Game of Poles - Mallakhamb’s ambition to become a global sport

On a busy Monday evening, Uday Deshpande is unusually engrossed in paperwork. While I wait for the master coach to catch a break, I am led by his associate to a field dotted with poles and mattresses for a demonstration.

Sagar is a teenager with an athletic physique and confident gait. He walks up to a wooden pole buried in the ground and applies some powder to control friction. He adjusts the soft mattresses to his liking and walks away, stopping about 15 feet from the pole. He turns, and with a deep breath, runs and leaps towards the pole. As he is about to make contact, he swirls his body around and his legs clamp around the pole, gripping it firmly. He then stretches his back to bring his upper body into a boat-like shape. Swiftly, using his hands, legs and every finger, he glides easily into various positions or asanas on the pole. Then he climbs to the top of the pole and finishes his routine with a perfect somersault. I watch this fluid performance intently, amazed by his flexibility and grace.

This is Mallakhamb, the ancient sport born in Maharashtra, India with roots in Yoga and wrestling (malla means ‘wrestler’ and khamb means ‘pole’), that is slowly gaining popularity across the globe, driven by Deshpande’s untiring efforts.

About the Writer

Chinmaye is a sports enthusiast who loves to look at sport from visual culture lens. He likes to understand how sports can be leveraged as a medium of social change. Chinmaye has worked as a sports correspondent with NDTV and Live sports production for Star Sports and Sony Six and recently finished his hockey documentary Stick to Dreams.

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