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Sport Alternative: Mallakhamb

By Madeleine Stroth


Not your average pole dancers…

Mallakhamb gymnasts utilize their strength and flexibility in performances. (Photo from

Mallakhamb is a traditional Indian gymnastic sport, which developed out of exercise training and martial arts for wrestlers for its benefits in developing grip strength.

Mallakhamb consists of a single gymnast or team of gymnasts utilizing the power and strength of their own bodies to perform difficult feats and poses on a vertical wooden pole or rope in succession.

The sport originated in the 12th Century and was revived in the 19th Century by Balambhatta Dada Deodhar.  Mallakhamb competitions appeared at the national  level in 1958 at the National Gymnastic Championships in Delhi, India.  Currently 29 states in India participate in national Mallakhamb events.

Both men and women are allowed to compete in Mallakhamb events, with training/competition beginning as early as age eight. Women however are restricted to Rope Mallakhamb.                                                                  Competitors are only allowed wear a leotard in competition and                                                  the body is carefully covered in castor oil to prevent abrasions                                                  during the performance.


Women are only allowed to compete in Rope Mallakhamb events. (Photo from

There are three types of Mallakhamb:

Pole Mallakhamb:  A vertical wooden pole is fixed to the ground.  The pole is smeared with castor oil to minimize friction with the body.

Hanging Mallakamb:  Similar to Pole Mallkhamb, but a shorter wooden pole than the standard 12 foot regulation pole in Pole Mallakhamb is hung by hooks and a chain, suspending the pole above the ground.

Rope Mallakhamb:  Previously performed on a cane, today a cotton rope is used. Gymnasts are expected to perform theirexercises without knotting the rope in anyway.



A viral YouTube video has recently given Mallakhamb a lot of buzz.  Check it out here.


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