The Art of Pressure Points

    Varma Kalai About

About Varma Kalai


Varma Kalai ( Tamil : வர்மக்கலை , Telugu : మర్మయుద్దకళ ) is a 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 ( Tamil : குத்துவரிசை ) and Silambam.

Varma adi or Marma adi

Varma adi or Marma adi ( "hitting vital spots" ) is a part of the art of healing and harming Varma Kalai ( Tamil : வர்மக்கலை , Telugu : మర్మయుద్దకళ )Marma Vidhya, It is a component of adi murai "law of hitting" which is a martial art that teaches methods to attack pressure points of the human body. This system of marmam is part of Siddha Vaidhyam, attributed to the Tamil sage Agastya ( Tamil : அகத்தியர் , Sanskrit :अगस्त्य , Telugu : అగస్త్య ) and his disciples. It is practiced in almost all parts of Tamil Nadu and in the Travancore region of Kerala. It is supposedly derived from traditional Siddha medicine. Indian martial arts such as Silambam, Kuttu Varisai and Kalaripayat explains, "Adi Murai" and its component Marma adi were emphasize empty hand techniques.

Varma Kalai is also known by following names :

  • Varma Kalai,
  • Varmak Kalai,
  • Varmakalai,
  • Varmam ( Tamil : வர்மம் ),
  • Varma Adi,
  • Varma Sastra,
  • Varma Vidya,
  • Marma Vidya,
  • Marma Kalai,
  • Varma Kalari,
  • Kalari Varma,
  • Marma Sthanam ( Telugu : మర్మ స్థానం )

and many more.

In Malayalam, varmam is known as Marma / Marmam / Marma Adi.

Pressure points - Varma Varisai ( Full-details available at end of this page )

Varma adi recognizes 108 marmas ( lethal Varma points ), 12 Padu marmas ( death marmas ) and 96 Thodu marmas ( touch marmas ) and about 350 therapeutic Varma points within our body. There are also counter marmas to heal trauma to the marmas. Varma also known as Marma points which located at point of specific part of body surface whereby application of pressure or insertion of needles will affect the vital energy flow or Prana ( life ) along a complex system of subtle channels called Nadis. By using varying degrees of force to strike the body at different vital points, can produce astounding results. When used in warfare by a skilled combatant, these blows can cause instant death, great pain, paralysis or infection even delayed death. The results vary according to the power and velocity used by the combatant, subject to the timing of the day as well.

Common training taught by Varma Kalai classes - for fighting skills

01. Kai Murai Hand / Finger Methods
02. Seiyal Murai Application Methods / Ways

  TRAINING IN LEVEL 1 : Varma Varisai ( Understanding of Vital Points strikes / attacks )

♦ Padu Varmam – 12 with Mudras ( Varma Techniques )

♦ Adangal ( Releasing of Varmam / Recovery from unconscious ) -12 ( actually have 56 Adangal but reduced to 12 )

Varma Adangal, Bringing back to normal ( Marma Thiravukol ). While the Siddha's have mentioned a lot about the beating, push or touch in the Varmam to make a person incapacitated. In real life a person may get attacked accidentally in the Varmam and incapacitated. Siddha's have also mentioned the ways to bring back such affected person to normal. This is called Marma Thiravukol or Adangal or key to bring back to normal. A push, a touch or a beating in the relevant place, applying oils, medicines, administering medicines brings back the affected person to normal. This is possible to all Varmams.

   +Usually Guru ( Aasan ) will teach to student which consist of 3 parts:

  • Mel Adangal ( Top )
  • Naduvu Adangal ( Middle )
  • Kii Adangal ( Bottom )

♦ Podhu Adangal ( Common Release ) - 03

♦ Sarvaanga Adangal - 01

  TRAINING IN LEVEL 2 : Pormuga Varma Varisai ( Lesson for Vital Point attacks )

♦ Padu Varmam - 12 ( Deadly Points )
The meaning of Padu is nothing but death. Padu Varmam are highly dangerous. These are located in the front part of the body. A gentle touch or a push in these places may result death :

Thilagartha ( Thilartha ) Kalam
Natchathira Kalam
Sevi Kutri Kalam
Pedraei ( Pidari ) Kalam
Urakka Kalam
Sumei Varmam
Ner Varmam
Adappa Kalam
Urumi Kalam
Valia Athisurukki
Siriya Athisurukki

♦ Por Varmam - 24 ( used in Combat / Self Defence )

Total : 36 Varmam Points

Total : 36 Varmam Points   x   12 Thadupugal ( Blocks )   =   432 Varma Adigal ( Vital Attacks )

♦ Amrithanila ( Nectar placement )
This concept explains the effectiveness of attack on Varmam depends on the lunar movement. The Varma point keeps moving from toe to head and vice-versa with the movement of moon. The movement will be of X shape. The vital Varma points and the poison will travel in the opposite direction. Such effective points of each day are known as the Amrithanila.

Types of Varmam

Thodu Varmam ( Minor Varmam points which activated by fingers / hands ) ( Tamil : தொடு வர்மம் - Toṭu Varmam )
96 Vital Points triggered by a touch. Not deadly, but will affect the victim by disabling the body, organ movements and function. A touch or a small push with a finger or a beating in these places make one faint with many side effects like fits etc. In some cases the organs will get affected for a specific period such as 15 days, 30 days, 45 days etc.

Thus there are 108 Varmam mentioned by Siddha's in a human body. They are located in the places such as :

Vital Points
Part of Human body
37 places Places above neck ( கழுத்து மேலே புள்ளிகள் - Kaḻuttu mēlē )
34 places Places below neck ( கழுத்துக்கு கீழே - Kaḻuttukku kīḻē )
16 places Places back of the body ( உடல் பின்னால் - Uṭal piṉṉāl )
11 places Places in legs ( கால்கள் - Kālkaḷ )
10 places Places in hands ( கைகள் - Kaikaḷ )

Padu Varmam ( Major Varmam points which activated by fingers / hands due to injury)
12 Vital Points that are fatal, causing immediate, severe effects upon the victim.

Thattu Varmam ( Varmam points which stimulated by tapping / blows ) ( Tamil : தட்டு வர்மம் - Taṭṭu Varmam )
Decisive Vital points in 8 places in the chest and abdomen area that are used by the master. These are kept confidential until the master pass on the knowledge to the selected disciple.

Uuthu Varmam ( Varmam points which stimulated by blowing using mouth ) ( Tamil : ஊது வர்மம் - Ūtu Varmam )
e.g. Decisive Vital points that are used by the master. Master ( Aasan ) chew small piece of dry ginger and blow the air into nose and ears of patience to help reduce some Varmam related problem. Betel leaf air also can be used if dry ginger not available, because both have anti-vayu property. Ginger air will dislodge the stagnant vayu and stimulate good energy flow through whole body, and thus patience will become conscious. This blowing method used because some Varmam points can't be reach in-depth by finger / touch. These are kept confidential until the master pass on the knowledge to the selected disciple.

Nakku Varmam ( Varmam points which stimulated by licking ) ( Tamil : நக்கு வர்மம் - Nakku Varmam )
e.g. Using licking method to reduce hard/heavy pressure on Varmam points. Decisive Vital points that are used by the master. These are kept confidential until the master pass on the knowledge to the selected disciple.

Thodu Varmam ( Varmam points which stimulated by touch ) ( Tamil : தொடு வர்மம் - Toṭu Varmam )

Parechal Varmam

Koochal Varmam

Sumbana Varmam

Thadavu Varmam ( Varmam points which stimulated by rubbing / massage )

Thuppu Varmam ( Varmam points which stimulated by spitting the herbs )

Sunonitha Varmam

Sukkila Varmam

Choondu Varmam

Nooku Varmam ( Tamil : நோக்கு வர்மம் - Nōkku Varmam ) and Meitheenda Kalai / Meitheenda Kalam
Triggering vital points by focusing / staring / concentrating on the target. It takes several years of practice for 1 to become an expert in Nooku Varmam. It is said Nokku Varmam and Meitheenda kalam are so highly vulnerable so that a mere gaze at these areas of the body itself will do to down the man. In olden days Aasan had used Nokku Varmam and Meitheenda kalam to control enemies and wild animals.

Classifications of Varma Points

Human body is divided into 5 areas in which Varmam ( Varma points ) and there are 108 Varmam's ( Vital points ) :

Vital Points
Part of Human body
25 From Top of the Head till Neck ( தலை மேல் கழுத்து வரைக்கும் - Talai mēl Kaḻuttu Varaikkum )
45 From Neck till Naval Point
9 From Naval Point till Anus
14 Arms
15 Legs

The same 108 Varmams are classified under different categories. One such classification is based on 12 nerves ( or a meridian channel ) in the nervous system. Each meridian channel consists of 1 Padu Varmam and 8 Thodu Varmam ( Tamil : தொடு வர்மம் - Toṭu Varmam ).

Vital Points
Varmam Type
96 Thodu Varmam ( Tamil : தொடு வர்மம் - Toṭu Varmam )
12 Padu Varmam

The number of Varmams (108) various between various schools of Varmam.

Based on Indian Astrology :

Vital Points
Varmam Based On
27 Stars ( Hindu Astrological )
30 Lunar
35 Padu Varmam

Based on the text Naramparai, written by Kumbamuni Siddha :

Vital Points
18 Padu Varmam
96 Thodu Varmam ( Tamil : தொடு வர்மம் - Toṭu Varmam )
8 Pakka Varmam
86 Narambu Elumbu Varmam
45 Maru Varmam

Based on yet another classification :

Vital Points
65 Vata Varmam (Air)
24 Pitta Varmam (Heat)
6 Kapha Varmam (Cool)
12 Concealed Varmam

According to Vaidhiya murai ( Healing therapy under Siddha medicine ) the vital points are explained as :

Vital Points
64 Vadha Varmam
24 Pitha Varmam
6 Kaba Varmam
6 Ul Varmam
8 Thattu Varmam ( Tamil : தட்டு வர்மம் - Taṭṭu Varmam )

Learning Varmam - Traditional Way

Varma Student

Most of the time, student they will end up with "fake" Varma teachers. Varma student has to search for a proper Aasan and the learning process will take for at least 12 years, a student might know 100++ of the vast knowledge of Varmam. To learn more vast or in-depth, student might have to find different Aasan. A lot of time and money has to be spent in learning. May be for that reason, Varma Kalai is not vastly spread.

Learning Varmam - Traditional Way

The student, who wants to learn Varmam, should meet the Gurukkal ( priest ) on a new moon day with Guru Thachinai and Kaanikkai ( fees ). Gurukkal will perform pooja and rituals to either Saint Agasthiyar / Saint Bohar and then the Kaanikkai will be offered to the Gurukkal. Later Varma Aasan ( Varma teacher ) will get Kaanikkai. Then, Aasan will teach the rituals to worship sathguru's like Agasthiyar and Bohar. At that time, starting prayer method ( Vananggum Murai ) in Silambam and the Varmam point 'Kumbidu Kaalam' will be taught. At the end of the first day's lessons, student has to touch the feet of Aasan. By doing so, student will get blessing of a touch. When student gets blessings, the student will be taught about another Varma point known as 'Bhoomi Kaalam'. Everyday, the student has to mentally feel both Kumbidu Kaalam and Bhoomi Kaalam. This is the starting stage of learning Varmam.

Then student will be learning Martial Arts between 3 to 5 years. During that period, Aasan will observe characteristics of the student and subsequently will teach student about Varmam points. It is not easy to remember the Varma points. Aasan will not apply any pressure on those Varma points. Aasan will dip a small wooden point in rice flour and touch the Varma points on the student's body, just sufficient enough to make impression.

The Varmam lessons taught based on Aasan-Student relationship. Only after 7 years of study, the student will be taught about Varma Thiravukol ( key to unlock ). Upon completion of 12 years studies, after taking vows, student will be secretly taught about the inner Thiravukol's and Thiravukol's that shows eternity. After that phase, he will be given 'Guru Nilai Theekshai' ( blessings to be teacher ) and student will be announced as a Varma Aasan. Even after became Aasan, the relationship between the Aasan and student ( himself / herself ) will continue forever.

Requirements for training

Varma Kalai teachers are highly selective in their choice of students. Disciples must meet a number of criteria; beyond martial arts competence they are required to have an understanding of :

  • Biology
  • Mathematics
  • Political science
  • Astronomy
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Saamuthriga Lakshanam
  • Yoga
  • Military tactics
  • Horsemanship
  • Elephant riding
  • Charioteering
  • Hindu philosophy ( Saiva, Vaisnava, Saktha, Koumara, Boutha, Samana ) etc.

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.

Hearsays are that the rules were followed sincerely without exception, everyone who wished to learn the art were not qualified to learn. 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 few techniques as they never met qualified diciple. It is being said that causes such led to the loss of many great techniques, few Aasans who spoke to media deny that thought. There is also a belief that the art was kept hidden for centuries for various reasons, it seems that Aasans agree to that but there is no sound record on what facts set the art hidden.

Qualities in Varma Aasan

Knowledge of Varma Kalai ( the art of Varmam ) is passed through several generation. Person who mastered this art are called "Aasan" ( which means Master / Instructor ). Varma Aasan are extremely calm in nature; never show anger even by words of mouth and will be very devoted in God. Aasan usually hesitant to reveal their knowledge to anyone, very humble and not pride. They show their special talents only to selective students.

To become a good Varma Aasan , one should learn :

  • Martial Arts ( Silambam & Kuttu Varisai )
  • Siddha Medicine
  • Knowledge of Herbs
  • Chanting Mantras
  • Tantric practices
  • Astrology
  • Anga Sasthra
  • Boomi Sasthra
  • Vaastu Sasthra ( study of building architecture, similar to Chinese Feng Shui )
  • Horai
  • Nimitha Sasthra
  • Thoni Sasthra
  • Dharga Sasthra
  • Kama Sasthra ( sexuality ) ( Tamil : காமசூத்ரா )
  • Navaratna ( precious stones )
  • Saranool ( breathing )
  • Soola Nilai
  • Yoga
  • Psychology

It requires at least 12 years to learn these arts.


The origin of the art dates back to thousands and thousands of years. In ancient Tamil history, there were mentions about 18 saints called Siddha's. Saint Agasthiyar was the outstanding among them, who lived in the Agastya Hills of the Western Ghats surround by the southern districts Tamil Nadu and south Kerala. Saint Agasthiyar's contribution to Varma and Medicine is glorious. It is wonder that without modern scientific inventions like X-ray and Scanning, the Saint accurately pin pointed human anatomy. His original literature is in Tamil language, graded as classical language by the Govt of India. The original script was written in palm leaves and kept secret for generations. Due to the vulnerability of the art, it is taught only to the blood relations. Siddha doctors are still using this literature for studies. Besides Saint Agasthiyar other Siddha's like Saint Pulipani and Saint Bohar also contributed to Varmam. They have recorded everything in palm leaves.

Varmakalai ( the art of varmam ) is considered to be very auspicious. It is believed that Lord Siva taught this art form. Indians overwhelm by saying that all rare art forms originate with roots from God. For example, epics illustrate that Tamil and Sanskrit have their origin from the sound of the 'Oodukkai' ( musical instrument in the hand of Lord Siva ). Bharatha Naatiyam ( the traditional dance ) originated from Lord Siva. Kama Sutra ( the art of love and sex ) originated from Lord Siva. So it is of no surprise when it is said that varmakalai, the rare art that saves humans from diseases, also originated from Lord Siva.

" தேறவே   சிவன்   உமைக்குச்   சொன்ன   போதம்
    ஆறாமல்   நான்   அறிந்து   இந்நூல்   சொன்னேன் "

                    ( ஒடிமுறிவு   சரசூத்திரம் 1500.   பா. 833 )

According to the above versus ( Odivu Murivu Sara Suthram 1500 Verse 833 ), Lord Siva taught varmam to his wife Parvathi; later Parvathi taught varmam to their son Lord Murugan. Lord Murugan then taught this art to the sage Agasthiyar, foremost of the Siddhar's, during the times of Sangam Literature. Agasthiyar 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 Agasthiyar in Courtallam suggests that he researched the art there. But the original texts ( and their copies ), directly written by siddhas, are not available now. Saints who have grasped the meaning of the siddhas sayings have given a poetic form, which is used in modern day learning. So far, around fifty thousand ( 50,000 ) songs are available. The narrated history has been mentioned in the 41st prose of " Kai Mathirai Thiravukol " as follows :

Kai Mathirai Thiravukol Verse 41

" பண்பாக   அகத்தியனார் . ராமதேவர்
    பணிவாக   போகமுனிவர்

The above narration ( Kai Mathirai Thiravukol Verse 41 ) says, cannot be merely considered as a made-up story. One of the names that denote varmam is 'Siva'. Another name that denote varmam is 'Vasi', which means air. If you repeat 'vasi' continuously, you can hear 'Siva'. 'Sivam' means life. That is why Thirumoolar preached the philosophy of 'Love is Sivam' ( Love is Life ). One of the current available texts 'Sarasuthram' gives the criteria for teaching varmam to eligible students.

Sarasuthram Verse 4

The above versus ( Sarasuthram Verse 4 ) says that a varmam teacher should teach varmam only to a 'sivayogi'. Sivayogi is the one who loves all life forms. In all the varmam texts written since Thirumoolar till ones in 18th - 19th century, varmam is spoken along with sivam.

The history that is said so far has been taken from epics. In reality, varmakalai might have its roots in self-defense martial arts. It is the tactics man might have learnt by observing birds and animals. In Kalari ( Defense Varmalogy ), practiced in southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala, various forms like Elephant Form, Tiger Form, Fox Form, Lion Form, Hanuman Form, and etc. are still in use.

In cockfight, to improve the fighting spirit, the owner of the cock will massage the back of the cock. This looks similar to how now a days the teacher gives a pat on the student's shoulder to encourage him or her.

From the medieval period, the ornaments worn by man in the ears, fingers, legs and foot, knowingly or unknowingly gave him health and energy. The body piercing done in the name of god also helped him to improve his life. Similar to how circumstances helped him to learn the about various parts in the body that helped him to improve the health, he also learned about the parts that caused illness. He used this knowledge to attack his enemy and create damage. On the other hand when he got hit, with spiritual thoughts, he cured himself by tuning the points that revived the good health.

Though he could command victory over his enemies, he also performed rituals and took the help of 'Kalari Moorthy - Kali' god. Also to save the life of the people, who were injured by his enemy, he took the help of the god 'Kalari Moorthy - Sarabesvarar'.

Hence, for the growth of varmakalai, mankind's capability, thinking process and action played a dominant role. Our ancestors invented this art to help the mankind. It is our duty to preserve this rare art.

Though Varma Kalai has its own form of katas and procedures, it was closely assorted with Silambam's component
Kuttu varisai and Kalaripayattu. Knowledge of Varma Kalai was considered vital in both 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 ).

Historically, Varma Kalai has been one of the arts taught to those of royal blood. However, even royalty were required to pass the stringent requirements for discipleship. The schools received nivandhanams ( donation with high respect ) from the Kings of Tamil Kingdom (Chera, Chola, Pandya and Pallava. Aasan and Periyaasan of Varma Kalai were highly respected.

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.

Currently Varma Kalai is practised in Tamil Nadu as Kuttu varisai and in Kerala as Kalari training.

Introduction to Varmam

The points where life force resides and flows in the human body are known as varmam. Varmam also means where breathing enery resides in the body ( Vaakata Nithanam : Verse 31 ). Varmam are scattered over various parts of body like in nerves, nerve joints, bones, muscles, ligaments and inner organs.

Based on where varmam is located in the body, it has gathered various names like Vasi, Puravi, Kaalam, Uyir, Mayakkam, Pranan, Kalai, Suvaasam, Saram, Yogam, Param and Sivam. This has been mentioned in the Tamil text, Vaakata Nithanam.

Vaakata Nithanam Verse 350-30

Based on this song ( Vaakata Nithanam Verse 350-30 ), the word Varmam referred to flow of life force in relationship with breathing. In Malayalam, Varmam is known as Marmam.

Data Arrangement, Technical Arrangement & Graphics
♦ Master ( Aasan ) Murugan - Silambam Academy
References ( About Varma Kalai )
♦ Thirumoolar Varmalogy Institute, India
♦ Book of Ben Stevens "From Lee to Li", HarperCollins 2009 ISBN 9780007347414
♦ Sacred Books of the East series edited by Müller ( 1879 to 1910 )
♦ Ralph T. H. Griffith ( English translations of the four Samhitas ), published 1889 to 1899