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Varma Kalai (Tamil: வர்மக்கலை) is an advanced part of martial art and esoteric healing art originating from ancient Tamil Nadu in South India. The name literally translate as "The Art of Vital Points". It is an advanced element of the Tamil martial arts like Adi Murai/Marma_adi , Kuttu varisai. and Silambam
Legend has it that Lord Siva taught this art form to his son Lord Murugan and Lord Murugan taught this art to the sage Agastya, foremost of the Siddhar's, during the times of Sangam Literature. He transferred the knowledge of this art to other Siddhar's and he also wrote treatises on this art in Tamil. The presence of shrines to Agathiar in Courtallam suggests that he researched the art there.
Varma Kalai is incorporated into the advanced forms Kuttu varisai and Adi Murai (Southern Kalari) and also in Silambam forms like guru salavarisai, salavarisai (various form) and tani-salavarisai (advance) . Salavarisai is also known as salam-varisai, means 'way of greetings or respects'. Knowledge of Varma Kalai was considered vital in all these arts to become a Grand Master. The teachers were called as Aasan (Tamil: ஆசான்) and the grand masters were called as Periyaasan (Tamil: பெரியாசன்) or Iyan (Tamil: ஐயன்).
The art was taught only to selected individuals, but due to the strict requirements for new students it never gained large numbers of adherents. Due to its secretive nature, Varma Kalai remained largely unknown even in India until the release of the movie Indian, in which Kamal Haasan played the role of a Varma Kalai expert. The film's popularity generated a resurgence of interest in the art.
Requirements for training 
Varma Kalai teachers are highly selective in their choice of students. The Varma Kalai martial artist is not allowed to teach the art to others until he receives Deeksha from his Aasan or Periyaasan as in recognition of him as an Aasan. It was taught only to selected individuals who qualified but again all who learned does not qualify to become an Aasan. Also the Aasans and Periyaasans did not pass on many techniques as they never met qualified disciples. It is being said that causes such led to the loss of many great techniques.
Varma Kalai is classified into 4 types:
- Thodu Varmam
- 96 Vital Points triggered by a touch. Not deadly, but will affect the victim by disabling the body, organ movements and function.
- Padu Varmam
- 12 Vital Points that are fatal, causing immediate, severe effects upon the victim.
- Thattu Varmam
- Decisive Vital points that are used by the master. These are kept confidential until the master pass on the knowledge to the selected disciple
- Nooku Varmam (also known as) Meitheenda Kalai
- Triggering vital points by focusing/ concentrating on the target. It takes several years of practice for one to become an expert in Nooku Varmam.
In human body there are 108 Varmam's (Vital points) they are:
|Vital Points||Part of Human body|
|25||From head to neck|
|45||From neck to navel|
|9||From navel to arm|
Other types of techniques also used in varma kalai such as:
- Uuthu Varmam
- Vital Points triggered by a blow of air from mouth. For example, by chewing Garlic and blow the air into ears to trigger the varmam point for recovery from heat. Not deadly, but will affect the victim (usually used for disabling / recovery / healing from varmam attacks).
- Nakku Varmam
- Vital Points triggered by licking at sensitive organ such as eyes. Not deadly, but will affect the victim (usually used for disabling / recovery / healing from varmam attacks).
According to Vaidhiya murai (Healing therapy under Siddha medicine) the vital points are explained as:
Below listed are some of the Varma Kalai manuscripts:
- Agasthiyar Varma Thiravukol
- Agasthiyar Varma Kandi
- Agasthiyar Oosi Murai Varmam
- Agasthiyar Vasi Varmam
- Varma Odivu Murivu
- Agasthiyar Varma Kannadi
- Varma Varisai
- Agasthiyar Mei Theendakalai
Tamizhagattin veerakkalaiagal by Dr.K.Kannan Assaan-Published by Taamarai Noolagam, Chennai.
- www.silambam.in Silambam by Mahesh Kumar
- http://mahayogavarmakalai.org, Tamil Nadu Varmakalai Association