Mallakhamb or Malkhamb is a traditional Indian sport in which a gymnast performs feats and poses in concert with a vertical wooden pole or rope. Mallakhamb also refers to the pole used in the sport.

The word "Mallakhamb" is composed of malla which denotes a gymnast or a man of strength and khamb which means a pole. Mallakhamb can therefore be translated to English as pole gymnastics.


The earliest recorded references to Mallakhamb is found in the 12th century classic Manasollasa (1135 AD) by Somesvara Chalukya, although the relationship between the "Mallastambha" of the Manasollasa and the more recent Mallakhamb sport is disputed. However, the sport does not become visible in practice and well recorded until it was revived or invented in the 19th century by Balambhatta Dada Deodhar, the fitness instructor of Peshwa Bajirao II during the reign of the Peshwas.

Mallakhamb as a competitive sport

29 states in India participate in mallakhamb competitions at the national level. National Level mallakhamb tournaments were first organized more than 25 years ago. From 2010 the national level tournament will be organized in four separate groups.

Types of mallakhamb

Originally mallakhamb was introduced as a supporting exercise for wrestlers. "Pole mallakhamb" was started by Balambhattdada Deodhar sometime between 1800 and 1810. Later on, his student Damodarguru Moghe realized that only major grips can be developed with a pole and used cane instead of a pole. Subsequently, the unavailability of cane resulted in rope mallakhamb. Almost 25 to 30 types of mallakhamb apparatus were tried and tested over the years. Competitively there are three main variations of mallakhamb.

Pole or fixed mallakhamb

In this variation, a vertical wooden pole is fixed in the ground and the participant performs various acrobatic feats and poses while hanging on the pole.

The mallakhamb pole used in competitions is a straight pole made of teak or sheesham wood, standing 2.6 metres (8.5 ft) in height with a circumference of 55 centimetres (22 in) at the base. It gradually tapers to a circumference of 35 centimetres (14 in) at the top.

Hanging mallakhamb

Similar to the pole mallakhamb, the hanging mallakhamb is a wooden pole that is shorter in length than the standard Pole Mallakhamb and is hung from chain and hooks, leaving a gap between the ground and the bottom of the mallakhamb.

Rope mallakhamb

In this variation, the participant performs exercises while hanging from a rope suspended from a support.

Mallakhamb in talent shows

In recent Indian talent shows like India's Got Talent and Dance India Dance mallakhamb has been used in dance acts, but Mallakhamb is not a form of dance and it should not be confused with pole dancing.

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