Since the last century, martial arts have caught the fancy of people throughout the world. The reason is not just for self defence, but also because of many action / martial arts movies that have become popular, thanks to actors like Bruce lee, Jackie Chan, Jet li etc. Almost everybody know and accepts the Chinese for their origin of Kungfu and respect them for it; but very few people know that all this would not have been possible, without the Indian Contribution. Here in the following lines, we tell you how all this would not have been possible, without the contributions of two Indians, many centuries earlier.
Shaolin Kungfu is considered to be one of the oldest and most famous styles of Kungfu. there is a famous saying that – All martial arts originated from Shaolin. The Shaolin Temple (also known as Shaolin Monastery ) is a Buddhist temple Located in Henan province of China. It was founded almost 1500 years back. Buddhabhadra was the first, abbot of shaolin monastery. Originally an Indian prince,who learnt Buddhist meditation in Kashmir and later migrated to China, he is credited with the translation of Sanskrit Buddhist text to Chinese. (Although there are certain claims that, the translator and shaolin abbot, were two different people, both named – Buddhabhadra). Some years later, another Indian Monk – Bodhidharma, came to shaolin. Bodhidharma, is the person, who is considered to be founder of Shalin Kungfu, in 5th century AD.
Bodhidharma was a prince of Kanchipuram (Son of king Simhavarma, of Pallava dynasty), in present day province/state of Tamil Nadu, in India. From his childhood itself, he was a very intelligent, and an expert in martial arts and meditation. As the eldest among three brothers, he was supposed to be the successor to the kingdom. But his younger brothers were very jealous of him & even tried to kill Bodhidharma. (Although in some places, Bodhidharma is described as the youngest of the three brothers).Disillusioned with the actions of his brothers, he left everything and became a Buddhist monk. He left India and travelled to Sumatra, Malaysia, Thailand,Vietnam and finally China. It is said that this journey took him nine years (3 years in some version). After reaching China, he spent a lots of time preaching Buddhism and martial arts & finally reaching Shaolin Temple, where he was denied entry. Then he went to a nearby cave and started meditating there for nine years, facing the wall of the cave.
Due to his strong meditation and concentration, it is said that a replica of his body’s shape formed in the stone wall of the cave. Seeing his determination and motivation, the shaolin monks were very greatly influenced and finally he was allowed entry into shaolin temple. Once in shaolin temple, Bodhidharma tried to teach the monks, the art of meditating deeply. But he soon found that the monks were not strong enough to follow the hard discipline of Meditation. Deeply disturbed by the poor physical shape of shaolin monks, Bodhidharma tried to teach them Indian pranayama (breathing exercises), Indian fighting exercise and martial arts to make them strong. He stayed in shaolin for many years, where along with meditation, he also trained the monks (now his disciples ) in weapon less fighting arts and other martial arts; so it would help the monks to fight wild animals and bandits, while travelling in the remote areas. At ripe old age (of more than hundred years), some people who were jealous of him, poisoned him and the great master breathed his last.
Bodhidharma was a great inspirational teacher and became known as the father of shaolin martial arts. Besides being an expert in Kungfu, he was also 28th Patriarch of Buddhism in a line of descent from Buddha himself ( via his disciple Mahakasyapa) and is credited with spread of Chan Buddhism to China.
The martial arts taught and popularised by Bodhidharma, is popular throughout the world, but it’s a pity that in his own motherland – India, very few people know about him.