|Also known as||Malyutham|
|Country of origin|| India
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|Indian martial arts|
Malla-yuddha (Devanagari: मल्लयुद्ध,1 Tamil:மல்யுத்தம் malyutham, Telugu: మల్ల యుద్ధం, Kannada: ಮಲ್ಲಯುದ್ಧ, Bengali: মল্লযুদ্ধ) is the traditional South Asian form of combat-wrestling2 created in what is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It is closely related to various Southeast Asian wrestling styles such as naban.
Malla-yuddha matches were traditionally codified into four types which progressed from purely sportive contests of strength to actual full-contact fights known as yuddha.3 Due to the extreme violence, this final form is generally no longer practised. The second form, wherein the wrestlers attempt to lift each other off the ground for three seconds, still exists in south India. Additionally, malla-yuddha is divided into four styles, each named after Hindu gods and legendary fighters: Hanumanti concentrates on technical superiority, Jambuvanti uses locks and holds to force the opponent into submission, Jarasandhi concentrates on breaking the limbs and joints while Bhimaseni focuses on sheer strength.
In Sanskrit, mallayuddha literally translates to "wrestling combat". Strictly speaking, the term denotes a single pugilistic encounter or prize-fight rather than a style or school of wrestling. It is a tatpurusha compound of malla (wrestler, boxer, athlete) and yuddha or juddho (fight, battle, conflict). The compound is first attested in the Mahabharata referring to boxing matches such as those fought by Bhima. The Tamil version is known as malyutham. Another word for a sportive wrestling match or athletic sports more generally is mallakrמḍa. The second element, krמḍa (sport, play, pastime, amusement) implies a more limited-contact style of folk wrestling rather than true grappling combat.
The term malla is in origin a proper name, among other things of an asura, known as mallגsura and the name of a tribe mentioned in the Mahabharata. In the Manusmriti (10.22; 12.45), it is the technical term for the offspring of an out-caste kshatriya by a kshatriya female who was previously the wife of another out-caste.
Wrestling in South Asia has a history of thousands of years, predating the Indo-Aryan invasions circa 1500 BC.3 Competitions held for entertainment were popular among all social classes, with even kings and other royalty taking part. Death matches before the royal court served as a way to settle disputes and avoid large-scale wars. In pastoral communities, people would even wrestle against steers.
The first written attestation of the term mallayuddha is found in the Ramayana epic, in the context of a wrestling match between the vanara King Bali and Ravana, the king of Lanka. Hanuman, the monkey god of the Ramayana, is worshipped as the patron of wrestlers and general feats of strength. The Mahabharata epic also describes a wrestling match between Bhima and Jarasandha.4 Other early literary descriptions of wrestling matches include the story of Balarama and Krishna.
Stories describing Krishna report that he sometimes engaged in wrestling matches where he used knee strikes to the chest, punches to the head, hair pulling, and strangleholds.5 He defeated Kans, king of Mathura in a wrestling match and became new king in his place. Siddhartha Gautama himself was said to be an expert wrestler, archer and sword-fighter before becoming the Buddha. Based on such accounts, Svinth traces press ups and squats used by Indian wrestlers to the pre-classical era.5
The Manasollasa of the Chalukya king Someswara III (1124–1138) is a royal treatise on fine arts and leisure. The chapter entitled Malla Vinod describes the classification of wrestlers into types by age, size and strength. It also outlines how the wrestlers were to exercise and what they were to eat. In particular the king was responsible for providing the wrestlers with pulses, meat, milk, sugar as well as "high-class sweets". The wrestlers were kept isolated from the women of the court and were expected to devote themselves to building their bodies. The Manasollasa gives the names of moves and exercises but does not provide descriptions.1
The Malla Purana is a Kula Purana associated with the Jyesthimalla, a Brahmin jati of wrestlers from Gujarat, dating most likely to the 13th century. It categorizes and classifies types of wrestlers, defines necessary physical characteristics, describes types of exercises and techniques of wrestling as well as the preparation of the wrestling pit, and provides a fairly precise account of which foods wrestlers should eat in each season of the year.1
Traditional Indian wrestling began to decline from the 16th century under Mughal rule, as courtly fashion favoured the Persianate pehlwani style. Malla-yuddha is now exceedingly rare in the northern states, but indigenous wrestling traditions and training methods survived in south India and are practiced in pockets of Tamil Nadu til today.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (October 2009)|
Matches take place in a clay or dirt pit. The soil of the floor is mixed with various ingredients, including ghee. Wrestlers begin each session by flattening the soil, an act which is considered both a part of endurance training and an exercise in self-discipline. During practice, wrestlers rub the dirt onto their own bodies. Once the arena has been prepared a prayer is offered to the gym's patron deity, most commonly Hanuman. Many wrestlers live at their training hall but this is not always required. All wrestlers are required to abstain from sex, smoking and drinking so the body remains pure and the wrestlers are able to focus on cultivating themselves physically, mentally and spiritually. A wrestler's only belongings are a blanket, a loincloth and some clothes. In this regard, they are often compared to Hindu-Buddhist holy men.2
Physical training (vyayam) is meant to build strength and develop muscle bulk and flexibility. Exercises that employ the wrestler's own bodyweight include the sun salutation (Surya Namaskara), shirshasana, Hindu squat (bethak) and the Hindu press-up (danda), which are also found in hatha yoga.
Exercise regimens may also employ the following weight training devices:
- The nal is a hollow stone cylinder with a handle inside.
- The gar nal (neck weight) is a circular stone ring worn around the neck to add resistance to squats and press ups.
- The gada is a club or mace associated with Hanuman. An exercise gada is a heavy round stone attached to the end of a meter-long bamboo stick.
Training may also include rope climbing, log pulling, running and dhakuli which involves twisting rotations. Traditional massage is regarded as an integral part of an Indian wrestler's exercise regimen. Wrestlers are given massages and also taught how to massage.
- Alter, Joseph S. (August 1992b). The Wrestler's Body: Identity and Ideology in North India. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Alter, Joseph S. (May 1992a). "the sannyasi and the Indian wrestler: the anatomy of a relationship". American Ethnologist 19 (2): 317–336. doi:10.1525/ae.1992.19.2.02a00070. ISSN 0094-0496.
- Donn F. Draeger and Robert W. Smith (1969). Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts. Kodansha International Limited.
- Alter, Joseph S. (May 1992a). "The "sannyasi" and the Indian Wrestler: The Anatomy of a Relationship". American Ethnologist 19 (2): 317–336. doi:10.1525/ae.1992.19.2.02a00070. ISSN 00940496.
- J. R. Svinth (2002). A Chronological History of the Martial Arts and Combative Sports. Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences.
- Martial arts of India by R. Venkatachalam (1999)