Monday, January 17, 2011

Seven wins and still counting…

The vajra mushti (diamond fist)

Vajra mushti kalaga at Mysore Palace during Dasara 2010
First blood
One among the many rich traditions of our country is Kusti (wrestling) with its homeland being Mysore. In olden days, every village had a Hanuman temple and an akhada. Kusthi was not just a sport but an art used for self defense and for protection of the empire.
M.R. Madhava, son of M.R. Sudarshan of the Jetty family whose name is synonymous with the ‘vajra mushti kalaga’ (a varied and special form of wrestling) and kusti, is very humble and modest person. He shared his experience in the palace, about his family and community.  Excerpts from the interview:

Your whole family is very well known for wrestling. Can you tell us about your family tree?
Madhava: My family traces back to the times of Tippu Sultan. Kari Jatappa, my great great grandfather was a Raja Vastadi in Tippu’s court. Story goes that when Tippu told he can kill a tiger, Kari Jatappa killed a tiger by hitting it with his bare hands. During the time of Mummudi Wadiyar, Rama Jatappa was famous. People would say “Aakashakke eeni ella, Rama Jatappange kustili sati ella” (there is no ladder to the sky, same way, there is no equal to Rama Jatappa in kusti). Next was my grandfather, M.R.  Jatappa. He used to supply agarbatti to the palace durbar. It was famous all over India. My father was M.R.  Sudarshan. He was conferred with the titles Mr. Body Builder Mysore and with Mr. Olympics title in Madras. We are five brothers: Ramji, Basavanna, Tiger Balaji, Arvind and me (Madhav). All five were into wrestling in our earlier days, but now most of them have quit.  Balaji is very famous and has wrestled in the kalaga and at the Chennaiah akhada. I specialise mainly in blood-fighting.
When and from where did the Jattis originate?
Madhava: We have heard stories from our elders that our forefathers were in Akbar’s courts in Delhi. The Jetty family had around 3,000 houses there. For various reasons our clan migrated from Delhi and spread to different parts of India. They say that the origin of Jattis dates back to as early as the time of Lord Krishna and that it was the Jattis who taught Balarama how to wrestle. But since the practice of sati was predominant with our people, there were very few descendents of the Jattis. 
Members of your family have taken part in the well-known ‘vajra musti kalaga.’ How is the kalaga fought and is it practiced anywhere else?
Madhava: This form of fighting takes place only in Mysore and that too on the last day of Dasara. Nowhere else in the world will you get to see it.
First we keep the red mud and offer prayer to our home deity Nimbuja Devi to take her blessings. Later we shave our head leaving only a pony like those of pujaris and wear the kusti dress. In the palace we will be given the vajra musti which we need to wear for the fight. It is usually made of elephant tusk or the horn of a gaur.  
After the Maharaja is seated, there will be a referee who will conduct the fight. Four fighters, 2 from Mysore-Chamrajnagar and 2 from Bangalore-Chennapatna are called and divided into two pairs. Both the pairs fight simultaneously and it lasts from around two to ten minutes. Whoever draws first blood will be declared the winner and the fight is immediately stopped. The sight of first blood is considered to be a good sign to start Vijayadashami. Later the king proceeds to offer puja to the Banni tree.  
Do you practice regularly for the kalaga?
Madhava: We usually start training one or two months before the event. There is a strict training routine and we need to practice breathing control. Also we need to follow a proper diet for maintaining fitness. It is like training for a war.
Who selects the fighters for this event?
Madhava: There will be about eight heads called Kalipha, Ustad, etc, who select the fighters. One person cannot fight for two years in a row. It is usually every alternate year or more. Nowadays we give chance to juniors also if they want to fight, so that even they can improve. Only those from the Jatti community can take part in this fight. I started when I was 18-years-old and have participated and won seven times at the palace. There is no age limit for taking part. One can fight until he has the strength to.
It is a very dangerous art form. Has anyone got severely injured while fighting?
Madhava: Many people have got injured till now. I know a person who lost his eye around thirty years back and one who has a hole in his face. You are supposed to hit only the head. However sometimes you miss and hit the opponents face. A slight miss can cause severe injury. But we feel the pain only for some five minutes, later its gone. Doctors will also be present during the fight to provide first aid to those injured.
Will the training be given from childhood?
Madhava: It all depends on daring. If the kid has the guts and dare to fight, only then can he face his opponent. In that case they train for around half an hour during evening tying a towel to their hands.
What do you do for a living other than the kalaga?
Madhava: We rear cows and whenever asked for will go for duty to the palace. We have agarbatti and other small businesses also.
Will your kids continue the family tradition?
Madhava: It is up to them if they want to practice. Like I said, they can fight only if they have the dare to. But we will see that the next generation will keep up the tradition of our community.

(Published in Star Of Mysore dated Oct.15, 2010).

6 comments:

JBW said...

My name is John Will - I am from Australia - I have trained in ther art of Vajramushti, in Baroda in the late 1980's with Sri Sitaram - a well-known vajramushti guru. Can someone please contact me with a way to reach Madhava - I would like to make contact.
With thansk,
John Will

john@bjj.com.au
article about Vajramushti: http://www.bjj.com.au/main//?page_id=117

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De.vile said...

Hello, working on a TV show about martial arts and I find that this is a fascinating article. I was wondering if you could put me in touch with MR Madhava/MR Sudarshan.

JBW said...

Hello everyone - I trained with the Jyesthimalla family in Baroda in the 1980's - and I can attest that this sad spectacle that I see today (in the Dassara) is poor reflection of the original art. We trained to enter, clinch, take the opponent down to the ground, establish a control position - and then - strike with the Vajramushti weapon. Today, all I see, is this pathetic and desperate flailing of arms, in the hope that the opponent is struck on the head and starts bleeding. Sad! This beautiful art was a highly structured and very technical art - one that it seems, has passed from society. This is sad in the extreme - as it survived as a part of India's beautiful and rich culture for over a thousand years. See here for article: http://bjj-australia.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/lost-art-of-jetti-vajramushti.html

JBW said...

Hello everyone - I trained with the Jyesthimalla family in Baroda in the 1980's - and I can attest that this sad spectacle that I see today (in the Dassara) is poor reflection of the original art. We trained to enter, clinch, take the opponent down to the ground, establish a control position - and then - strike with the Vajramushti weapon. Today, all I see, is this pathetic and desperate flailing of arms, in the hope that the opponent is struck on the head and starts bleeding. Sad! This beautiful art was a highly structured and very technical art - one that it seems, has passed from society. This is sad in the extreme - as it survived as a part of India's beautiful and rich culture for over a thousand years. See here for article: http://bjj-australia.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/lost-art-of-jetti-vajramushti.html

Unknown said...

Hi my self Vikram Madhava son and if u want to contact him 9035680422

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