Mallakhamb has been referred to as a poor man’s sport as its purveyors have mostly hailed from the deprived sections of the society.
Poor or not, the sport is gaining popularity in the country ever since the Union Sports Ministry recognized it, allowing its connoisseurs to form their own National Sports Federation.
“Have you ever seen a boy from a sophisticated family climb a pole in chaddis (boxers)?,” quipped a young Mallakhamb contestant from Haryana as he prepared for the Khelo India Youth Games in which it will be seen for the first time as a demonstration sport.
“Now, we proudly hold the nationals and players receive certificates and the medallists a scholarship of Rs 10,000 per month too,” Ramesh Indolia, President of Mallakhamb Federation of India, revealed.
“But even top Mallakhamb practitioners often end up as street performers or circus artistes for lack of opportunities. In fact, after seeing their jaw-dropping acrobats on reality shows, people think it’s only a demonstration sport,” Indolia said.
“It’s truly amazing that almost all the coaches at the 100 vyayamshala centres and academies across the country work as volunteers, keeping the sport alive.”
To turn this traditional art into a modern sports event, the rules and points system have been standardized, with a player judged on a scale of 10 points, just like in gymnastics.
The sport’s gaining acceptance can be gauged by the fact that 45 countries have already taken it up as a sport
Girls and boys both display their aerial yoga skills in 18 to 24 postures. While boys display their skills on a pole, rope or even a hanging pole, the girls stick to the pole and the rope.