Malla-yuddha ( Boxing Match )
Also known as Malyutham, Niyuddha-kride
Focus Grappling
Hardness Full contact
Country of origin South Asia
Parenthood Historic
Olympic sport No
Part of a series on
Indian martial arts
Wrestling: Malla-yuddha  · Pehlwani  · Musti yuddha  · Mukna  · Inbuan wrestling
Kalarippayattu: Silambam  ·
Marma ati  · Kuttu Varisai
Notable Practitioners
Phillip Zarrilli  · Jasmine Simhalan  · Gobar Guha  · Gulam  · Guru Hargobind  · John Will

Malla-yuddha (Devanagari: मल्लयुद्ध,[1] Tamil:மல்யுத்தம் malyutham;Telugu: మల్ల యుద్ధం;kannada: ಮಲ್ಲಯುದ್ಧ) is the traditional South Asian form of combat-wrestling[2] created in what is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It is closely related to various Southeast Asian wrestling styles such as Naban.

Malla-yuddha is divided into four types, each named after a particular Hindu gods and legendary fighters: Hanumanti concentrates on technical superiority, Jambuvanti uses locks and holds to force the opponent into submission, Jarasandhi concentrates on breaking the limbs and joints while Bhimaseni focuses on sheer strength.[3]



In Sanskrit, mallayuddha literally translates to "boxing match". Strictly speaking, the term denotes a single pugilistic encounter or prize-fight rather than a style or school of wrestling. It is a tatpurusha compound of malla (wrestler, boxer, athlete) and yuddha (fight, battle, conflict). The compound is first attested in the Mahabharata referring to boxing matches such as those fought by Bhima. The Sanskrit term was loaned into Tamil as malyutham. Another word for a sportive wrestling match or athletic sports more generally is mallakrמḍa. The second element, krמḍa (sport, play, pastime, amusement) implies a more limited-contact style of folk wrestling rather than true grappling combat.

The term malla is in origin a proper name, among other things of an asura, known as mallגsura and the name of a tribe mentioned in the Mahabharata. In the Manusmriti (10.22; 12.45), it is the technical term for the offspring of an out-caste Kshatriya by a Kshatriya female who was previously the wife of another out-caste.


The first attestation of the term mallayuddha is found in the Mahabharata epic, in the context of the wrestling match between Bhima and Jarasandha.[4] Other early literary descriptions of wrestling matches include the story of Balarama, and the Ramayana's account of the vanara king Vali [disambiguation needed ] defeating Ravana, the king of Lanka, in a wrestling contest.

Stories describing Krishna report that he sometimes engaged in wrestling matches where he used knee strikes to the chest, punches to the head, hair pulling, and strangleholds.[5] Based on such accounts, Svinth (2002) traces press ups and squats used by Indian wrestlers to the pre-classical era.[5] Siddhartha Gautama himself was said to be an expert wrestler, archer and sword-fighter before becoming the Buddha.

The Manasollasa of the Chalukya king Someswara III (1124-1138) is a royal treatise on fine arts and leisure. The chapter entitled "Malla Vinod" describes the classification of wrestlers into types by age, size and strength. It also outlines how the wrestlers were to exercise and what they were to eat. In particular the king was responsible for providing the wrestlers with pulses, meat, milk, sugar as well as "high-class sweets". The wrestlers were kept isolated from the women of the court and were expected to devote themselves to building their bodies. The Manasollasa gives the names of moves and exercises but does not provide descriptions.[1]

The Malla Purana is a Kula Purana associated with the Jyesthimalla, a Brahmin jati of wrestlers from Gujarat, dating most likely to the 13th century. It categorizes and classifies types of wrestlers, defines necessary physical characteristics, describes types of exercises and techniques of wrestling as well as the preparation of the wrestling pit, and provides a fairly precise account of which foods wrestlers should eat in each season of the year.[1]

Traditional Indian wrestling began to decline from the 16th century under Mughal rule, as courtly fashion favoured the Persianate pehlwani style. Malla-yuddha is exceedingly rare in the northern states, but indigenous wrestling traditions and training methods survived in south India.


Matches take place in a clay or dirt pit. The soil of the floor is mixed with various ingredients, including ghee. Wrestlers begin each session by flattening the soil, an act which is considered both a part of endurance training and an exercise in self-discipline. During practice, wrestlers rub the dirt onto their own bodies. Once the arena has been prepared a prayer is offered to the gym's patron deity, most commonly Hanuman. Many practitioners live at their training hall but this is not always required. All wrestlers are required to abstain from sex, smoking and drinking so the body remains pure and the wrestlers are able to focus on cultivating themselves physically, mentally and spiritually. A wrestler's only belongings are a blanket, a loincloth and some clothes. In this regard, they are often compared to Hindu-Buddhist holy men.[2]

Physical training (vyayam) is meant to build strength and develop muscle bulk and flexibility. Exercises that employ the wrestler's own bodyweight include the sun salutation (Surya Namaskara), shirshasana, Hindu squat (bethak) and the Hindu press-up (danda), which are also found in hatha yoga.

Exercise regimens may also employ the following weight training devices:

  • The nal is a hollow stone cylinder with a handle inside.
  • The gar nal (neck weight) is a circular stone ring worn around the neck to add resistance to squats and press ups.
  • The gada is a club or mace associated with Hanuman. An exercise gada is a heavy round stone attached to the end of a meter-long bamboo stick.

Training may also include rope climbing, log pulling, running and dhakuli which involves twisting rotations. Traditional massage is regarded as an integral part of an Indian wrestler's exercise regimen. Wrestlers are given massages and also taught how to massage.

Internal links

See also


  1. ^ a b c Alter, Joseph S. (August 1992b). The Wrestler's Body: Identity and Ideology in North India. Berkeley: University of California Press. 
  2. ^ a b Alter, Joseph S. (May 1992a). "the sannyasi and the Indian wrestler: the anatomy of a relationship". American Ethnologist 19 (2): 317–336. doi:10.1525/ae.1992.19.2.02a00070. ISSN 0094-0496. 
  3. ^ Tracing the journey of the martial art forms of India, Global Adjustments magazine, September 2007.[unreliable source?]
  4. ^ Alter, Joseph S. (May 1992a). "The "sannyasi" and the Indian Wrestler: The Anatomy of a Relationship". American Ethnologist 19 (2): 317–336. doi:10.1525/ae.1992.19.2.02a00070. ISSN 00940496. 
  5. ^ a b J. R. Svinth (2002). A Chronological History of the Martial Arts and Combative Sports. Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences.
  • Donn F. Draeger and Robert W. Smith (1965). Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts. Kodansha International. 
  • Martial arts of India by R. Venkatachalam (1999)

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