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MALL Yudhha-World oldest unarmed martial art
Posted By Sarin on Jul 18, 2014     RSS Feeds     Latest Hinduism news

Mall-yuddha (Devanagari: मल्लयुद्ध,[1] Tamil:மல்யுத்தம்malyutham;Telugu: మల్లయుద్ధం;kannada: ಮಲ್ಲಯುದ್ಧ)or  Malla-kridha is the oldest martial form of wrestling, today commonly known as ‘pehlwani’ or ‘kushti’ in India. Word ‘mall’ in sanskrit  means "wrestler" or "fighter" and  yuddha  means "combat." Thus,  mall-yuddha  literally means "wrestling combat.  
Mall or ‘malla’ is a title
  ‘Mall’ or ‘malla’, in its origin is a title awarded to fierce and courageous fighters. In the videos of Mahabharata (listed below), wrestlers are addressed as ‘mall’. This title was also used extensively by kings in the northern regions of India. For EX: Suja mall, brother of Queen Jodha (Wife of Akbar-the great). Mallabhumi (Land of fighters) kingdom in Bishnapur, Nepal was named after this title. A powerful demon wrestler was named mall-asura. A well-known tribe and wrestler community called ‘Malla’ can be found in southern regions of India.  
MALL Yudhha-World oldest unarmed martial art
My ancestral home in Munger, Bihar
Types of wrestling in ancient India
Art of learning ‘Mall-yuddha’ was known as ‘mall-vidya’. Originally, Indian wrestling was divided in two categories: Mall-yuddha and Mall-krida. Mall-yuddha is the combat version while Mall-krida is the sport version. Traditional Mall-yuddha is rarely practiced now due to extreme violence involved in the fight. Mall-krida or Masti-yuddha is practiced even today in different provinces of the country.
Techniques/ methodologies in Mall-yuddha
Four types of techniques/methodologies are used in this form of wrestling
Hanumanti- As the name indicates, this technique reflects the technical superiority and superior skills to defeat an opponent of greater strength.
Jambuvanti-This technique make use of locks, clutches and choking to force opponent to accept defeat.
Jarasandhi-Lethal of all four techniques, this technique concentrates on breaking theopponentlimbs and joints.
Bhimaseni -This technique stresses on the use of physical strength. This technique is ideal for wrestler with good body-build and enormous strength.
MALL Yudhha-World oldest unarmed martial art
History of mall-yuddha
Mall yuddha has a history of more than 6000 years thus making it the oldest unarmed martial art. Kings of royal kingdoms were the masters of this art. Kings would group themselves as ahava-malla(warrior-wrestler) or  tribhuvana-malla  ("wrestler of three worlds").Mall-yuddha competitions were held between kingdoms as an entertaining sport for citizens or to settle disputes between provinces. In case of dispute settlement, Mall-yuddha would generally end with the death of an opponent. Kings have to fight with each other to avoid large-scale wars. This would also end with death of one of the kings and the winner becoming the ruler of the defeated kingdom. Siddhartha Gautama himself was said to be an archer, Mall-yuddha expert and sword-fighter before renouncing his kingship and becoming the Buddha
Mall-yuddha in Ramayana
The oldest mention of mall-yuddha is in Ramayana. In a wrestling match, Vanara(Monkey) king “Bali” defeated “Ravana”, King of lanka.
Fight between king “Bali” and “Ravana”
In another wrestling match, Vanara warrior Kesari(father of lord hanuman) killed a monster ‘Shambasadana’, killer of hundreds odd holy saints of his residing kingdom. There is also a mention of a wrestling match between Monkey king ‘sugriv’ and Ravana just few days before Lord Ram killed King Ravana in war.
Sugriv Ravana Mall yudh

Since the days of Ramayana, Monkey god Hanuman, the deity of strength and prowess, is worshipped as the patron of Malla-yuddha and other combat arts.
Lord hanuman, best wrestler of all times.
Mall-yuddha in Mahabharata
There are many references to mall yuddha in Mahabharata. One of the references is in the context of wrestling match between Pandu prince ‘Bhima’ and Magadha (Present Bihar) king ‘Jarasandha’. This fight ended with the cruel death of Jarasandha when his body was ripped by bhima into two pieces.
From 18:40 from 20:25, Krishna and mall ‘bhima’ challenges Jarasandha for mall yudh
Lord Krishna and brother balarama performed mall-yuddha with Mall-yuddha experts of Mathura on invitation of demon King kansa. When his wrestlers were defeated by divine brothers, king kansa himself challenged lord Krishna.  
Mall-Yuddha between Lord Krishna and king kansa lasted for only few hours before the demon king exhausted and subsequently got killed by lord Krishna. Bhagavat purana describes the wrestling techniques employed by Lord Krishna like punching head, pulling hair, strangleholds, lock and clutches.
Kansa Malla challenging lord Krishna(From 6 min 15 sec) and Krishna defeat Mall’s of Kansa(from 18:45 min)  
Below are some of the verses that describes the fight of divine brothers “Krishna” and “Balarama”  
SB 10.44.2: Seizing each other's hands and locking legs with each other, the opponents struggled powerfully, eager for victory.

SB 10.44.3: They each struck fists against fists, knees against knees, head against head and chest against chest.

SB 10.44.4: Each fighter contended with his opponent by dragging him about in circles, shoving and crushing him, throwing him down and running before and behind him.

SB 10.44.5: Forcefully lifting and carrying each other, pushing each other away and holding each other down, the fighters hurt even their own bodies in their great eagerness for victory.

SB 10.44.19: Lord Balarama and Mushtika, expertly displaying numerous wrestling techniques, battled each other in the same way that Lord Krishna and His opponent did.

SB 10.44.20: The harsh blows from the Supreme Lord's limbs fell like crushing lightning bolts upon Canura, breaking every part of his body and causing him more and more pain and fatigue.

SB 10.44.21: Furious, Canura attacked Lord Vasudeva with the speed of a hawk and struck His chest with both fists.
MALL Yudhha-World oldest unarmed martial art
Lord Krishna fight with mall of demon kansa

SB 10.44.22-23: No more shaken by the demon's mighty blows than an elephant struck with a flower garland, Lord Krishna grabbed Canura by his arms, swung him around several times and hurled him onto the ground with great force. His clothes, hair and garland scattering, the wrestler fell down dead, like a huge festival column collapsing.

SB 10.44.24-25: Similarly, Mushtika struck Lord Balabhadra with his fist and was slain. Receiving a violent blow from the mighty Lord's palm, the demon trembled all over in great pain, vomited blood and then fell lifeless onto the ground, like a tree blown down by the wind.

SB 10.44.26: Confronted next by the wrestler Kuta, Lord Balarama, the best of fighters, playfully and nonchalantly killed him with His left fist, O King.

SB 10.44.27: Then Krishna struck the wrestler Sala in the head with His toes and tore him in half. The Lord dealt with Tosala in the same way, and both wrestlers fell down dead.

SB 10.44.28: Canura, Mushtika, Kuta, Sala and Tosala having been killed, the remaining wrestlers all fled for their lives.
Mall-yuddha during medieval period
During the medieval period, Chalukya king Someswara wrote a royal treatise on fine arts named Manasollasa in which a chapter titled "Malla Vinod", classifies the mall-yuddha warriors by age, size and prowess. It also mentioned the kind of food provided to wrestler by royal kings and their daily schedule of exercises. It mentions how Mal-yuddha wrestlers were barred from their family to make them devote most of their time in body building.
As early in the 13th  century, detailed treatise on all wrestling tricks, techniques and exercises performed in mall-yuddha was written in a book named ‘malla purana’. This book was written by Jyesthimalla, a brahmin warrior from Gujarat. This book has a mention on the diet to be followed by wrestlers during six different seasons of the year.
Mall-yuddha in Jainism
In Jainism, there are many references to mall-yuddha. One of the references is the fight between brothers, Bahu Bali and bharat. To settle the dispute of kingship, they negotiated three personal fights: JalYuddha, Mall-Yuddha and Drishti-Yuddha. However, mall yudhha never took place as Bahubali, out of respect for his elder brother, renounced his life and attained Nirvana (Liberation).
Read full story at  
MALL Yudhha-World oldest unarmed martial art
Grand statue of Bahubali at Shravanabelagola near Outsourcing city ‘Bangalore’

Decline of Mall-yuddha during mughal rule
Mall yuddha began to decline from the 15th  century onwards after the mughals established their rule in India and favored Persian pehlwani over Mall yuddha.  
While traditional mall-yuddha declined in northern India due to mughal influence, it remained popular in south, especially in the Vijayanagara kingdom.  BharatesaVaibhava, written in 16th century, have the account of wrestlers (including female), opponents, matches and the daily rituals followed in mall-yuddha. Early morning after sunrise, King Krishna devraya would flex his muscles daily before proceeding with gadha(mace) yuddha, sword fighting and mall-yuddha. Wives of Krishna dev raya were protected by 12,000+ female mall-yuddha wrestlers. Mysore was the wrestling capital where the royal kings would conduct wrestling matches and recruit winners as bodyguard or army soldiers. Even today, mysore has around 40 wrestling training schools. In his book, Portuguese traveler “Domingo paes” has documented special event of wrestling championship in capital of Karnataka during the festival of Navratri (Dussherra).  

Revival of Mall-yuddha during mughal/ British rule
In the 17th  century, Ramadasa, known as father of Indian athletics, tried to revive mall yuddha by travelling across the country and encouraging Hindus to pay homage to lord hanuman by participating in mall-yuddha. This is perhaps the reason why mall-yuddha still exists in southern states of India. Maratha warriors came forward to support Ramadas and announced a huge bounty for mall yuddha winners across different age groups. This is the reason why mall yuddha in its original form is still held in Kolhapur every year.  
During the British colonial rule, Mall-yuddha was mixed with pehlwani and a new wrestling sport named ‘kushti’ was born.  
MALL Yudhha-World oldest unarmed martial art   World class wrestlers of india: Sushil Kumar, Amit Kumar and Yogeswar Dutt.

How Mall-yuddha wrestlers are trained?
Training usually starts at the age of 12. Boys are first taught calisthenics, kundakavartana and general exercises to avoid stunting of growth and increasing strength, endurance and prowess. Some of the common exercises are Hath yoga, surya namaskar, uthak-baithak and Danda. When the body stamina and strength is increased, student begins with khambhasrama. Khambhasrama is a set of exercises that is performed on grounded upright bamboos (Khambhas), about eight to ten feet in height. Students increases their grip, hold and strength in arms and legs by mounting, dismounting and performing complex exercises around the Khambhas. Some exercises also involve use of ropes instead of bamboos.
All Mall-yuddha warriors abstain from sex, smoking and alcohol to keep the body pure and focused on body building. This purity of body helps in maintaining the body mentally, physically and spiritually. Also it helps in achieving the highest level of sporting and martial perfection. Wrestlers are expected to behave like holy saints by surviving on only a loin, blanket and couples of clothes to cover the body.
Kushti photos and videos can be seen at
Rules and rituals in Mall-yuddha
Traditionally, Mall-yuddha training and matches takes place on a clay or mud pit, 30x30 feet in size or circular ground with radius 30 feet. Water is poured every day to keep the ground soft enough to avoid injury but still hard enough to not restrict wrestlers techniques and movements. Before the start of match, stones and pebbles are removed. Ghee and gangaajal are sprinkled. Prayers are offered to Mall-yuddha patron deity “Lord Hanuman”. Incense sticks are lit and yellow flowered garland is offered to statue of lord hanuman. Then, wrestler pays respect to the guru by touching his head on guru feet. Before entering the arena, wrestler touches the clay ground with his forehead or smears soil on his forehead with his hand, an act of respect for mother earth and display of self-discipline. During matches, wrestlers often throw clay dirt onto their bodies to gain the blessings of mother earth (Prithvi devi)
MALL Yudhha-World oldest unarmed martial art
Bhojpuri Movie “Mall yudh”
Mall-yuddha gave India medals in wrestling
Because of Mall-yuddha, Indian wrestlers have dominated the international wrestling tournaments. India has produced world class wresters like Great Gama, Gobar Goho, Dara singh, yogeshwar dutt and sushil kumar(Current champion).  
Decline in traditional Mall-yuddha has also resulted in reduced number of medal wins in international championships. While India won 12 medals(All participating wrestlers won medals)  in 1962 Asian games and 8 medals(All participating wrestlers won medals)  in Jamaica commonwealth games, only couples of Indian wrestlers are able to put medals in their pockets today.
Mall-yuddha is now Kushti  
Though the original form of Mall-yuddha has vanished in northern regions of India, it is still practiced among malla community of Kerala, Karnataka, tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh. Mall-yuddha is practiced as pehlwani or kushti in Pakistan, Bangladesh, sri-lanka,Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, UAE and other Arab countries.
Kushti is one of the most popular sports in regions of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Kushti tournament conducted in Kolhapur every year attracts wrestler from Pakistan, Russia, Iran, Turkey and African countries.
Mulayam Singh Yadav(Prime minster aspirant) was a kushti champion from Uttar Pradesh. Most of the Olympics and Common wealth medalist in wrestling from India was originally a kusti champion. Dalip singh (Known as Great Khali in WWE), originally participated in local Kushti matches before entering the international wrestling federation, thanks to his gifted massive physique. (Do you know the great Khali, maintains his 7.3+ feet body following a vegetarian diet.
MALL Yudhha-World oldest unarmed martial art
The Great Khali
Also former wrestling champion “sushil kumar” is a vegetarian. My next article would be on vegetarianism)
Dara singh was also a Kushti champion. In the pic below, dara singh is shown as the world cup holder. His good show in wrestling earned him the role of Lord Hanuman(Mall-yuddha patron deity) in Ramayana.
MALL Yudhha-World oldest unarmed martial art
Why Indian wrestler fails in winning international championship?
One of the reasons for decline of Mall yuddha is the paltry amount of money they earn per fight. Experienced wrestler on an average earns half million rupees per year, of which 90% of the earnings are spent as diet expenses.  
Use of mats in international competitions has forced aspiring Indian wrestlers to practice on mats instead of traditional clay ground. However the high cost of mats (1 million for 40X40) is beyond the reach of rural wrestlers. Moreover, most of the rural wrestlers prefer playing in open grounds than closed room mats. Organizers and wrestlers reluctance to mat wrestling is another reason for less number of medals in international wrestling tournaments.  
How kushti can be promoted?
For revival of kushti and winning medals in international championships, local leaders need to identity wrestlers who have the potential to compete at the international arena. Good infrastructure and private sponsorship must be awarded to such wrestlers. India should learn from promoters of WWF (world wrestling federation) on how they effectively travel across the world and showcase their wrestlers by stage shows.  
MALL Yudhha-World oldest unarmed martial art
Though wrestling in recent years have witnessed growth, still we are far behind to dominate the international wrestling arena. Hope our young generation, especially in rural areas, takes active interest in Kushti and revive our cultural heritage by dominating the international arena.

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