Keeping the glory of gatka alive

June 29, 2016 12:00 am | Updated September 16, 2016 04:58 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

IMPRESSIVE FORM:A gatka training session in progress.— Photo: Special Arrangement

IMPRESSIVE FORM:A gatka training session in progress.— Photo: Special Arrangement

Every evening at Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Nirmal Ajit Akhada in East Vinod Nagar, boys and girls aged between 8 and 25 years, dressed in a chola (blue-coloured kurta) and a dumala (a yellow turban made up of 8 to 10 metres of cloth), train to keep alive the legacy of gatka, a traditional form of combat training.

Gatka, which originated around the 17th Century in Punjab, has taken up more than one meaning in the modern world. One of these is to keep the community and the tradition relevant.

Ustaad Jathedar Prithvi Pal Singh, a member of the Delhi Gatka Federation which also runs the akhada in East Vinod Nagar, said: “The communities that forget their customs and traditions eventually come to an end and become history. One of our primary aims is to take care of the rich tradition that we have inherited.”


The training gains more importance as a means of self-defence in a city like Delhi, where crimes against women are rampant.

Gurdeep Kaur, a 15-year-old who trains at the akhada , said: “It has been a few months since I started training. I had seen a lot of girls practising gatka and instinctively felt like I too should do it. I should also be strong enough to protect myself and be able to beat anyone who tries to misbehave with me. Earlier, I used to be scared whenever I was outside my house and on my own. Now, I feel much more confident after leaning gatka.”

One of the efforts while keeping the glory of the art alive has been to make it all inclusive. During Mr. Prithvi Pal Singh’s training sessions, one cannot tell whether the children belong to various faiths or not due to the uniform dress code and accessories. He said the only things the form doesn’t allow are drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. One of the strictest rules for gatka has been that those who practise this live a clean and disciplined life.

Members of the local Sikh community explained that they took the onus to not just make their daughters strong, but also discipline the boys.

“It gives a sense of independence, self-reliance and confidence, especially among our girls. Our daughters can go out at midnight fearlessly because they have the skills to protect themselves. It’s not just physical agility, but mental strength that makes them capable of self-defence. One look at the kripan and no one will dare to touch them,” said local elder Mahendra Singh.

He added: “The martial art trains in such a way that one is able to use any and every object available in a given situation. The learning takes place in such a way that anything that comes in their hand becomes a shastra [weapon].”

Mr. Prithvi Pal Singh explained the reason behind so many akhadas in places like Canada, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.


“Many of our children who learnt it here went abroad for higher education. They had the sincere yearning to spread and share the wisdom of this shastra vidya . We have gatka in all schools affiliated to the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, but would like to request the Delhi government to incorporate this traditional martial art in all schools in the Capital. It is an all-inclusive practice that will only instil a sense of independence and self-confidence in the children. More importantly, we have a good number of gatka coaches ready to give training.”

( The writer is an intern with The Hindu )

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