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A mallakhamb team performs on the pole.

Mallakhamb or Malkhamb (Marathi: मल्लखांब)is a traditional Indian sport in which a gymnast performs feats and poses in concert with a vertical wooden pole or rope. Mallakhamb also refers to the pole used in the sport. Mallakhamb was originated in Maharashtra.

The word "Mallakhamb" is composed of malla which denotes a gymnast or a man of strength and khamb which means a pole. Mallakhamb can therefore be translated to English as pole gymnastics.[1]


The earliest recorded references to Mallakhamb is found in the 12th century classic Manasollasa (1135 AD) by Somesvara Chalukya. Other than Maharashtra, it was also practiced in ancient Hyderabad.[2] However, the sport does not become visible in practice and well recorded until it was revived or invented in the 18th century by Balambhatdada Deodhar, the fitness instructor of Peshwa Baji Rao II during the reign of the Peshwas.[3] Another story is, in 18th century an Arab wresteler came to India and challenged Indian kings that if they have any wresteler who can defeat him.No one was able to defeat him. When he came to Maharashtra to Peshwa(Bajirao II) and challenged him the same way. Mr. Balambhatdada Deodhar accepted the challenge. He was a devotee of Lord Hanumana a god of physical fitness, devotion, celibacy, morality, intelligence and sacrifice.Mr. Deodhar went to jungle and prayed Lord Hanumana for months. Lord Hanumana resurrected in front of him and taught him wresteling to defeat the Arab wresteler and to build the physique, stamina, concentration and quickness of movements, Lord Hanumana taught him the Mallakhamb fitness regime.Then Balambhatdada Deodhar defeated the Arab wresteler and it became famous. It is a famous sport in Maharashtra and other states of India too.

Mallakhamb as a competitive sport[edit]

29 states in India participate in mallakhamb competitions at the national level. National Level mallakhamb tournaments were first 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

Types of mallakhamb[edit]

Different poses in mallakhamb

Originally mallakhamb was introduced as a supporting exercise for wrestlers. Student of Balambhattdada Deodhar, Damodarguru Moghe realized that only major grips can be developed with a pole and used cane instead of a pole. Subsequently, the unavailability of cane resulted in rope mallakhamb. Almost 25 to 30 types of mallakhamb apparatus were tried and tested over the years.

16 various types are present, but for Sport, only six types are used. Malkhamb is present in the Hind Kesari, Indian Wrestling championship.[3]

Competitively there are three main variations of mallakhamb.

Pole or fixed mallakhamb[edit]

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.

The mallakhamb 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.

Hanging mallakhamb[edit]

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.

Rope mallakhamb[edit]

In this variation, the participant performs exercises while hanging from a rope suspended from a support.[4]

In Popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Indian roots to gymnastics". NDTV - Sports (Mumbai, India). 06 December 2007. 
  2. ^ a b "Dying 12th century sport gets a lifeline". The Telegraph (Berhampur, India). 03 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Mallakhamb vies for pole position... bottoms up". The Sunday Indian (India). 15 July 2007. 
  4. ^ "Mallakhamb: Ancient Indian sport". MSN News (India). 05 December 2012. 

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