Mallakhamb, native to the Indian Subcontinent, is an ancient sport in which a gymnast performs aerial yoga postures and wrestling grips in concert with a vertical stationary or hanging wooden pole, cane, or rope. The pole used in the sport is also referred to as Mallakhamb.
There are three most popular versions of Mallakhamb practised using a Sheesham pole, cane, or rope. The name ‘Mallakhamb’ is derived from the terms malla, which means wrestler, and khamb, which means a pole. Literal meaning being ‘wrestling pole,’ the term refers to a traditional training implement used by wrestlers.
History of Mallakhamb
Chandraketugarh pottery with narrative figures carved on it shows a couple exhibiting gymnastics by hanging on a pole-like structure in the shape of a T which is held by another person. In the 7th century AD, Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzhang provides evidence of pole climbing of the pillar cult which he witnessed at Allahabad. He states that Hindu ascetics climbed the top of a pole situated at Allahabad clinging onto it with one hand and one foot while the other hand and foot stretched out in the air and watched the sunset with their heads turned right as it set, which indicates a solar rite.
The earliest literary known mention of Mallakhamb is in the 1135 AD Sanskrit classic Manasollasa, written by Someshvara III. A Rajput painting from 1610 AD shows athletes performing various acrobatics, including pole climbing while dancing to Raga Desahka.
The Indian sport turned competitive for the first time in January 1981, developed by the Mallakhamb Federation of India. The rules and regulations were also introduced for the first time in the First National Championships held from 28 to 29 January 1981. Competitive Mallakhamb at the national level first made its appearance in 1958 at the National Gymnastics Championships (NGCs) held at the Paharganj Stadium, Delhi, India.
The Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI) proposed to recognize the game and include it in subsequent NGCs. The first National Mallakhamb Championships were held in 1962 at Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, as part of the NGCs. Around 1968, the game was introduced in the All-India Inter-University Gymnastics Championships.