Mallakhamb Performers

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I was very fortunate to spend an afternoon with mallakhamb performers at Gurukulam Shiksha this past March.  Read further to learn the definition of mallakhamb and see photos of these amazing athletes.

shirtless mallakhamb performers lined up at practice session

Mallakhamb students from Jayesh Kacha’s class. From left to right: Monu, Manish, Bhuwan, Amit, Eklavya, Om, Swaroop, Dixit

Mallakhamb is a very demanding sport practiced in India. The name itself means “Wrestling – Pole” and many consider it a precursor to modern-day “Pole-dancing”.  Mallakhamb is performed on a standing pole or a hanging rope.  The oldest record of this sport is found in Indian literature from the 12th century, it became a competitive sport in India in 1958 in the National Gymnastics Championship.  Mallakhamb performers are highly disciplined and dedicate a great deal of time to perfecting their performing abilities.  They have incredible upper body strength as well agility and focus.

Shirtless athletic indian boys standing next to mallakhamb pole in ahmedabad india

Monu and Manish ready to begin their routine. Om, Amit and Bhuwan stand in the back

Gurukulam Shiksha is a world-class school offering Mallakhamb as part of their curriculum.  A Gurukulam is a type of education system in ancient India with shishya (‘students’ or ‘disciples’) living near or with the guru. The word gurukula is a combination of the Sanskrit words guru (‘teacher’ or ‘master’) and kula (‘family’ or ‘home’).  In a gurukula, the students living together are considered as equals, regardless of their social standing.

overhead view of mallakhamb performers shows nicely defined shirtless young boys close together

Mallekhamb formation seen from above, an interesting perspective not many get to see.

At the gurukula, I was welcomed by Jayesh Cacha, a professional Mallakhamb coach who has been a mallakhamb performer since the age of 15. Prior to practicing mallakhamb, Jayesh was a black belt in karate.  Once being introduced to mallakhamb he was enamored with the sport and is now a dedicated coach and mentor to his students.  He coaches a small group of 8 children ranging in age from 11 to 17.  In addition to teaching at the gurukula, Jayesh also freelances in other aerial arts training.

shirtless mallakhamb performers create a beautiful group pose at a gurukulum

Strength, flexibility and concentration are key to practicing this high demanding sport.


shirtless teen indian boy posing on mallakhamb pole

Dixit, age 17 shown performing a hanging padmasan pose on pole Mallakhamb


young shirtless 13 year old athletic boy in namaste pose on mallakhamb rope

13 year old Bhuwan performing Padmasana, a pose on Rope Mallakhamb that evokes contemplation.


aerial arts coach jayesh Cacha teaching mallakhamb

Jayesh Kacha teaching Om do “Hastapad Asan”


silhouete of a beautiful shirtless athletic boy performing aerial arts

Silhouette of Bhwuam performing vertical “Natraj Aasan” at a high altitude.


very young shirtless and barefoot boy performing on mallakhamb pole in india

Monu is only 11, one of the youngest students in Jayesh’s class. Here he is doing “Dashrang” on pole Mallakhamb


15 year old boy with defined body watching mallakhamb performers

15 year old Swaroop observing his teammates practice their mallakhamb moves.



About The Author

Christopher Ryan is an international photographer specializing in conceptual portraits in unique environments, such as abandoned buildings and picturesque landscapes. His work breaks the barriers of race, age, and geographic location, capturing the energy and exuberance of the human form. He was influenced by his unusual upbringing in the American South. He seeks to retain the virtues of Southern Charm while abandoning pre-conceived notions of prejudice.

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