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How is the Literacy of kerala and Asan Kalari related?

James Washington

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Karen Wright on November 6, 2019

Generally the Asan Kalaris of ancient Kerala are the only institutions of primary 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).

Even though the Ezhuthu Kalari has been had widely replaced by English system of education ,since the 19th century, the ancestors of the present generation of Keralites undoubtedly owed to the Ezhuthu kalari system for their intellectual advance.

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 the 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. Some were known as Gurukkal.

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 it was that he was through the tremendous literary contributions of some Kaniyar scholars as Ayyipilli Asan(Ramacharitham pattu) Kannassa Panickers (kannassa ramayanam) Ezhuthachan(Adyatma ramayanam)

Since the 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.


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