On Thursday, the Samarth Vyayam Mandir in Dadar’s Shivaji Park hosted a performance by seven students from Munich in Germany as they showcased their skills in a traditional Indian sport, mallakhamb.
The students have been learning the sport of balancing on a rope or pole for the past seven years. They landed in Mumbai ten days ago to learn the sport from Uday Deshpande, a former national level mallakhamb player who trains enthusiasts at the Samarth Vyayam Mandir.
“The sport keeps me fit and healthy. It is different from regular exercises and that is what attracted me to the sport,” said Ruth Anzenberger, 17, a German student who has been learning the sport since 2004 and also teaches younger students. “I mail pictures of my students to Uday Sir who guides me on the correct postures for them,” she added.
In Germany, mallakhamb is considered an extension of Yoga. It is called ‘yoga seil’, that is, yoga on the rope and ‘Yoga phal’ or yoga on the pole. “It is gaining popularity in the country as it helps maintain strength and fitness,” said Jutta Schneider, 56, a yoga teacher in Germany.
On Thursday, the German students performed padmasans and sirsasanas on a rope. The students, who are keen to learn about Indian culture, chanted shlokas in Sanskrit, played the flute, made rangolis and even performed Kathak.
“I love Indian culture and I am also learning Bollywood dance. My parents wanted me to learn mallakhamb so I enrolled in the classes,” said Amani Ahmed, 11, a German student who was been learning the sport for the last two years.
The partnership with the Samarth Vyayam Mandir and the German students began in 2004 when Schneider saw a mallakhamb performance in Pune. She wanted to learn the sport but was unable to find a trainer. After almost a year, Schneider got in touch with Deshpande. “The students are enthusiastic to learn new things. Unfortunately, in our country the tradition is dying out and we do not have this sport as a part of Olympics,” he said.
In spite of the benefits of the sport awareness about it is lacking. “We try our best to conduct workshops in schools. We hope more schools would come forward to learn this sport,” said Deshpande.