The art of Mallakhamb is one of the most ancient arts in the field of physical culture. Mallakhamb is a scientific and systematic methodology in acquiring
a sound mind in sound body. This universal truth of a healthy body and mind was thoroughly understood and accepted by our ancestors right from the evolution of the human race, and they were practicing ‘Yogasanas’, Suryanamaskar, long walking in fresh air and swimming in streams, rivers or oceans.
One of the main reasons for attaining all these qualities and virtues can be attributed to the magic Mallakhamb culture, the inseparable oneness of Hanuman with this divine art. As it is, monkey tribes inhabit the jungles. Their abode is trees and creepers – jumping, swinging, sleeping, hanging, performing aerobatics and acrobatics either singly or in a group; all these are their routine activities. Similarly, awaken ness, vigilance and untiring activity are their inborn habits or natural characteristics. Viewing these inherent qualities of the monkey tribe and the outstanding feats of Mahabali Hanuman in the Ramayana, it is rightly presumed that the originator of the art of “Mallakhamb” could have been none else but Hanuman.
Significance of the word “Mallakhamb”
This contention is further strengthened by the historical event of the 19th century. Besides the ancient depicts of archaeological surveys, old paintings or carvings, a short description and pictorial representation of certain exercises similar to Mallakhamb, can also be traced in the 12th century Classic “Manasolhas”, written by Someshwar Chalukya (1135 A.D.). The historical event of the 19th century, during the Peshwa regime, does support the Balbhim Hanuman’s originality in this unique art. “Malla” denotes a man of power of strength and “Khamb” signifies a pole. Thus, Mallakhamb is an apparatus by means of which a person builds his physical culture. There are numerous types of apparatus or appliances for building up physical culture but none so universal or all-round amazing tool which would get a person all the physical and mental benefits.
Revival of Mallakhamb
In the 19th century, during the regime of Bajirao Peshwa II of Deccan Maharashtra, this culture or art was revivified by a wrestler called Guru Balambhattdada Deodhar. Two victorious and notable wrestlers called Ali and Gulab from the Nizam of Hyderabad once came to the Darbar of Shrimant Bajirao Peshwa. They threw open a challenge to the wrestlers by calling for a bout. A young lad of 18, named Guru Balambhattdada Deodhar accepted their challenge and asked for some time for preparation. During this period he went to the Goddess ‘Saptashringi Devi’, in Niphad Taluka of Nasik district. This temple is surrounded by seven peaks of hills and a thick forest. Most devotionally he subdued himself to the deity and very sincerely started practicing yoga and tricks of wrestling. His meditation was so deep that at one moment a divine flash adorned his vision. He saw
Lord Hanuman demonstrating on a wooden pole a few tricks of the bout and the secret of success to be
used on the day of the bout against the rivals. He was spellbound and absorbed the hints and tips fully. He rigorously practiced the tricks on the wooden pole and became fully confident and resourceful to fight. On the stipulated date, time and venue, in a historical bout at Pune, with his masterly tricks, Balambhattdada defeated Ali, in such a way that Gulab ran away, without facing him. Since then the art of Mallakhamb became rejuvenated. It gained wide publicity and extensive popularity among the youth.
Types of Mallakhamb
There are many types of Mallakhamb, but for Competitive sport, only three types are used.
1) Pole or Fixed Mallakhamb: 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. Players mount, dismount and utilize this pole for various complex callisthenic movements, designed to develop their grip, stamina, and strength in the arms, legs and upper-body. The pole is a 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.
2) Hanging Mallakhamb: Similar to the Pole Mallakhamb, the Hanging Mallakhamb is a wooden pole that is shorter in length than the standard Pole Mallakhamb and is hung from chain and hooks, leaving a gap between the ground and the bottom of the Mallakhamb.
3) Rope Mallakhamb: In this variation, the participant performs exercises while hanging from a rope suspended from a support. The girls perform exclusively on Rope Mallakhamb.
Demonstrative Varieties of Mallakhamb: There are many interesting varieties of Mallakhamb, which are used in Demonstrations, viz.
Unsupported Mallakhamb and Fixed Bottle Mallakhamb, Revolving Bottle Mallakhamb, which is a recent innovation, and consists of 32 glass bottles placed on a wooden platform, with the Mallakhamb balanced on top, Cycle Mallakhamb, where a Mallakhamb has been fixed on a Bicycle and while a person is riding the bicycle, an individual or a group of boys & girls, perform different feats on that Pole, Weapon Mallakhamb, where different weapons, like swords & daggers are tied to the body of the performer and different acrobatic elements and Yogic postures are performed on the Pole, similarly, Flame Mallakhamb, where a performer displays his skill on the Pole while holding two burning Torches in the hands or tying different kinds of lamps on his body, Blind Folded Mallakhamb, where Mallakhamb is performed by tying a cloth on the eyes of the performer, Deep Mallakhamb, where, a small plate bearing a burning candle is placed on the forehead of the performer and then he shows his talent.
A Different Form of Exercise
Mallakhamb is altogether a different form of exercise than the normal or common systems of exercises. It is considered to be a perfect exercise, because it is intermingled with various poses and yogic postures and it gradually develops all the physical and mental faculties of the human body. A systematic, scientific and very methodical mode of physical culture, it gives exercise to each and every organ or limb of the body. It imparts proper tone and form to every muscle and perfect control over each part of
the body. Every part from tip to toe of the body gets proper justice and activeness. There are various grips and catches involving a network of hands and feet, which exhibits magnificent postures. The grace and beauty are very much enhanced by the balanced and well-controlled transitions, turns bends and coils. Mallakhamb exercise thus proves superior to many other modes and types of exercises, both Indian and Foreign. This exercise in particular stimulates the mind and builds the body and keeps the mind calm and composed. The controlled and rhythmic breathing and smooth balanced movements help a lot in developing the mental and physical faculties of the body. The retentive abilities of the mind, and the positive and constructive thinking power of an individual are much advanced. The inner force is stimulated to actuate one’s cherished task or duty. One remains always energetic, cheerful and active. The magnificent display of artistic and difficult feats shows the value of patience coupled with deep concentration. It imparts adequate exercise to the sinews, joints and the vertebral column, thus ensuring perfect health and longevity. The arm-holds and the upper handgrips help to develop powerful wrists, strong forearms and muscular biceps and triceps. The clinging grips of the fingers, palms and toes render the nerves and muscles strong and powerful. The acrobatic nature of the feats improves the sense of judgment and the hectic swings, jumps or somersaults promote toughness and fearlessness. By the hanging and swinging events, the neuromuscular co-ordination is enhanced. The light jerks and jumps gradually tone the lungs and improve the efficiency of the respiratory organs. The forward and backward bends during the display help to accomplish the healthy functioning of the kidney, spleen, liver pancreas and urinary systems. The balancing activities like lifting and resting the body at various angles tone the ligaments of the spine, vertebral column, knees, elbows, ankles, neck and shoulders. It is a note-worthy fact that the various movements or actions done in the course of a performance bestow good health and physique to the performer. It gives a perfect Herculean body with vigor; vitality and well balanced functioning of routine activities.
Even the advanced medical science has realized these superior advantages of Mallakhamb and accepted this culture as the most efficient art. It is an established fact that due to regular and scientific practice of the series of Mallakhamb feats, many ailments or uncommon diseases are controlled and at times cured.
It is also the candid experience of many persons that some of the deformities or defects in limbs or organs are set right through Mallakhamb exercises. It is no surprise to know that scientific and methodical training acts as an effective measure of physiotherapy. In the case of diseases or disorders
like insomnia, anemia, chronic pains in the body, abdominal problems, kidney troubles, E.N.T. problems, headache, migraine, chronic bronchitis, chest pain, respiratory or lung troubles, rheumatism and other types of irregularities of hygienic disturbances, Mallakhamb proves to be of immense value. Since any person of any age can perform Mallakhamb, these benefits can reach out to one and all.