Opinion Op Ed 24 Jun 2017 Mystic Mantra: Gatka ...
Kulbir Kaur teaches sociology at Shyama Prasad Mukherji College, Delhi University

Mystic Mantra: Gatka — An union of mind, body and spirit

Published Jun 24, 2017, 12:51 am IST
Updated Jun 24, 2017, 12:51 am IST
The Sikhs were introduced to Gatka by Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh Guru.
The Sikh youths hailing from Kalgidhar Dashmesh Jatha and other Gatka Jathas displayed their exhilarating 'Gatka'' skills (Sikh martial art forms) by performing extraordinary stunts with their blunt weapons, kirpans and swords.
 The Sikh youths hailing from Kalgidhar Dashmesh Jatha and other Gatka Jathas displayed their exhilarating 'Gatka'' skills (Sikh martial art forms) by performing extraordinary stunts with their blunt weapons, kirpans and swords.

Gatka, an ancient form of martial art, is a spiritual as well as a mental and physical exercise. It represents a fine balance between the mind, body and spiritual faculties of a person. Gatka is the perfect rhythm of life. Gatka is a technique that involves a series of combat training systems like duels and the use of weapons. The training progresses from a bare-handed combat to using various weapons such as lathis (sticks), kirpans (swords), khanda (two-edged sword). A shift from bare hands to a use of simple weapon and then to a complex one is very symbolic. It upholds the principle of Sikhism “to use weapons only when other means have failed”. Gatka can only be used in defence. This martial art teaches a person how to defend oneself and, above all, how to defend others.

The Sikhs were introduced to Gatka by Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh Guru. He propagated the notion of Miri-Piri (temporal power-spiritual power), and founded the akharas (training centres) at Amritsar. It is believed that the Guru would begin the practice by saluting the weapons. And why not? When the weapons were the means to fight oppression, assist the poor and to defend the righteousness. This tradition acquired a full form during the time of Guru Gobind Singh when he founded the Khalsa. With his army of the nihangs, he  established the  Gatka as an art that assists the divine laws of the Almighty. A person who is keen to learn Gatka, first and foremost, has to imbibe the spiritual realisation that it is not to be misused but rather its sole purpose is to be beneficial to society. Honesty, integrity, discipline, dedication are all parts of this great art.

 

Gatka, literally meaning wooden stick starts with a simple four-step technique called the panthra. With a rhythmic movement, panthra trains a person to use hands, feet and body in a complete balance. It is basically a non-stop movement that is the hallmark of co-ordination between the mind and body. While learning to control in a spontaneous way, one also learns to let go all doubts. The first weapon is a stick and a person is taught all the basic physical movements, for which mental alertness is the first requirement. As a person progresses in the training, other weapons like sword, khanda are introduced. Gatka is an integrated method that involves methods like moving, turning, stopping, attacking and defending at the same time.

 

Although the traditional training hall for Gatka is an akhara, training is also imparted in a gurdwara. When the learners are practising Gatka, Jaap Sahib, the bani of Guru Gobind Singh, is recited. At the same time, a drummer plays a three beat-per-cycle. A rhythmic movement of the body, beats of the drum and the divine bani set the stage for the spiritual elevation of a person. Gatka is the perfect way to achieve the unity of outer and inner elements of life.

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