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Wrestling In Ancient Hinduism – Malla Yuddha

Wrestling known as Malla Yuddha in ancient Hinduism could be a mock fight or a real one. There is a graphic account of the real kind in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The famous wrestling episodes in ancient Hinduism were the ones between Hanuman and the demons, Sri Krishna and Kamsa, Bhima and Duryodhana, Bhima and Keechaka, Bhima and Jarasandha etc.

Sometimes when things get out of hand, the wrestlers use mace, boulders or trees or other heavy things to hit each other. This sort of fighting had its precedent in the bout between Indra and Vritra as recounted in Vedas, where a weapon like vajra was used.

In a mock fight, however, no weapon was used. Here only the closed fists of the fighters served as the means of fighting. Reference to this form of wrestling goes as far back in India history as the date of Panini, the grammarian. In one of his aphorisms, he refers to the word mustau in the locative case, attending thereby to the rule of wrestling under which one wrestle was supposed to grapple the other by means of his fist when challenged to do so. Patanjali, while commenting on Panini, has used the word malla and mustika, thus confirming the prevalence of malla yuddha as a game in his own time as well as in the time of Panini.

Mallya yuddha was raised to the status of a respectable game, pastime and method of warfare with a prescribed set of rules by the Mallas, a Kshatriya tribe mentioned in the Mahabharata and some Buddhist texts; hence it has come to be named after it.

During the period of Mahabharata, wrestling was a popular art and entertainment. Persons with strong physical fitness indulged in such combat. The kings and rulers themselves engaged wrestlers in the royal household. Witnessing their combat served the purpose of arousing the spirit and valor in the minds of the spectators, particularly the kings and princes who should be ready to face any eventuality.

In the Mahabharata, Bhimasena and Duryodhana were experts in wrestling. Bhima had killed Jarasandha, Keechaka and Duryodhana at the end of a wrestling bout.

Kamsa engaged the court wrestlers Mustika and Chanura to fight with the young Sri Krishna and Balarama, when they arrived at Mathura. While Mustika was killed by Balarama, Sri Krishna whirled Chanura and smashed him. Fort his reason, Sri Krishna came to be known as Mallari, the destroyer of the wrestler.

There is evidence to show that wrestling was developed as an art of fighting. It was known as mallakrida or malla yuddha. The wrestlers were referred to as mallakas. The arena was known as malla bhoomi. The gymnasium in general was known as mallashala. There were teachers who specialized in this art of combat.