Mallakhamb: The truly authentic Indian Sport
India is known for its culture. Deep rooted values and traditional practices form an important base of Indian heritage. One traditional sport is “Mallakhamb” which is becoming a possible face of International Indian Identity.
Mallakhamb is a traditional Indian sport where various acts are performed using a Pole. Mallakhamb comes from the word “Malla+Khamb”, where Malla means Gymnast and Khamb means Pole. Historically, Mallakhamb was used as an exercise by wrestlers. The pole was used for making an attack. Later on, it became an interesting sport.
The earliest mention of Mallakhamb can be found in the 12th Century classic “MANASOLHAS” (1135 A.D.). This art form remained dormant for quite some time till it was given a fresh lease of life by Balambhatta dada Deodar who was the teacher of Peshwa Bajiroa-II.
As per folklore two wrestlers from Hyderabad visited Bajirao Peshwa. They challenged the state wrestlers and defeated them. Balambhatt Dada Deodhar who was just 18 years of age at that time took the challenge. He started practicing Yoga and wrestling using a wooden pole akin to Mallakhamb. He became so skilled that he defeated the challengers very easily. Since then Mallakhamb has been gaining grounds.
At the national level this sport made its entry in the competitive format in the National Gymnastics Championships held in Delhi in 1958. Today, Mallakhamb is recognized as the national sport.
There are national level Mallakhamb tournaments that happen where all the Indian states participate. Mallakhamb Federation of India arranges competitions each year. There are some district level championships too. Other competitions are also held like Zila Parishad Championships, All India University Championships and many more.
The popularity of Mallakhamb is not limited to India, but is spreading far and wide.
How is Mallakhamb performed?
There are three ways Mallakhamb can be performed:
Pole Mallakhamb: There are a pole, mostly wooden made of either teak or sheesham,which is fixed vertically on the ground. The participants perform various acts using the pole. The pole is covered with Castor oil so that performance becomes easy.
Hanging Mallakhamb: In this way, theperformance of acrobats, feats and many interesting gymnastics are done hanging on the pole. Here the pole is not fixed but hanging by the hook. This is usually shorter than the fixed pole.
Rope Mallakhamb: Sometimes Mallakhamb is also performed using a rope. A cotton rope is generally used to perform exercises which should not lead to binding of the rope.
Bottle Mallakhamb: This form of Mallakhamb is very new. In this method, glass bottles are kept on wooden base and Mallakhamb is balanced on the top.
Other than these, there are another forms of Mallakhamb too like Baseless Mallakhamb, Fixed Bottle Mallakhamb, Inclined and Suspended Mallakhamb.
There are broadly five stages in the Mallakhamb performance. The performer has to first climb on the Mallakhamb. Then he has to perform acrobats like spinning, twisting, turning.
The performer must balance himself well while doing these acrobats. The performer then swings and take hops in the air and catches the pole again. To conclude the act, the performer has to stand on the top of pole and then dismount to the ground.
Mallakhamb is far from monotony. It is one of the most interesting activity. The use of pole might look crazy, but this is like no other sport on planet.
Mallakhamb is considered as a perfect exercise. Mallakhamb incorporates various positions of Yoga. Mallakhamb develops a strong control over body. It is the science and art of controlling and balancing.
Various postures of Mallakhamb provides strength to muscles of hands, legs, biceps and triceps. The body becomes very flexible in course of time when twisting and turning your body parts become way easier. Mallakhamb gives grasping power to hand and wrists.
Not only physical but, Mallakhamb helps in enhancing mental ability also. The breathing control and the balance control helps the development of mind. Mallakhamb develops the power of concentration. Mallakhamb promotes strength and courage.
Mallakhamb involves activity of spine that gives you longetivity. The flexibility and the Mallakhamb movements increases efficiency of nerves. The bending of body leads to a healthier kidney, pancreas, stomach and urinary system.
The jumps performed in Mallakhamb improve the lungs and other respiratory organs. Balancing leads to the toning of the organs like spine, ankles, elbow, neck etc.
Because of all these reasons, Mallakhamb is becoming extremely popular and accepted sport nationally and internationally.
Mallakhamb: An International Reach
In its contemporary form Mallakhamb is a unique embodiment of influences ranging from north Indian wrestling, yoga and even British colonial gymnastics. Apart from a national sport it is evolving into an art form which is being incorporated by contemporary aerial dance choreographers and hence its popularity is increasing.
The international presence of Mallakhamb dates back to the year 1936 when a small troupe of Mallakhamb acrobats visited Berlin Olympic Games and impressed Adolf Hitler by their performance. The team was conferred with Olympic medal too. The team left an everlasting impression on the spectators.
There are many foreigners who have expressed their interest in learning the art of Mallakhamb. International Mallakhamb Championships has been already happening in different countries like Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Spain and Italy and recently.
As per Uday Deshpande, who has been doing pioneering work in popularizing this sport, there is a lot of interest evinced from people of many countries in learning Mallakhamb. But he feels that there is still a lot more that has to be done to make Mallakhamb become more popular sport worldwide.
The Indian government should take this sport ahead and should let no stone unturned in promoting Mallakhamb. Mallakhamb training should be promoted like other sports right through schooling. Mallakhamb deserves to be classified as top listed sport which can be turned out into an International Indian identity.
The day may not far when Mallakhamb which is the India’s traditional sport, will become a leading global sport and also an Olympic Sport someday. It will be a proud feeling for all Indians that a game which originated in India, is appreciated and practiced in other countries as well.