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Showcasing their acrobatic abilities

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Dexterous: Malkhamb artistes from Haveri performing in Chitradurga on Sunday.
Dexterous: Malkhamb artistes from Haveri performing in Chitradurga on Sunday.

Staff Correspondent

Four girls from Haveri district and their coach constitute the team

Chitradurga: Four schoolgirls received widespread applause here on Sunday for displaying exceptional acrobatic skills. They were seen suspending themselves on cotton rope thereby striking various yogic postures.

These four girls, who had come from Haveri district, were Malkhamb performers. This is an ancient Indian form of gymnastics. The performance, which demands sharpened skills, is all about balancing the body with the help of a plain cotton rope, while presenting various yogic postures.

Savitri, Rekha, Uma and Lakshmi, the performers, had come along with their coach Siddharud Hoogar, to present their show at the district stadium here. They were invited by the Chitradurga Cricket Club just prior to the commencement of the State-level cricket tournament.

Savitri, a first year pre-university college student, is the eldest among the four, and has been practising such exercises for the past four years. The daughter of a farmer, she has showcased her skills in several States such as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat. “I met Mr. Hoogar when I was in my higher primary. I saw him teaching Malkhamb to other students. I was fascinated with that, and decided to learn,” she said. Savitri said that although she initially faced resistance from her family, she was given support when she won a gold medal in a competition two years ago in Bangalore.

Rekha, Uma and Lakshmi, who are studying in the seventh standard, are also daughters of farmers and have been practising this art form for the past three years. They too have won medals in various competitions.

Mr. Hoogar, a primary school teacher in Dharwad, has dedicated his life to the spread of Malkhamb. He did not appear happy as the sport had not received much support from the Government at large.

“It requires a minimum of Rs. 25,000 to set up Malkhamb poles and cushioned beds. Despite my meagre salary, I have been saving and periodically purchasing the required materials. The Government should offer assistance to such sports too,” he said.

Despite the inadequate support, his team has stood first in various State-level competitions. Unlike in Maharashtra where each school had Malkhamb poles installed, no such facility existed in Karnataka, he added.

Mr. Hoogar, who has been invited to participate in the World Kannada Sammelan to be held in Doha in December, has little hopes as far as taking his team is concerned. “Being a primary school teacher, I cannot make arrangements to take my team to Doha without financial assistance. Leave alone other expenses, I do not even have the money to get my team members’ passports prepared”, he added.

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