How old are India’s Martial Arts?

-By Ishva

India is home to some of the finest martial art traditions in the world. Nearly every part of India has developed and evolved its own unique form of combat art.

In fact, the Japanese and Chinese civilisations trace the origins of their popular martial arts, Karate and Kung-fu, to India. Notably, according to Chinese texts and tradition, an Indian sage, Bodhidharma (5th or 6th century CE), who travelled from south India to north China and settled at the Shaolin Monastery in the Sung Mountain, meditated there for nine years and imparted some early techniques of Indian martial arts to his follower monks.

The oldest Indian martial arts find mention in the Dhanurveda which was revealed to sages Vishvamitra and Bhrigu, its original teachers. Other famous Dhanurveda teachers in the Vedic times were Parashurama and Drona. They are prominent characters in the classical epic Mahabharata, a story of conflict among various kshatriya (warrior) lineages. Dhanurveda is considered the origin of Vajramushti, Thangta (in Manipur, East India) and Kalaripayat, or Kalaripayattu (in Kerala, South India) among others.

Stay tuned as we feature India’s forgotten warfare and combat art traditions.

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