fbpx

Sydney Festival 2018: Pole gymnastics

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The ancient Indian sport of Mallakhamb comes to Sydney next month as part of Sydney Festival 2019, all dressed up as a work of art.
The show Mallakhamb India presents some incredible feats of daredevilry – and poise – as practitioners, extreme gymnasts, use vertical poles to show off their physical as well as mental prowess.

They climb, they slide, they hang, they twirl, they balance – as they grip the pole with their hands, feet, knees and toes.
Originating in Maharashtra around the 12th century, Mallakhamb is a little-known physical practice that is believed to have been prescribed as fitness routines for wrestlers. ‘Malla’ means wrestler and ‘khamb’ stands for pole, so the term could be translated to mean ‘pole wrestling’ or ‘the wrestler’s pole’. Like traditional wrestlers, practitioners wear a langot, grease their hands with castor oil or rosin, and remain barefoot.
Historical texts make mention of the Mallakhamb in ancient Vadodara, Nashik, Koture and Saptashringi, and there is some evidence to suggest the early practitioners were devotees of the monkey god Hanuman.


Macquarie University researcher Jon Burtt, writing in the International Journal of the Arts in Society (2010),  traced Mallakhamb to the ancient text Manasollasa (1135AD), “a detailed instruction manual on the scholarship and military training of young Chalukyan princes, written by the Chalukyan King Somesvara III.”
Today though, this ancient practice has evolved into a sport. Competitively, it is the same as modern gymnastics, where a bunch of judges score the routines of individual participants. There are pole, rope and hanging versions of Mallakhamb.
The sport came out of India for the first time in 1939, as an exhibition sport in the Berlin Olympics. It is believed Hitler himself was impressed enough with the gymnasts to present each one of them with an honorary medal.
As well, Mallakhamb has evolved into an artform. Artists have toured Australia frequently: they were at the Gold Coast earlier this year as part of the Commonwealth Games. Their new show, titled Mallakhamb India is a rare opportunity to see the form’s top artists from Mumbai, in a masterful show by Australian director Benjamin Knapton, performing to a live soundtrack presented by Mumbai-based musician Donn Bhatt.
Knapton says in his directorial statement that Mallakhamb has been one of the highlights of his career. “Unlike previous presentations of Mallakhamb on the stage, which run for no longer than 6 minutes, this show has gone through a long artistic development period to authentically transform the training practice into a work of art. The show is influenced by history and its relationship to now, the past and present of India, as well as the connection between our respective cultures. This Mallakhamb show is physically brutal and tender, spiritual and irreverent, astounding and human. It is about the 6 artists that present it, their bodies and how they connect with the world around them.”
FREE EVENT
WHEN 11-13 January
WHERE Prince Alfred Square, Parramatta
CHECK OUT ALSO
Mallakhamb artists in Sydney Festival Talks Talking Circus: Through Different Lenses, 13 January at Riverside Theatre Parramatta. Free event.
Also read: Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan with Sandy Evans at Sydney Festival 2018

- Advertisement -
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Podcasts

Let’s Talk Boosters: Indian Link podcast

0
  In LET'S TALK BOOSTERS, a new podcast series by Indian Link, host Ekta Sharma quizzes Dr Kritman Dhamoon of Blacktown Hospital Sydney about booster...
Frontline worker Parita Patel (inset). Image supplied

‘Serving the community’: COVID testing in remote NSW

0
  The past two years have been a rollercoaster of COVID-19 related turmoil; from isolating lockdowns, closed borders, to trying to help Indians in the...

Ep 9: What do young Indians want from love?

0
  Growing up in Indian culture, most of us know that love has never been as popular as marriage. Even in the movies, the main...
- Advertisement -

Latest News

(Source: Canva)

How accurate is your RAT? 3 scenarios show it’s about more...

0
  As Omicron surges through the community, getting the right answer from a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) is not as straightforward as reading one or...
Sagarika Venkat arrangetram

Sagarika Venkat is finalist in Young Citizen of the Year award

0
  What were you doing when you were 12 years old? Not receiving a ‘Highly Commended’ award on Australia Day, to be sure. Sydney’s Sagarika Venkat was...
deepak raj gupta oam

Deepak-Raj Gupta OAM: Community, business and politics

0
  Deepak-Raj Gupta has been honoured in this year’s Australia Day Honours with the OAM for service to the community of Canberra. “I feel honoured and...
marriage strike india

Why is #MarriageStrike trending in India?

0
  As the Delhi High Court hears petitions challenging Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code and the legality of marital rape in India, men’s...
Parmanu

6 recent Indian patriotic songs

0
On the occasion of India's 73rd Republic Day, institutions and celebrations are likely to replay songs like Vande Mataram and Maa Tujhe Salaam to...