Gatka, Kalaripayattu, Thang-Ta and Mallakhamba in Khelo India Youth Games 2021

Context: The Sports Ministry has approved the inclusion of four Indigenous Games to be a part of Khelo India Youth Games 2021, scheduled to take place in Haryana.

  • The games include: Gatka, Kalaripayattu, Thang-Ta and Mallakhamba.
  • Recently, the Sports Ministry formally recognised yogasana as a competitive sport, which will enable the ancient practice to avail government funding.
  • The Sports Minister also said yogasana will be inducted in future Khelo India Games programme.


Indian Martial Arts

  • India has a long history of martial arts.
  • Shaolin Kung Fu, a term that includes a large variety of Chinese martial arts, traces its lineage to Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who, according to popular legend, introduced Buddhism to China during the 6th century AD.
  • Sadly, while Chinese and Japanese fighting forms such as kung fu and ju-jitsu have become national institutions, many of India’s ancient fighting techniques languish as forgotten art forms.


  • Often known as the ‘Mother of All Martial Arts’, this 3000-year old art form originating from Kerala, draws inspiration from the raw power, swift movements and sinuous strength of majestic animals – the lion, tiger, elephant, wild boar, snake and crocodile.
  • The term ‘kalari’ refers to the place where this combat style is taught while ‘payattu’ means to practise.
  • This combat style has different levels through which one learns how to fight, with and without, hand-held weapons.
  • This legendary warrior art form most was recently popularised by 76-year-old Meenakshiamma’s heroic exhibition of swordplay against a man half her age.

Thang Ta (Huyen Langlon)

  • Thang-Ta, which literally means ‘sword and spear’, is one aspect of Huyen Langlon (art of war or method of safe guarding), a traditional martial art from Manipur.
  • Its other aspect is Sarit Sarak that involves unarmed combat.  
  • This martial art form integrates various external weapons – the sword, spear and dagger- with the internal practice of physical control through soft movements coordinated with breathing rhythms.
  • However, the heart of Thang-Ta is the sword. There are hundreds of different sword drills that teach the basic strokes and stepping patterns of this fighting style.


  • Closely linked to Kerala’s Kalaripayattu, Silambam is an ancient stick-martial art of Tamil Nadu.
  • According to Sangam-era literature, there were a number of exercise centres called silambak-koodamall over the Dravida Nadu region.
  • The age-old art—patronized by the Chera, Chola and Pandya rulers—is recorded as one of the 64 art forms of ancient India.
  • The word ‘Silam’ (in Tamil) stands for hills and ‘Mambam’ (the Marhat word for bamboo) stands for bamboo from the hills; these sticks are usually found on the hills in that particular region.

Gatka (Shastar Vidya)

  • Originating from the state of Punjab, Gatka is believed to be a battle technique created by Sikh warriors during the martial period of great Sikh Gurus.
  • A style of stick fighting between two or more practitioners, Gatka is a toned-down version of the deadlier Shastar Vidya, the fighting style of the fearsome Akali Nihangs, the blue-turbaned sect of Sikh fighters banned by the British after the Anglo-Sikh wars.
  • The sharp swords of Shastar Vidya have been replaced by wooden sticks (soti) and shields (farri) in Gatka.


  • Sqay is an ancient martial art traditionally practiced by the people of Kashmir.
  • Armed sqay makes use of a curved single-edge sword paired with a shield, while unarmed techniques incorporate kicks, punches, locks and chops.

Mardaani Khel

  • Originally from Maharashtra, Mardani Khel is a weapon-based martial art form.
  • It owes its development to the geographic conditions of the state (hills, caves and valleys).
  • A very ancient form of art, it saw its emergence during the Maratha dynasty.
  • Kolhapur used to be the centre of the Maratha kingdom and the villages around it had talims (training centres) where skilled elders prepared youngsters for war.
  • After the revolt of 1857, the British banned the use of weapons and the talims were forced to turn mardani khel into a folk game to ensure its survival.

Kushti (Malla Yuddha)

  • A form of traditional wrestling, Kushti developed during the Mughal Empire by combining the native sport of malla-yuddha (combat wrestling) with influences from Persian varzesh-e bastani (warrior athletics).
  • Interestingly, the words pehlwani and kushti derive from the Persian terms pahlavani and koshti respectively.


  • Mallakhamb or Mallar Khambam in Tamil, a traditional Indian sport that is in the spotlight now, thanks to the World Mallakhamb Championship held in Mumbai in February 2019.
  • This is a unique sport, where a gymnast performs aerobic and acrobatic stunts, and yoga poses on a fixed or hanging pole, or a rope.
  • Mallakhamb is a sport that is hardly talked about and not many know that it originated in India.
  • It was devised originally as an exercise for wrestlers and warriors,
  • It is a State sport of many Indian States.

Khelo India – National Programme for Development of Sports

  • A Scheme called Khelo India – National Programme for Development of Sports is being implemented by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports as a central sector scheme from 2017-18.
  • Rajiv Gandhi Khel Abhiyan (RGKA) and Urban Sports Infrastructure Scheme (USIS) were subsumed in the “Khelo India – National Programme for Development of Sports”.
  • The Programme aims at mainstreaming sport as a tool for individual development, community development, economic development and national development.
  1. The 1st Khelo India School Games (KISG) 2018 were successfully conducted in New Delhi.
  2. The 2nd edition of Games, i.e., ‘Khelo India Youth Games Maharashtra, 2019’ were successfully conducted in Pune.
  3. The third Khelo India Youth Games was held from 10 January 2020 and 22 January 2020 in Guwahati, Assam, India.

Objective of Scheme

a) Mass participation of youth in annual sports competitions through a structured competition;

b) Identification of talent;

c) Guidance and nurturing of the talent through existing sports academies and new set up either by the central Government or State Government or in PPP mode;

d) Creation of Sports Infrastructure at mofussil, Tehsil, District, State levels, etc.

To accomplish the above objectives, Khelo India programme has been divided into 12 verticals, namely:

  • Among other things the scheme provides for creation of sports infrastructure that includes making of Synthetic athletic track, synthetic hockey field, synthetic turf football ground, multipurpose hall and other similar facilities.

Revamped Khelo India Programme (September-2017)

Salient features:

  • An unprecedented Pan Indian Sports Scholarship scheme, which would cover 1,000 most talented young athletes each year across select sports disciplines. 
  • Each athlete selected under the scheme shall receive an annual scholarship worth Rs. 5.00 lakh for 8 consecutive years. 
  • State/Union Territory (UT)-wise allocation or release of funds is not made under this vertical, which is implemented centrally by the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
  • The Programme aims to promote 20 universities across the country as hubs of sporting excellence, which would enable talented sportspersons to pursue the dual pathway of education and competitive sports. 
  • The Programme also aims at creating an active population with a healthy lifestyle. 
  • The Programme would cover about 200 million children in the age group of 10-18 under a massive national physical fitness drive, which will not only measure the physical fitness of all children in the age group but also support their fitness-related activities.
  • The programme also aims at engaging youth living in disturbed and deprived areas, in sporting activities, to wean them away from unproductive and disruptive activities and mainstream them in the nation-building process. 
  • The programme strives to raise the standards of competition, both at school and college level, to have maximum access to organized sports competitions. 
  • The Khelo India national school games will be organised for the under 17 age group.
  • For the first time, a sports broadcaster will broadcast live the national school games. 
  • The top 1,000 athletes from this event will be entitled to Rs 5 lakh scholarships for eight years.
  • Every year, the Sports Ministry will keep adding 1,000 more athletes for creating a pool of young talent.
  • Khelo India Youth Games is a part of the revamped national programme for the development of sports, Khelo India.
  • After the success of the Khelo India School Games in 2018, its bigger and better version, as the Youth Games was introduced in 2019.
  • Students from colleges and universities participate in these youth games.

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