We have all heard of the Japanese martial arts namely the Judo and karate. But not much is heard of the martial art of the Indians in particular the Sikhs often referred to as Gatka. The fact of the matter is that after the Sikh defeat in the Anglo Sikh wars the British completely disarmed the Sikhs and anything that could be used for combat was banned.
However after the Indian Mutiny of 1857 had been quelled with the help of the Sikhs there was a change of heart and the British began to favor the Sikhs. Some military traditions werethan revived and Gatka was one of them.
Gatka is an Indian martial art which involves the use of a number of weapons like the sword, khanda, dagger, kirpan and chakra. This is the military use and was given an impetus by the Sikh Guru Hargovind and later by Guru Gobind Singh. It was an art passed down to the Sikhs by the Rajputs.
There is a khel (sports) version also which involves the use of sticks in place of swords. The wooden sticks replace swords and a simulated contest takes place minus the swords.Gatka is a Punjabi word and refer to a stick.
But for almost a hundred years this martial art went into decline and the masses knew nothing about it. Only a few dedicated Sikhs kept on practicing this martial art. The public only got to
The sport would have died a natural death but for the efforts of some British army officers who revived it in the eighties of the nineteenth century. But towards the end of the last century the martial art is revived and more and more people are interested in this sport. An international gatka federation has been set up since 1982 and many willing pupils are available to learn this art.
But in the Punjab the sport has not still picked up and is kept alive only by the Nihangs -a sect of Sikhs who live by the ideals of the gurus and wear the same attire. Gatka is an excellent sport and speed and quick movements are its hall mark. The military version was in use by the Sikh army from the 16th to the 18th century but it petered away.
But with its revival we can hope that this ancient art will not be allowed to die. It is a part of Sikh heritage and incumbent on the Sikhs to keep it alive.