Mumbai:Indian sport called Mallakhamb evolved in the 18th century by Balambhat Deodhar is similar to gymnastics and is attracting western acrobats to India.
Deodhar a wrestler from the Peshwa court in Pune developed Mallakhamb as a training aide for wrestlers over the years, it gradually evolved into a sport similar to gymnastics.
Nicoleta from Greece and her American partner Fred have performed in several circus and acrobatic shows around the globe, but it was the ancient sport of Mallakhamb that brought them to India.
Uday Deshpande a Mallakhamb expert said, "Malla as in wrestler, khamb as in pole, evolved as a game where the pole became the opponent for the wrestler. But as time progressed they realised it has complemented other disciplines as well."
In spite of being a comprehensive fitness regime the sport has largely been neglected. Trainers like Uday Deshpande and organisations like Samarth Wyayam Mandir have relentlessly worked to preserve this tradition.
But due to lack of awareness and total absence of government funding Mallakhamb is facing the risk of extinction. Surprisingly, its gaining popularity in eastern Europe and America maybe because of its close links with Yoga and similarity with gymnastics.
Fred Norman a gymnast said, "All one needs for the sport is a heavy pole and some rope. Pyramid Mallakhamb is a team sport which requires the teams to make attractive human pyramids within stipulated time limit. Demonstrative routines have also been developed to showcase the agility and the strength of the Mallakhamb atheletes. The aim is to propel Mallakhamb into the Olympics movement.
Mallakhamb is an important element of India's sporting heritage which needs to be preserved, ironically while the sport is rapidly growing in the west Indians continue to treat their own sport with apathy.