Sikh Gatka is Now a National Sport in India

Jaslenn Kaur is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

India has made the Sikh traditional martial art form a sport nationwide.

Following the quick-spreading popularity of the Sikh sport, Gatka, the Government of India has decided to declare it as a national sport. The Gatka is a type of Sikh martial arts, traditionally performed at Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) and akharas (traditional gyms – pronounced akhada). Now, more people are realizing the benefits of this martial art form and the demand to learn the sport is on a rise.

As of 2008, India included Gatka in its national sports category. Now, the sport is played as a national level competition by players from all communities and not just the Sikh. The sport traces its roots to the Mughal period, when hatred between the Sikhs and Mughal Muslims was running high. The then Sikh Guru, Hargobind Singh began carrying the “Kirpan” on his person at all times. The kirpan is a small dagger that every practicing Sikh carries. This was meant as a measure of self-defense, and as such, the wielding of the kirpan gave way to a more complex set of movements that is now known as the Gatka. The 10th Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh made the kirpan a compulsory weapon for every Sikh to carry and today, it is no more than just an accessory but a religious symbol for the Sikhs.

The Sikhs have traditionally been a warrior community. There is no gender discrimination as both men and women are trained in the art of weapon-wielding and fighting. As such, the Gatka is learnt by members of both sexes. Today, its popularity has extended beyond the boundaries of the community so that non-Sikhs too are joining Gatka academies. The open-minded Sikh community accepts members of all faiths who want to learn this art without any discrimination.

Gatka originated primarily as an art of self-defense. As such, learning the Gatka has helped a lot of people, especially women to protect themselves. Parents feel a lot more confident and safe for their daughters who know Gatka. As an art that requires a heightened form of self-discipline and abstinence from drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. Gatka is an art that helps the youth channel their energies in the right direction by not engaging in destructive behavior.

One of the most beautiful things about Gatka is how inclusive the Sikh community is of aspirants from all backgrounds. Whether it is a boy or girl, Sikh or non-Sikh, they are all given the same uniform and weapons so that at the end of the day, there is no difference between them. The only aim of the Sikh community in promoting the Gatka is to keep alive its rich heritage, while at the same time benefiting the society, and their efforts are truly paying off.

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