There is currently a great number of sports that we know and still practice. Fusions were made and even new ones pop into existence that can have the potential to be the next big thing in the world of sports. But there’s one sport in India that doesn’t get much attention even though its origins can be traced back to the 12th century. This traditional sport might be old enough to be forgotten but it isn’t a joke, for it requires weird body-bending skills and strength that could make the viewers watch with clenched fists and surprised eyes. The ancient sport is known as Mallakhamb and it dares you to stay in the air.
The ancient traditional Indian sport of Mallakhamb can be traced back to the 12th century, where it was mentioned in Manas-Olhas – a classic by Chalukya in 1135 AD. The word “malla” means gymnasts and the word “khamb” means a pole. In other words, Mallakhamb stands for “gymnast’s pole”.
But this doesn’t mean that you can think of Mallakhamb as just an Indian translation of pole dancing. Though both require the performer to twist, stretch and balance, there’s a uniquely complex flavor in Mallakhamb that just stuns you. It is not a typical bending and turning that lures its viewers in its sex appeal. What can be seen in every movement is the undeniable strength of the performer who never forgets to move with grace, agility, dexterity, speed, and timing.
There are different forms of Mallakhamb: the Plain Mallakhamb that uses a vertical pole fixed on the ground; the Hanging Mallakhamb which uses a shorter pole hanging with the aid of hooks and chains; Rope Mallakhamb which replaces the pole with a 2.5 cm thick cotton rope; and the Revolving Bottle Mallakhamb which consists of 32 glass bottles placed on a wooden platform.
There are other forms of Mallakhamb like the Baseless Mallakhamb and Fixed Bottle Mallakhamb. There are also additional variations introduced recently like the Inclined and Suspended Mallakhamb.
The sport was said to be informed by the spirit of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. The pole represents his phallus, that’s why the Pole Mallakhamb is mostly done by males. The rope represents the god’s tail and the rope is only climbed with toes because using the soles of the feet would be disrespectful.
Mallakhamb continues to be one of India’s most odd and difficult sports. What do you think? Is this something you’d be interested to try?
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