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Varma Cuttiram- Tamil Text on Martial Art From Palm-Leaf Manuscript

Varma Cuttiram-  Tamil Text on Martial Art From Palm-Leaf Manuscript
Item Code: NAY861
Author: M. Radhika
Publisher: Institute of Asian Studies, Chennai
Language: Tamil Text with English Translation
Pages: 424
Other Details: 9.50 X 7.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.75 kg

Life achieves meaning and significance only when one's actions are directed towards a well-determined goal. Excellence and Efficiency in action presuppose a sound mind and a healthy body. Among the exercises devised for keeping the body trim, pride of place goes to the so-called marital arts. Besides instilling in the practitioner a sense of fortitude, marital arts like Varma Ati improve one's powers of concentration and targeting and result in a new awakening of the mind. The man becomes a better doer of things.

Today, the art is seldom employed to subdue an opponent. On the other hand, it is practiced as a technique of defence. It is also used to help the injured. The art goes by other names such as Varma Sastram,. and Varma Sutram which do not carry the odium attached to Varma Ati. Most of the literature on Varma Sootram is in the form of Palm leaf manuscripts and is yet to see the light of day.

We owe the present book, based on a palm-leaf manuscript, to the munificence of Dr. Shu Hikosaka of the International Institute of Asian Studies, Kyota, Japan.

About the Manuscript

It is a pity that the first leaf of the palm leaf manuscript of Varma Soothram is missing. obviously, the work as reproduced here, begins with the second leaf, So the first two verses and the first line of the third verses could not be included. The printed version begins with a fragment of the last line of the Third verse. To be more specific, it begins with the words The numbering of the leaves and the verses has been done in Malayalam, a language spoken in the neighbouring state Tamil Natu, Kerala. Since the first page available to us has been numbered as page two, we can safely surmise that only one leaf is missing and that it contained the first two verses. This also leads us to conjecture that the writer has flouted the conventions observed by writers of similar works who invariably preface their work with an invocation, salutation to the master, a synopsis of the work, details pertaining to the subject on hand and an account of the author. It is also quite possible that these items were there on the unnumbered pages. Who knows, those pages were also perhaps lost! At any rate, we are left without any knowledge of the author.

The original manuscript consists of forty seven leaves including the one that is missing. It is believed to consist of 105 verses explaining ninety six varmas. It is also believed to contain information about the other varmas. The present manuscript is incomplete because it ends with the explicit words (the account of varmam is coming to a close or ending) and (I seek refuge at the feet of the master). The last two expressions are usually used in the concluding part of any work to indicate quite categorically that the thesis has come to an end.


To accomplish anything in a successful manner Tamil custom demands an invocation. This tradition has been followed in this work also by including three verses from Varma Soothrara 131'. It would have been appropriate if this particular manuscript called which includes verses from the thesis, had been included in the introduction but it was not possible to do so.

The nine verses numbering 38-41, 53, 76, 77, 93, 105 give general information. Each one of the remaining 96 verses mention the name of a particular varmam, the indications and symptoms of that particular varma disease. It also mentions the period within which it has to be cured. Apart from this, there is absolutely no other information. The editor have therefore included many relevant details and rendered the verses in their prose order.


1. The name of the varma, its meaning, and its etymology have been given.

2. The place where the particular varma is situated in the body is explained.

3. Explanation as to what would happen if an injury is caused to a particular varma and the disease and symptoms arising out of this have been elucidated.

4. The remedy to be provided within a certain period is indicated.

5. Some of the important treatments to be given are also mentioned.

6. A Glossary has been provided at the end of the Text.

7. Manuscripts and books which were helpful in describing the varmas are mentioned in the foot notes. The variations have been explained. Other books which provide the various symptoms and attributes of the varmas also find a place here. `Odimurivu Sari', a treatise on varma, has been used for reference

We have painstakingly followed the original version brought from Japan and the variations have been indicated in the foot notes. Some of the important verses have been exhaustively annotated.

It is concluded that Murthi Kalam and Thilada Varma are actually known by the name Muthrakalam and Tida Varmam but the names found in the manuscript have been retained in the introduction with the intention of explaining them later. This applies to the variations as well.

Similes, metaphors, technical terms relevant to varmam, literary words, words borrowed from other languages which figure in the text and offer scope for research have not been dealt with.

Similarly not much of importance has been given to prosody since the emphasis is here on Varma Kalai.

An exhaustive bibliography on varmam is appended. As the list containing the names of the varmams is found in the contents, it does not find a place in the word index.

I am highly thankful to Dr. G. John Samuel, Director for Research Programmes of the Institute for having given me an opportunity, to publish this Tamil manuscript Tarma Soothram' which is a useful contribution to knowledge.

I am greatful to Dr. Shu Hikosaka, Director for Administration of the Institute, for having brought the manuscripts from Japan. His eagerness to disseminate knowledge is commendable.

I am also indebted to Dr. A. Thasarathan for his unstinted co-operation, and Dr. D. James Deva Kamala Arumairaj for enabling me to compare this work with his thesis "Odimurivu Sara Soothram". I express my gratitude to A. Anbezhil who helped me with her dissertation.

I wish to thank the Librarian and staff of the International Institute of Tamil Studies and Government Oriental Manuscript Library; Dr. K. Jayakumar, Mr. D. Boominaganathan, Selvi R. Jayalakshmi for having helped me with transliteration work & proof reading; I thank Dr. M. Hemaprabha for her help with the English Version. Thanks are due to Thiru. A Natarajan for the cover design and the illustration charts, to the typist Mrs. N. Uma Rani and the Akshara Press for their untiring help.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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