Billion's Dream: Sports in Rural India
If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it.
The Tokyo Olympics were monumental for India and will be remembered forever. This time, India won the most medals it had ever won (7). Among the highlights was Neeraj Chopra's maiden gold in men's judo and Indian hockey's bronze after a 41-year wait. Meera Bai Chanu lifted a billion Indian hopes with a silver medal at the Olympics. Today(15th May 2022), India invited history defeating Thomas Cup kings Indonesia 3-0 in the finals. They were denied their 15th while winning their first. In the face of all odds. It truly reflects Emil Zatopek saying that
"An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets. He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head".
It is the Hope in his heart and the Dream in his head that gives India an opportunity to make history. Apart from their excellence and spirit, the rural background is a common thread that connects these success stories. Rural India has been a powerhouse in sourcing extraordinary talent for sporting success.
Sports have always been a part of everyday life in India. Rural sports arose out of necessity in the first villages where the civilized man lived. The need for cultivating individual strength for labor on the fields, the interdependence within the community, and the need for defense, joint defense against onslaughts of a common foe and dangerous animals must have given birth to sports such as wrestling, running, jumping, weightlifting, and performing arts such as measuring strength by holding wrists and twisting hands.
There are numerous indications that vibrant sports activities exist in India. Our epics, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, are replete with references to sports like archery and wrestling. Wrestling, for example, was a popular sport during the Mahabharata period. Even now, India is known as a Wrestling powerhouse, having received numerous outstanding accolades at international forums such as the Commonwealth Games, World Championships, and the Olympics.
Many of these sports are still alive and well in India, which is a great accomplishment. Some of the sports that have stood the test of time and continue to tempt young people from rural areas have been discussed here-
Mallakhamb: The Ultra-Gymnastics
Mallakhamb is an Indian subcontinental traditional sport in which a gymnast performs aerial yoga or gymnastic postures and wrestling grips in tandem with vertical stationery or a hanging wooden pole, cane, or rope. This sport is extremely popular in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, and it requires stamina, practice, and discipline to participate. One of the earliest written descriptions of Mallakhamb can be found in the memories of the 7th century CE Chinese traveler Huen Tsang. He acknowledges Prayagraj as a location where Hindu ascetics used to climb poles as a yogic exercise.
“Hindu ascetics climbed the top of a pole situated a Prayagraj clinging onto it with one hand and one foot while other hand and foot stretched out in an air and watched the sunset with their heads turned right as it set which indicates a solar rite”. - Huen-Tsang
Now this sport was formally institutionalized in 1958 and appeared first at the national gymnastic championship(NGC) in the same year. As part of the NGCs, the first National Mallakhamb Championships were held in 1962 in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. The Mallakhamb World Championship 2019 held in Mumbai attracted participants from 15 countries including the USA.
Kalaripayattu: Indian Martial Art
Kalaripayattu, also known as Kalari, is an Indian martial art that originated in Kerala, a state on India's southwestern coast. It is thought to be India's oldest surviving martial art, dating back over 3,000 years. Kalaripayattu is an ancient warfare martial art with weapons and combative techniques that are unique to India.
Kalaripayattu practitioners have in-depth knowledge of pressure points on the human body as well as healing techniques that incorporate Ayurvedic and Yoga principles. Kalaripayattu is taught using the Indian guru-shishya system. Kalaripayattu differs from many other martial arts systems in that weapon-based techniques are taught first, followed by barehanded techniques. Strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry, and healing methods are all part of Kalaripayattu. Because it was challenging to maintain flexibility and mobility while wearing heavy armor, Kalaripayattu warriors would use very light and basic body armor.
Sports have a long history in Indian culture that dates back millennia. In certain international sports, India has emerged as a major force to be reckoned with over the years. However, sporting culture is limited to a few pockets of India that serve as a breeding ground for athletes. The need of the hour is to develop future talent and instill a sporting culture in India's remaining pockets, while also actively encouraging current talent.
Let's give wings to Hope and Dream to cherish our Future !!!
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