Penang Heritage City logo

Silambam Nilaikalakki

Silambam is an ancient martial art from India and it has many styles. It is based on using a stick (in this case a kind of closed-end bamboo).

Silambam Nilaikalakki is a style that is almost extinct. However, thanks to Master Anbananthan from Penang, it is now being practiced by a small group of martial artist who are dedicated to preserve this art from dying further.

I understand that this form of protection and self defense is very old in origin and started way back when men had to go out to gather food and had to protect themselves from wild beasts or bandits.

Carrying a staff is harmless as it has no sharp ends and does not intimate at first glance. However, in the hands of a master, it is a very effective weapon.

In the demonstration that I saw, beside the bamboo pole (which is six feet long = 1.68 meters), other implements are used to, like the pair of smaller sticks, a pair of stag horns, flexible metal blades and rawhide knotted whip.

In my untrained eyes, the movements and the choreographed steps are graceful but dynamic, almost like dancing. It will take seven years of regular and dedicated training for a novice to complete his or her lessons. After that, the student can be considered a master in this art. A student would wear a yellow belt, an intermediate would wear orange belt and the master would wear red belt.

Silambam Nilaikalakki is not meant for competition. Each movement, strike and counterbalance, will go straight to the target. So, if this is a competitive bout, the fighters may get seriously injured as the sticks can result in a lot of pain when they struck the target.

Here is a compilation video of a private demonstration in Penang.

Read more about Silambam practiced and taught by a French master in Switzerland. He is a student of Master Anba from Penang.

I was very lucky to witness a silambam demonstration done in full costume at Taman Belia in Penang. The members of Silambam Nilaikalakki put up an impressive show of skills and style that I recorded below. More pictures and videos are placed in the Silambam photo pages.

respect to mother earth
Each session starts with respect to Mother Earth

Followed by the respect to the master and fellow silambam partners
Followed by the respect to the
master and fellow silambam partners

Opening stance

The skills involve spinning and twirling the sticks. Intricate footwork is a very important skill to master too. The exercise is very good for your blood circulation, hands and eye co-ordination and general reflex action. One thing unique about this art is, the student himself will know when he is ready to take on the next level. The master does not decide whether the student is ready or not. Your own feel and belief out of what you can do determines the next level to take.

Back to the top of Silambam Nilaikalakki

Back to the page of Street Processions  in Penang

Back to the page of celebration of Penang Heritage

Back to the homepage of Penang Heritage

Return to homepage

Follow Me on Pinterest

More photos of my private Silambam Nilaikalakki demonstration

I was very lucky to witness a Silambam Nilaikalakki demonstration done in full costume at

Many more photos of Silambam Nilaikalakki

Silambam Nilaikalakki

Subscribe To
This Site


Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Author Nazlina Hussin | Contact me | About me | Privacy Policy | Disclaimer

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Penang Heritage City Footer