Friday, 3 January 2014

The oldest martial art in the world

This is perhaps the most ancient of all martial arts and it is also perhaps the only art that is still practiced only in a few small places in India.
Karnataka in such place where this ancient art is played out as per the old rules and regulations.  Even in Karnataka, this art comes alive only in Mysore and that too during Vijayadashami, which is an integral part of the famous Dassara.
The end of the Vajra Musti signifies the beginning of the Dassara procession. Eight combatants battle out in Vajra Musti bouts which is inaugurated by the scion of the royal Wodeyar dynasty. Contestants who participated in Vajra Musti bouts were called Jetties and they came to Mysore from Baroda. The first Vajra Musti bouts during the Wodeyar reign can be traced to the time of Raja Wodeyar when he made Srirangapatna his capital (Raja Wodeyar had shifted the capital of his growing Wodeyar Kingdom in 1610 from Mysore to Srirangapatna after defeating the Vijayanagar Viceroy of  Srirangapatna province, Sriranga in a battle at Kesare near Mysore). 
Apart from Mysore, a slight variation of this martial art was patronised in Baroda by the Gaekwads. However, the antiquity of this art, as of now, can be traced to 1000 BC. Apart from several Kings and Emperors of ancient India, the founder of Buddhism, Gautam Buddha (He too was a prince before he took to asceticism), was an expert in Vajra Musti, the ancient Hindu martial art which was also called as Mammar Adi.
Mammar Adi is better known today as Marma Shastra or the advanced art of pressure point fighting. Here, pressure is used to either snuff out life or make a person unconscious and all this is done by exerting pressure on the nerves of/in the body.
Marma Shastra holds that there are 107 marma points in a human body and that the prana or life flows through them. Putting pressure on one or many of them will ensure that the prana ceases to flow and the person dies.
If a combatant wanted to injure his opponent, he would strike one or many of the marma points. Thus, a hit or strike could be used to maim or even kill a person. If the combatant or Marma practitioner wanted to heal somebody, he would press a particular point with his thumb or the index finger. For example, Marma can cure impotency.
If the marma vipat near the groin is struck, it can cause impotency. However, if the Vipat is massaged, it can cures impotency.
Vajra Mushti or Marma Adi is the main art that Buddha learnt and excelled in in his younger days as a prince. He had to learn this art as he was a Kshatriya.
Kshatriyas or warrior were trained in Vajra Musti and this is part of the bouquet of martial arts that epic heroes such as Rama, Bheema and Arjuna among others learnt. Balarama was also a trained wrestler and he was considered t be unbeatable.
Even women Kshatriyas were trained in Marma. Legend has it that it was a woman who taught Bodhidharma this art. Bodhidharma is considered to be the 28th East Indian patriarch of the Buddhist faith and he lived during the 5th century.
Bodhidharma is commonly credited with being the founder of Zen Buddhism. He also began the physical training of the Shaolin monks that led to the creation of Shaolinquan.
Vajra-musti in Sanskrit means, “thunder fist” or “diamond fist”, and it specifically refers to a knuckleduster-like weapon and also the name of  this ancient art practiced by a shrinking class of wrestlers known as Jyestimalla.
The weapon that the malla use is sometimes called bhukhandi or Indra-mukti, meaning Indira’s fist. Wrestlers, who took to this art, later added blade and sharp edges to the musti but such weapons were rarely used in fight.
Combatants in ancient India fought nude and today they wear a loincloth similar to the one worn by Indian wrestlers. Mughal Emperors also took to this sport in a big way. During their time, malla would often use Bagh Nakh or tiger and iron claws instead of the vajra musti. It was called as naki-ka-kausti (nakh ka kusti) and it is this variation of the Vajra Musti that was patronized in Baroda.
This art lay great stress on strengthening the hands and wrist. Practitioners of this art dipped their hands in milk and then repeatedly struck a marble slab with their knuckles. Thus, conditioning of the hand was the most important exercise.
Interestingly, this art flowed from Brahmins and it was subsequently popularized by the Kshatriyas. There are many statues and vases in and of India depicting certain fighting techniques of Marma Adi with bare hands.
The Vajra Musti became popular in the Vijayanagar and Mysore (Wodeyar) Kingdoms. Ranadheera Kanteerava of Wodeyar dynasty was a known expert in malla yuddha and he patronised this art. This form of fighting still takes place within the confines of the Mysore palace on Vijaya Dashami.

When the Dasara procession was revived by the Wodeyars in Srirangapatna in 1610, Vajra Musti, Jatti Kalaga, Malla Yuddha, boxing, grappling, lifting round boulders were part of the festival.
Jatti kalaga and boulder lifting contest were held at the grounds near the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangapatna.
Another art that was popular was Masti Yuddha or Mukki Boxing where combatants fought with bare hands. It existed for some three hundred and fifty years in the Benares before being officially banned by the British who preferred European boxing.

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