Remember the iconic 'Varma Kalai' scene from the movie 'Indian'? The older Kamal Hassan Senapathy (an army veteran in his 80s) escapes from a policeman simply by using his hands to immobilise him. The scene was not an exaggeration!

Mysterious, yet widely-believed to be powerful, Varmakalai is an ancient art of healing that works by activating the vital points (varma points) in the body. As a branch of the renowned Siddha medicine, this art is also seen as an invincible self-defence skill, since anyone who masters it can gravely harm the vital points in a human body.

What is 'Varmam'?

The word 'varmam' is believed to be derived from 'vanmam', meaning 'strong, dangerous and secret places of a human body'. In Ayurveda, 'varmam' is also known as 'marmam' which translates as 'secret'. Basically, there are 108 varma points that are responsible for a human's longevity and overall health. The knowledge of the art has been kept a secret to avoid falling into the wrong hands.

Origins of the Art

One of the Varma texts, Varma Sastra Athi Nool tells that Varmakalai originated from Lord Shiva. According to the story, Lord Shiva demonstrated the art to his wife Goddess Parvathi by reviving an unconscious hunter in a dense forest.

Eventually, the knowledge was passed down to their child Lord Murugan who finally blessed the world with this art when He taught it to Saint Agasthiyar. Agasthiyar was deemed as the leader of all Vedic sages in Hinduism and the pioneer of many Siddha disciplines including the Varmakalai.

Varmam in the Modern World

Based on the manuscripts available in today's world, there are at least three known schools of thoughts of Varmam, namely Agasthiyar, Bogar, and Rama Devar. Although Agasthiyar was the pioneer, the art experienced changes and modifications as it spread beyond South India by travelling Jain and Buddhist monks.

Bogar—a Buddhist monk known as Bo Yang in China—came to Tamil Nadu to learn the art and developed acupuncture and acupressure in China. In Kerala, the art has been fused with self-defence techniques in a martial arts called 'Kalaripayattu'. One who learns Kalaripayattu can 'collapse an enemy by attacking the varmam points'. Even without any weapons, the damage can be done only using hands or sticks.

The boundaries of Varma Kalai is endless. Its applications are found in various ancient fields like yoga, psychology, Tantra, Ayurveda, Siddha medicine and even astronomy. If you would like to learn more about Varma Kalai, let us know in the comments.

Source: Varmam & Shodganga
Photo Credit: Asia Times, Varma Kalai Training & Treatment, Monis Academy & Media India Group