The story of Meenakshi Gurukkal ,fondly known as Meenakshi Amma is something totally out of the norms. Meenakshi Amma (born 1941) is a practitioner and teacher of Kalaripayatu, the martial arts form of Kerala, India. In 2017, she received Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award. She is from Vadakara, a town in northern Kerala. Every year, 150-160 students learn the martial arts in her school Kadathanadan Kalari Sangam, where she is teaching for more than 56 years. Meenakshi Amma was introduced to Kalaripayattu at the age of seven under V P Raghavan Master, whom she married at the age of 17.
After her husband’s demise in 2007, Meenakshi Amma took over the reins of the Kadathanattu Kalari Sangham established by her husband. She is well-versed in using all the weapons ranging from the stick to the urumi, which even the experts find difficult to master.
The Kalari, which is visited by many students even from abroad, still maintains the traditional value system.There is no fee for the classes and money is accepted in the form of dakshina and expenses for the oil used in Kalari.
Meenakshi Amma’s family is also into Kalarippayattu. Her two sons and two daughters also started practicing payattu from the young age of six. One of her sons is also a ‘Gurukkal'( kalaripayattu teacher) now.