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Silambam A 3,000-year-Old Martial Art

Power of One

The skill of a fighter evolves into the craft of a dancer, when a weapon becomes an extension of an arm. When power meets poetry. When martial arts meets performance. When the body speaks in a completely new language of movement and elegance. And when a humble, bare stick of bamboo tames the air.

Silambam, a practice that has thrived for 3,000 years in Tamil Nadu, is more than just the art of self-defence. It’s a way of life, and Aishwarya Manivannan is its proud torchbearer. An international champion who discovered her passion for Silambam when she was well into her twenties and juggling four jobs, she knew she had found her calling, her purpose in life, when she picked up a staff for the very first time.

Silambam Short Film Poster By Virtual Bharat

From War to Peace

But how does a weapon of war become a graceful embodiment of art? How does a martial art mentioned in Sangam literature, and later practiced by the Chera, Chola and Pandya warriors, acquire its modern avatar?

Like any other art form, Silambam has a journey of its own. Its name comes straight from the ‘hills’, or ‘silam’ in Tamil. Used to keep wild animals at bay in the highlands, Silambam eventually became a part of the power struggles against the British in South India. Entire armies of Tamil kings in the 18th century relied upon Silambam to push back the British forces. Yet, their victory was followed by consequences that no one had seen coming… Threatened by the power of a mere bamboo staff, Silambam was banned by the Blighty.

Over time, Silambam transformed into a dance form that many seek and find peace in… Stretching their arms to reach for the weapon, they rotate the bamboo staff and slice the air with such power and poise that the energy is electric. You can see the spark run right from the tips of their fingers to the soles of their feet.

Silambam Short Film Poster By Virtual Bharat

A Way of Life

From conditioning the muscles to creating unbeatable power in body, mind and spirit, the practice of Silambam is a tapasya in multiple stages. Known for flexibility, speed, balance, hand-eye coordination, and cardiovascular stamina, it’s a skill that creates new skills.

But before a student of this art form can hold the staff in her hand, she must master the basics of its ‘chuvadus’ or footwork. Forged in the fires of time, and seasoned by the skills of its ancient masters, Silambam has inspired many other martial art forms across Asia too. Some say even the shaolin traditions borrow from its techniques.

Perhaps, Silambam cannot be bound by a definition. Or an art form. Or even geography. It’s a way of life. A craft only some can grasp in their hands and master in their lifetime.


Created By:
Usha Rajeswari
Amal Sudhakaran
Ashish Zachariah
Resmi Sateesh
Christy Sebastian
Abhijeet Deolekar
Assistant Director:
Aarti, Sashank Ashok
Camera Assistant:
Yash Khaire
Production Assistant:
Prakash Bamne
Shaashwat Pande
Sound Design/Mix:
Sumanth Shetty
Additional Programming:
Abhijit Sood
Post Production Studio:
Open Mind
Production House:
Bharatbala Pictures
For Studio Virtual Bharat
Mrinnalini Mitra
Lynette D’mello
Varsha Ramachandran
Vineet Mehta
Sayan Debnath
Shruti Mishra
Akshay Parvatka
Shrikkanth Govindarajan
Yash Khaire
Prakash Bamne
Pawan Dhankhar
Kannan Rajaram
A Murugesan
Ghanshyam Patil
Ghanshyam Patil
Project Virtual Bharat:
Hari Krishnan
Jawahar Sharma
Abhijeet Deolekar
Special Thanks:
Aishwarya Manivannan
Power Pandian Aasan
Maadakulam Ravi Aasan
Sadanand Menon
Produced By Studio Virtual Bharat

Behind The Scenes