Gatka Anandpur

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This collection shows you GATKA (Nihang games) outside the Sri Keshgarh Sahib on Hola Mohalla day 2014. Young boys put oil in their mouth, then throw out oil with full force on a stick ie lit the result is what you see. Photo captions has description of pic and history of Gatka/other Indian Martial arts, info taken from various sites.

Various groups come and perform. Bef starting they pay respects to arms, say a small prayer and move in a certain way (dance is a wrong but simpler word to use). U see this warrior dance and then proceeds to collect arms which in this case is a wooden stick and shield.

After the dance, the warrior does pranams and takes weapons. Gatka is a weapon-based art whose present form was created post 1857. ''It gained popularity when the British banned the practise of Shastar Vidiya, which was punishable by death. The Punjabi word gatka refers to wooden stick used in sparring matches. The term might have originated as a diminutive of the Sanskrit word gadha or mace''.

Warrior in white, after a mock fight, pays respects to the senior in blue. Gatka is a style of fighting between 2 or more practitioners, with wooden sticks intended to simulate swords. After the Second Anglo Sikh War 1848-49 and British Raj, the Sikh martial practioners suffered greatly. British ordered effective disarment of the Sikh community. Nihangs, regarded as keepers of keepers of Sikh traditions, were killed in large nos by the British. It is because the Sikhs supported the British during the 1857 Mutiny that restrictions on fighting were relaxed.The old method of sword training was replaced with sticks.

Next warrior blindfolds himself, places a small sword in his mouth, performs a few actions and then finds his way to collect weapons. ''Indian Shastar Vidya (martial art weaponry skills) is a part of the vast Vedic traditions. It is a complete science of war from hand to hand combat to battlefield strategy. It was exported to the oriental along with Buddhism and became the foundation for Chinese and Japanese martial art tradition".

U see blindfolded person collect 2 swords after which he brandishes the swords and crowds cheer him. Key is to ensure that whilst doing so he does not hurt anyone so requires him to sense where the crowds stand. ''Though the origin of Gatka is not definitely known, yet some evidences shows that it existed in India in ancient times in the form of stick-fighting''.

U see a Nihang warrior being attacked by four others. Nihangs, a sect, a known for their blue traditional robes and large turbans which are often embellished. Originally known as Akalis, the Nihang Sikhs are lovingly designated as Guru''s Beloved. They still carry the military ambience and heroic style that was cultivated during the lifetime of Guru Govind Singhji. The word Nihang can be traced back to Persian nihang (alligator, sword) or to Sanskrit Nishanka (fearless, carefree).

Here a brick is kept on the head, then the person hits the stick on head and brick splits into pieces. "The Nihangs are today divided into several groups, each with its own Chaoni (cantonment) but they are loosely organized into two Dals (forces) - Buddha Dal and the Taruna Dal. These names were initially given to the two sections into which the Khalsa army was divided in 1733. Buddha Dal has its Chaoni at Talvandi Sabo in Bhatinda District, while the main Chaoni of the Taruna Dal Nihangs is at Baba Bakala in Amritsar District".

A view of the mamoth crowds at the historic Sri Keshgarh Sahib. To see pics of Keshgarh Sahib Anandpur Click here

No sharp edged weapons are used in the transformed Gatka game. The martial art, in which Gatka (wooden stick) is used as a weapon, is called Gatkabaazi. U see two Nihangs fighting with wooden sticks. Traditionally Gatka was played by Nihangs but today even other jatis of Sikhs like khatris learn and play Gatka.

Warrior in the centre being attacked from all sides. ''Gatka is a complete martial system which uses spiritual, mental and physical skills in equal portions to help one defend themselves and others''.

Each group of warriors bring their weapons in a box like this one. To read briefly about Gatka during British rule Click here

A warrior groups plays the shank before starting Gatka.

A devotee showing Aara skills during Gatka. It is basically a strip of steel - warriors swing it in the air, up and down. Must be heavy. Onlookers have to be careful.

Fighting with bamboos.

Warrior in centre, attacked with swords and bamboo sticks from all sides. Love this - reminds me of Abhimanyu in the Mahabharat where he got into the Chakravuya, was attacked from all sides, but did not know how to get out.

This is a occasion for heads of warrior groups to be honored, u see head of one group being honored with cloth round the neck. Please help with better caption.

Offering respects to arms before using them like we saw in pic 2,3 is what is done here, the style is different.

Girls are encouraged to fight too. Firendly match between two warriors.

Whilst younger warriors are fighting, the head of this warrior group came on a horse flanked by warriors. Note 5 persons are holding the flag representing, what I think, the Panj Pyares or the 5 Beloves Ones. Warriors from this group brandish their swords n then start Gatka games.

Next game is a steel ball (like a discus) with pointed nails on it. Warriors make it fly by being in various positions. He takes it round n round. Onlookers have to be very careful not to get hurt.

First a lower level, now at shoulder level see right of pic.

Now in between his legs.

Now on one hand.

A small one caught between teeth and a bigger one in hand.

Seniors playing with sotis (sticks).

Young warriors with bamboo sticks, this was a keen fight.

What u see is a Chakkar - a traditional self-defence weapon. Next few pics showcase how Chakkar is used. To see pics of People of Anandpur Sahib Click here

This requires strength and patience. ''The Chakar looks like a wagon wheel with weights at the end of each spoke. The chakar is wielded by grasping the centre and spinning it around, causing damage upon anyone coming too close to the spinning weights.''

One using a Chakkar with right hand and another both hands but behind him, tough. To see pics of Hola Mohalla Click here

Loved this pose. To briefly know about Indian Martial Arts tradition Click here

Look at both poses, one in front and behind different. Thang-ta is a weapon-based Indian martial art created by the Meitei of Manipur. To know more Click here

This one is really tough. To know about Kalaripayattu in Kerala visit site of the Indian School of Martial Arts Click here

Sword fight between a old warrior (white) and young one. Fighting was with force and aggression but there were lighter moments like this fight. To know more about Kalaripayattu Click here

Bamboo fight with a young boy (getting trained). To know more about Gatka Click here

Procession of Panj Pyare or 5 Beloved Ones - part of the Hola Mohalla procession. Historic details in captions taken from various sites and Wikipedia. In case of any errors do write in. A very good article Ancient Martial Art - Gatka and History by H S Grewal Click here

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