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How is the Asan Kalari and Literacy of Kerala related?

Caroline Campbell

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Ronald Miller on March 12, 2020

Generally the Asan Kalaris of ancient Kerala were the sole institution for elementary education for the past generations of Keralites . Was from which the student did acquire the basic skills of literacy and numeracy .They helped to develop and refine the skills of the 3 R's (read, write and recite). Although the English system of education has been widely replaced the ezhuthu Kalari, since the 19th century, the ancestors of the present generation of Keralites undoubtedly owed to the Ezhuthu kalari system for their intellectual advance environment. History of education system of Kerala dates back to samgam age with all its vicissitudes. Buddhist and Jain teachers were the earlier Gurus. Later pada salai kala salai culture established and Matoms(exclusively for Brahmans ) for education purpose . But, since the medieval period, ezhuthu palli or kalari were the only sources for elementary education to eligible - non brahmans. Kaniyar or Ganaka people were the teachers of such Ezhuthu palli or Asan Kalary.They were always esteemed as teachers in each language, by virtue of their scholarship in sanskrit and astrology. So you were honored with the title of "Asan" ( Acharyan) , particularly in the southern region of Kerala In northern region of Kerala (Malabar) they were known as Kanisan (truncated form of kaniyar-Asan) and in Kochin area as Kaniyar Panicker(Kalari panicker or Kurup) in view of their role as martial art preceptors. some places they were known as Ezhuthu asan. It was through them the sanskritisation of non - Brahmin people was made possible, especially during a period sudras were stringently prohibited from learning sanskrit. It is noteworthy that the development of Malayalam as a distinct language was begun through the tremondous literary contributions of some Kaniyar scholars as Ayyipilli Asan(Ramacharitham pattu) Kannassa Panickers (kannassa ramayanam) Ezhthachan(Adyatma ramayanam) Since 18th century , the learned members from others castes(Nair,Ezhava etc) had also taken on the role as Asan and had set up Ezhuthu pallikkoodam. The highest number of contribution in Malayalam literature began since late 18th century and that was the renaissance of Kerala. it is unfair to omit the fact that in addition to multiple factors, the Literacy has also enabled the Keralites for social revolution.


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