Featured in British rapper M.I.A.’s recent hit music video, MARDANI KHEL is drawing more young women to self-defence classes.
MARDANI KHEL(manly sport) which traces its history to Maratha warriors, includes 14 ways to wield a sword, sticks and other weapons. Like all martial arts, it also teaches you the weaknesses of the human anatomy in attack mode.
“Three years ago, I got a call from a person who was familiar with my work. They wanted to shoot a group of us performing at Panchganga. We played for an hour and a half without a break,” says khel expert Snehal Murkute, 27, who appears in the video. The former Kolhapur resident is now a school teacher and teaches MARDANI KHEL to youngsters. Senior trainers, known as VASTADS, in older parts of Kolhapur are equally generous about teaching enthusiastic youngsters. Babasaheb Tibile, Anandrao Thombare and Pandit PPowar are all MARDANI KHEL Masters, but do other jobs to earn a livelihood.
The Kolhapur civic body started a programme to train girls and women in this art for self-defence in the aftermath of the Nitbhaya incident. Kolhapur used to be the centre of the Maratha Kingdom which spread over southern and western pockets of Maharashtra. The city 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. The use of weapons such as swords, KATYAR (dagger), VEETA (darts), BHALA (javelin) and PATTA (long-bladed swords) continued, but the moves were much more stylish and less lethal.
Today, there are more than 12 organizations and TALIMS where VASTADS and new-age physical trainers teach MARDANI KHEL. At least 1,500 youngsters train at these centres every year.