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Mallakhamb has a strong regional identity and colourful origin story. It originated in Maharashtra and traces back to the period of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. It is said that mallakhamb is infused with the spirit of Hanuman – joyful and irreverent – with oddities. The rope is akin to his tail (so the practitioner may only climb it with his toes, never the soles) and the pole is his phallus. There are traditionally no female pole practitioners (although in our modern times girls and women do learn and practice).
Uday Deshpande has been teaching this aerial sport that improves the body, the mind and the soul, for 40 years at Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir in Shivaji Park. The earthy smell of red mud, the little Hanuman idol, students in the staple white and blue dress code loitering around the field, some practicing gymnastics, some doing Rope Mallakhamb and some warming up for their turn: this is mallakhamb at SSVM, a 91-year-old institution.
Earlier there were only four Indian states where Mallakhamb was known, but now it has centers all over the country and a presence in three continents: Asia, Europe and North America.