‘Gatka’, a traditional martial art form, that is historically associated with the Sikh gurus and is popular among the masses, is now being recognised as a sport nationwide. The form which was earlier confined to gurudwaras, nagar kirtans and akharas, finds presence in the sports category after the formation of Gatka Federation of India (GFI) in 2008 and is now played by trained Gatka players at the national level.
General Secretary of GFI and one of its founding members Baljinder Singh Toor, while sharing history of Gatka, says, “It is believed to have originated when sixth Sikh guru Hargobind adopted ‘Kirpan’ for self defense during Mughal era and tenth Guru Gobind Singh made it compulsory for everyone to use the weapons for self defense.” He adds, “It was only in 2008 after the formation of the Federation, that proper rules for the game were formulated and now it is considered a sport.” Now not just the Sikh youths but all sportsmen from the country can participate in the sport.
This is an achievement indeed and a fine upgrading of a medieval martial art into a sport. Now it is played at All India university level, college level and is a part of national school games which has helped in its re invention. It is played today at as a sport nationwide at the school, college and university levels and this process has helped in its re-invention. Toor says, “Earlier, some four or five teams would gather at small competitions and rest of the time would be lost squabbling over rules because each team had different rules”.
HS Bhullar, president, GFI, says, “A move forward in this direction came when the Punjab government enlisted Gatka game in the gradation list of recognised sports enlisted in the state sports policy. This has ensured the longevity of a medieval martial art.” Besides, this move entitled the players to avail all facilities being provided to other games and players, including reservation of three percent quota in all posts and admissions.
Before this upgrading, a number of stunts and gimmicks had entered the martial art which do not find place in the rules of the game as of now. “The stunts that crept into Gatka later were never originally the part of this art which is essentially a form of self defense and did not justify eating glass or other such dangerous antics.”
Dilip Kumar, an official from UP Gatka Federation, says “I liked Gatka so much that I took lessons from one of the players at Amritsar. I realized that this art form was for self defense, and now I dream of making it a part of the Olympics.” Solanki Himanshu Nathala, a coach from Gujarat who is now associated with the game since five years is now gearing up for the Gujarat State Gatka Championship.
With a desire to see traditional Punjabi martial arts ‘Gatka’ at the world level, Gatka Federation of India is going to form a team of around 35 Gatka players that will who will hold a display at world sports events. “We are not preparing the team to make them compete at world level but to make art turned sport popular internationally,” says Toor.
Varsity diploma in Gatka
Although there are several academies in Punjab that teach Gatka but the Punjabi University, Patiala, offers a recognised diploma course to learn it. It was started in 2013. Eligibility for a student to get enrolled for the diploma course is graduation in any stream.
The university takes a fees of Rs 25000 of which 75 percent is given by an NGO ‘Sarbat da Bhala’ and remaining 25 is given by the players themselves.