Mallakhamb at Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir

Following my visit to Gurukulam Shiksha in March of 2018, I was very fortunate to receive a referral to meet Mr. Uday Vishwanath Deshpande, who is widely considered the world’s foremost authority of the sport of Mallakhamb.  Mr. Deshpande is the Director and Chief Coach at Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir, a sacred sports institute located in Shivaji Park, in the heart of Mumbai, India.  The institution was founded in 1925 by the late Shri P.L.Kale Guruji.  Though training in a a variety of sports disciplines is offered, the most visible and unique is the art of Mallakhamb.  Mr. Desphande first started visiting Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir when he was barely three years old.  His parents would drop him off while they played badminton across the street.

mallakhamb performers at Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir with coach Uday Deshpande

Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir students begin each session with a salute to honor the sport, the head coach, and their audience.

One of the most interesting features of Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir is that there are no fees for participating on any team or training in any discipline.  Everything is operated on an honorary basis.  Mr. Deshpande has personally lived by this principle by contributing decades of service as coach (starting at age 15), then later head coach, and Honorary General Secretary – all on a honorary basis.  That is to say he has never received a salary for this valuable work.  You may be wondering how this is possible.  Mr. Deshpande did have a salaried career working for the Central Government from 1975  to 2013.  He started as Inspector of Customs & Central Excise, then became Superintendent in 1991, and Assistant Commissioner in 2009, finally retiring in 2013 after serving 38 years.

14 year old shirtless pole mallakhamb performer in mumbai, india

Yash Chavan, age 14 Performing Straddle L on Pole Mallakhamb

Prior to his government career, Mr. Deshpande studied at Ramnarain Ruia College, then completed a Bachelor of Science degree in 1974 majoring in Chemistry & Botany.  Additional educational credits include Certificate Course in Teaching Gymnastics from the National Institute of Sports, at the South Center in Bangalore,  Yoga Teacher’s training Course in 1980, from Mumbai.

Sagar Rane, age 18 Peforming Hatacha Fara on Pole Mallakhamb

Sagar Rane, age 18 Peforming Hatacha Fara on Pole Mallakhamb

Mallakhamb is a very demanding sport practiced which originated in India and thanks to the dedication of professionals such as Mr. Deshpande, has spread throughout the world.   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.

Prajyot Kaskar 14 performing Hanumantasan on Pole Mallakhamb at Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir in Mumbai, India

Prajyot Kaskar, age 14 performing Hanumantasan on Pole Mallakhamb

 

Atharav Kale, 10 year old shirtless boy Peforming Sitting postion on Pole Mallakhamb at Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir in Mumbai, India

Atharav Kale, age 10 Peforming Sitting position on Pole Mallakhamb

 

One Hand Mayurasan on Pole Mallakhamb at Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir in Mumbai, India

Sagar Rane, age 18 performing One Hand Mayurasan on Pole Mallakhamb

 

Somansh Dalvi, age 10 performing Matsyasan on Pole Mallakhamb

Somansh Dalvi, age 10 performing Matsyasan on Pole Mallakhamb

 

Kewal Patil, age 18 Performing Payacha Fara on Pole Mallakhamb

Kewal Patil, age 18 Performing Payacha Fara on Pole Mallakhamb

 

Sagar Rane, age 18 performing Payacha Fara on Pole Mallakhamb

Sagar Rane, age 18 performing Payacha Fara on Pole Mallakhamb

 

Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir recently (February 16-17, 2019) hosted the 1st Mallakhamb World Championship.  The event was a huge success and saw competitive teams from fifteen countries!  Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir is unique in that there is never a fee for students.  Courses are completely sustained by honorariums received by alumni as well as contributions from current students.  Mr. Deshpande was proud to show me a hand-written decades-old log of former students and the names of their hometowns around the globe.

Beautiful pose by mallakhamb team at Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir

Another beautiful pose

 

Atharav Kale 10 Peforming Padahastasan on Pole Mallakhamb

Atharav Kale 10 Peforming Padahastasan on Pole Mallakhamb

 

shirtless male mallakhamb performers demonstrating an intricate pose in Mumbai, India

A beautiful and complex Mallakhamb pose in front of Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir

 

Rope Mallakhamb requires similar levels of strength and discipline, but is performed on an a hanging rope.  Rope Mallakhamb is not limited to girls, but is more popular with females than males.

Grishma Desai 9 Performing Bajrang Pakad on Rope Mallakhamb

Grishma Desai, age 9 Performing Bajrang Pakad on Rope Mallakhamb

 

Aditi Karambelkar, age 18 & Grishma Desai 9 performing pyramid of Padmasan & Hanging Padmasan on Rope Mallakhamb

Aditi Karambelkar, age 18 & Grishma Desai 9 performing pyramid of Padmasan & Hanging Padmasan on Rope Mallakhamb

 

mallakhamb athletes relaxing on the ground at Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir

Farewell to the amazing boys, coaches, and chief coach Uday Deshpande at Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir.

This is part of my series on Child and Teen Performers featuring people under 18 years of age who excel in sports, dance, music, or other competitive fields worldwide.  For more information about Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir, visit their Facebook page.

About The Author

Model, photographer, traveler, and writer. I was born and raise in the south and maintain as much southern charm as possible while counteracting the stereotypical racist bible thumping attitude expected by so many.