Malkhamb: Martial Arts of India

Submitted by Lisha on Thu, 11/19/2009 - 22:17

'Malkhamb' is a combination of traditional Indian gymnastic and martial arts and can be traced back to the 12th century. For centuries, the sport lay dormant but is regaining popularity in the country.

Malkhamb was restored from antiquity in the 19th century. Two wrestlers from the kingdom of the Nizam of Hyderabad, Ali and Ghulab, visited the royal palace of Peshwa Bajirao II of Maharashtra. In a show of power, they threw challenge to the wrestlers of the kingdom. No one dared to accept their challenge except 18 year old Guru Balambhattdada Deodhar moved into the temple of Goddess Saptashringi Devi in Nashik. In the peaceful environment he surrendered himself to the deity and began his practice. Intense concentration and an unshakable will to succeed rendered his meditation so deep, that it is said in a divine flash Lord Hanuman demonstrated a few tricks on a wooden pole. Spellbound he absorbed the teachings and practiced them. Needless to say, he won the wrestling match. Thus the sport took firm root in Maharashtra and when Bajirao II was eventually chased out of his territory, he took Balambhattdada with him who spread his knowledge to others around the country.

This is the only sport that provides optimum exercise to the entire body in the least possible time. Besides giving perfect shape and form to the body, it also gives remarkable control over the limbs. Due to continuous twisting and turning, the whole body gets messaged and every cell is rejuvenated. External muscles are developed and the efficiency of internal systems is increased.

Malkhamb also makes use of a number of yogic postures and consequently control over the breadth is achieved. The brain functions better and other faculties like memory, concentration and co-ordination are well developed. The practitioner displays mental and physical attributes like flexibility, focus and balance. Through Malkhamb one can control both mind and body.

Malkhamb can also be performed on a hanging pole suspended at a height of 65 - 70 cms. above the ground or on a pole precariously placed on a flimsy construction of boards and bottles. Sometimes, the Malkhamb artist may perform the same feats with weapons tied to his body. Three decades ago, Cane Malkhamb gave way to the rope Malkhamb. Like the pole Malkhamb, the rope Malkhamb has no gender restriction. Malkhamb on the rope is the closest thing to the legendry Indian rope tricks. Treating the rope with due veneration, the gymnast slides up and down with incredible ease. Once up, the gymnast assumes yogic asanas and often combines them with more complex routines including dare devil feats where the player hangs with the rope coiled around her neck. The rope gymnast develops alertness, focus and balance.

Legend has it that Lord Hanuman pioneered this sport of climbing a pole and balancing on it and it is known as 'Malkhamb'. Malkhamb can be traced back to mythological times of Hanuman, the Lord of Monkeys. The ape like antics of the gymnast, the extreme flexibility and ease with which he mounts and dismounts the pole.

This ancient sport form in Maharashtra was given a contemporary feel in the eighteenth century. Dada Balambhat Deodhar has been the principal exponent of 'Malkhamb'.