Genre Buzz – Mallakhamba!

In each issue of STEPS! we feature a unique genre found in the Dance Parade.

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When you saw acrobatic dancers, coming down Broadway in the 9th Annual Dance Parade and later at DanceFest on a 15ft pole, bet you didn’t know about this ancient style of Indian movement practice?! Last May, Mallakhamb Federation of the USA (pictured below) figured out how to move the pole through the busy parade streets AND present their traditional dance style to thousands at DanceFest in Tompkins Square Park!

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Mallakhamba (Marathi: मल्लखांब) is an ancient Indian sport in which a gymnast performs feats and poses in concert with a vertical wooden pole or rope. The word also refers to the pole used in the sport.

Mallakhamba derives from the terms malla which denotes a wrestler and khamba which means a pole. Mallakhamba can therefore be translated to English as “pole gymnastics”. The MadhScreen Shot 2015-10-10 at 4.45.10 PMya Pradesh on April 9, 2013 declared mallakhamba as the state sport.






The earliest recorded reference to mallakhamba is found in Someshvara Chalukya’s classic Manasollasa (1135 AD). Originally mallakhamba was used as a supporting exercise for wrestlers. Although known to have been practiced in medieval Maharasthra and Hyderabad, the sport does not become visible in practice and well recorded until the 18th century when it was revived by Balambhatdada Deodhar, the fitness instructor of Peshwa Baji Rao II during the reign of the Peshwas. His student Balambhattdada Deodhar realized that only major grips can be developed with a pole and thus used cane instead. Subsequently, the unavailability of cane resulted in rope mallakhamba. Today it is used more often as a performance art rather than a method of training.

As a competitive sport:

The Mallakhamb Federation of India is the official Indian National Federation. 29 states of India has participate in mallakhamba competitions at the national level. National level mallakhamba tournaments were first time organized more than 25 years ago. The national level tournament will be organized in four separate groups according to age. They are:

Under 12
Under 14
Under 17/18 (17 for women and 18 for men)
Above 17/18

Official Organizations

1.Mallakhamb Confederation of World, MCW
2.Asian Mallakhamb Federation, AMF
3.South Asian Mallakhamb Federation, SAMF

4. Mallakhamb Federation of the USA

Almost 25 to 30 types of mallakhamba apparatus were tried and tested over the years. 16 various types are present, but for sport, only six types are used. Mallakhamba is present in the Hind Kesari, Indian Wrestling championship.[3] Competitively there are three main variations of mallakhamba.
Pole or fixed

In this variation, a vertical wooden pole is fixed in the ground and the participant performs various acrobatic feats and poses while hanging on the pole. Wrestlers mount, dismount and utilize this pole for various complex callisthenics designed to develop their grip, stamina, and strength in the arms, legs and upper-body.

There are a number of pillars, although the most common is a free-standing upright pole, some eight to ten inches in diameter, planted into the ground. The pole used in competitions is a straight pole made of teak or sheesham wood, standing 2.6 metres (8.5 ft) in height with a circumference of 55 centimetres (22 in) at the base. It gradually tapers to a circumference of 35 centimetres (14 in) at the top.

The hanging mallakhamba is a wooden pole that is shorter in length than the standard pole and is hung from chain and hooks, leaving a gap between the ground and the bottom of the mallakhamba.

In this variation, the participant performs exercises while hanging from a rope suspended from a support.

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Source: Wikipedia English Edition