Mallakhamb is an ancient traditional Indian sport. ‘Malla’ means gymnast, and ‘khamb’ means pole. Thus, the name ‘Mallakhamb’ stands for ‘a gymnast’s pole’. The origin of Mallakhamb can be traced to the 12th century, where it is mentioned in Manas-Olhas – a classic by Chalukya in 1135 A.D. For seven centuries, the art lay dormant, till it was revived by Balambhatta Dada Deodhar, the sports and fitness instructor to Peshwa Bajirao II, who reigned during the first half of the 19th century. The apparently simple ‘khamb’ does not reveal the complexities of the exercises, which require the performer to turn, twist, stretch and balance on the pole. It is this consummate grace, this agility, dexterity and suppleness of body, combined with quick reflexes, muscle coordination and sense of timing, that single out this game as special. Of the states in India, more than 14 participate in Mallakhamb competitions at the national level.
At present, the following forms of Mallakhamb are prevalent:
Plain Mallakhamb – fixed on the ground
In this, a vertical wooden pole is fixed in the ground. The wood used is usually teakwood or sheeshum, preferred because of its twin characteristics of toughness and smoothness. The pole stands 225 cm above ground level. It has a circumference of 55 cm at its lower end, 45 cm in the middle, and 30 cm at the upper end. The height of the neck is 20 cm, and its circumference is 15 cm, and radius of the upper knobe is 13 cm.