Ochira was a hamlet in Karunagapalli, Kollam. Today this is a small town. Ochirakali is celebrated as the town’s festival; it is in reality the demonstration of a martial art form (or art of warfare). In the past, during the period of the Kings, military training were conducted and battles were fought in this vast expanse of land. These were also referred to as battlefields. Ochira maidan (field) has been witness to such historical incidents. It was here that the King of Venad and King of Kayamkulam fought a war. So, Ochirakali is a festival that brings to mind remembrances of the heroism and valor of our ancestors.
Though there existed such maidans/battle fields in other parts of Kollam district as well like at Bharanikavu, Vallikkunnam, Palamel and Pallikal, it was only at Ochira that such a festival is celebrated even to this day.
In the beginning only persons belonging to the ‘Nair’ community had the right to participate in this festival. Today persons of all castes take part. But it is still restricted to males only. On both sides of Ochira there would be Kalaris (training centres) and many would come for training. Today the descendants of former gurus and shishyas (disciples) have made ‘Ochirakali’ more popular.
Every year, ‘Ochirakali’ takes place on the first and second of Midhunam (June-July). It being the Monsoon season, the performers stand knee deep in waterlogged pada nilams (battle fields) and payattu (fight). Forward attack and recoiling backwards is the war technique. Deadly weapons of yore are avoided. Swords and shoolam (trident) are today replaced by long sticks and swords made of wood. In the past, the performers would have red clothes around their waists, chains on their necks and hats on their heads.