. New Delhi: Government of India, Ministry of Education.
  10. Crudelli, Chris (October 2008). The Way of the Warrior. Dorling Kindersley Limited. p. 23, 36. ISBN 978-1-4053-3750-2. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
  11. "United Nations grant Special Status for Silambam Asia". United Nations Meetings Coverage & Press Releases. Retrieved 30 January 2019.

Template:Indian martial arts Template:Stick fighting

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