Saturday 14 December 2013

The Vajra Musti Kalaga

There have been several queries on Vajra Musti Kalaga. Several people have either written or called to find out how the sport is played and whether they can learn it.
Well, here are some details and we hope it will be of some help.
The Vajra Musti Kalaga is a sport played in Mysore only during Dassara and that too only within the confines of the Mysore Palace.
The name of the sport has its origin in Sanskrit. The Vajra Musti refers to a knuckleduster-like weapon. It also means the weapon which is employed in this unique forms of wrestling. The weapon is called by many names such as ayudha, bhukhandi or Indra-mukti which means Indira’s fist.
The Vajramusti is usually made of ivory or buffalo horn. Its appearance is that of a knuckleduster, slightly pointed at the sides and with small spikes at the knuckles. The variation used for warfare had long blades protruding from each end, and an elaborate bladed knuckle.
The Vajramusti is a fierce mode of  wrestling where the combatants wear the Ayudha or Vajramusti on their right hand. This weapon has several small holes along its length, so it can be tied onto the hand with a thread. This is to ensure that it cannot be  dislodged during the fight.
A weapon similar to the Vajramushti was also used by ancient Greek and Roman boxers and Pancrationists. They called it the Cestus and this was a ring, usually made of bronze, worn around the knuckles.
The first mention of vajra musti is in Manasollasa, a reference work, of the Chalukya Emperor Someswara III (1124–1138). However, history tells us that Vajra Musti was practiced even during the times of Mauryas.
The first English account of Vajra Musti is given by James Scurry (1766–1822), a British soldier and memoirist. He was captured by Hyder Ali and imprisoned in Srirangapatna for ten years from 1780.
After his release in 1790, he reached an English camp. He then prepared a narrative of his captivity in 1794, but it was published in 1824, after his death.
This work is called “The captivity, sufferings, and escape of James Scurry”. In one of the chapters, he describes the Vajra Musti thus: “The Jetti’s would be sent for, who always approached with their masters at their head, and, after prostration, and making their grand salams, touching the ground each time, they would be paired, one school against another. They had on their right hands the wood-guamootie -vajra-musti- of four steel talons, which were fixed to each back joint of their fingers, and had a terrific appearance when their fists were closed. Their heads were close shaved, their bodies oiled, and they wore only a pair of short drawers. On being matched, and the signal given from Tippu, they begin the combat, always by throwing the flowers, which they wear round their necks, in each other’s faces; watching an opportunity for striking with the right hand, on which they wore this mischievous weapon which never failed lacerating the flesh, and drawing blood most copiously. Some pairs would close instantly, and no matter which was under, for the gripe was the whole; they were in general taught to suit their holds to their opponent’s body, with every part of which, as far as concerned them, they were well acquainted. If one got a hold against which his antagonist could not guard, he would be the conqueror; they would frequently break each other’s legs and arms”.
After Tipu died in 1799, the Wodeyar Kings of Mysore continued patronising it. Over decades, it slowly lost out to other sports and was restricted to the royalty. It then became an integral part of the Dasara and came to be reduced as a ritual.
The Kalaga now precedes the Jumbo Savari on Vijaya Dashami and it is personally inaugurated by the Maharajas of Mysore. After the last Maharaja, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, died, it was his son, Srikantadatta Narasimnharaja Wodeyar who inaugurated this ancient sport in the palace courtyard.    
The sport commences on Vijaya Dashami and it takes place at the Savari Thotti, the courtyard in the Mysore palace. The Jumboo Savari procession commences immediately after this ritual.
This year, that is 2013, the Vajra Musti Kalaga began with Yuvaraja, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, performing pooje between 9.15 a.m., and 9.25 a.m., in the auspicious Vrischika lagna.
The palace priests, Narasimha Sharma and Manjunath Sharma, chanted the slokas after which the Kalaga or fight between Jetties commenced at 9.50 am.
This year, for jetties participated in the contest. Narayana Jetty from Bangalore, Vijaykumar Jetty from Mysore, Anil Jetty from Channapatna and Shamanth Kumar Jetty from Chamarajanagar.
The contest is stooped even as the first blood spills. Narayana Jetty
drew the first blood by pinning down Mysore’s Vijay Kumar Jetty.  Srikantadatta Wodeyar then pierced a pumpkin with a dagger,
signaling the commencement of Vijaya Yatre or victory parade.
Senior jetties Srinivas Jetty and Tiger Balaji were the referees of the the bout.
By the way, R Vijaykumar Jetti is an autorickshaw driver from Mysore. You can ask his address at the Mysore Palace office or any autorickshaw driver hailing from Mysore.
Last year, Manjunath Jetty, a KSRTC driver, had represented Mysore and had won the bout. The KSRTC officials will have details about him, if not the conductors and drivers. 
Even today, members of the Jetty or Jetti community are found in large numbers in Mysore, Chamarajanagara, Channapatna and Bangalore. They originally hailed from Delmal in Gujarat but migrated to Vijayanagar first and Mysore next when they saw that the Mysore Kingdoms –of Hyder, Tipu and Wodeyars-patronised wrestling.
History tells us that the first migration of the Jettys from Gujarat was in the 11th century when the Hoysalas ruled Mysore.
If you want more details abpout jettys and their art, you can contact M.R. Madhava, son of M.R. Sudarshan of the Jetty family, who lives in Mysore.
The family of  Madhava is synonymous with the vajra mushti kalaga. They trace their fighting skills to the times of Tipu Sultan. When Kari Jatappa, great great grandfather of Madhava, was a Raja Vastadi or royal courtier. Another well-known Vajra musti exponent in this family is Rama Jattappa who was patronised by  Mummudi Krishnaraja Wodeyar.
Rama Jatappa was considered to be invincible and people treated him with a lot of respect. They would say “Aakashakke eeni ella, Rama Jatappange kustili sati ella” (Just as there is no ladder to the sky, there is no equal to Rama Jatappa). Another wrestler in the family was M.R. Jatappa who supplied agarbattis to the palace durbar. It was famous all over India. His son was M.R.  Sudarshan, who was conferred the title Mr. Body Builder Mysore and with Mr. Olympics in Madras.
Tiger Balaji, the referee is one of the five sons of  M R. Sudarsha. The other brothers of Tiger Balaji are Ramji, Basavanna, Arvind and Madhav. All five were experts in wrestling and M.R. Madhava specialised in Varja Musti.
Now coming to the contact details, in case anyone is interested in getting more details about the sport or the participants, please check with the Mysore Palace Board. This board is in charge of the Mysore Palace and is involved in its day to day running. If you fail to get information here, you can contact the office of  the late Srikantadatta Wodeyar and we are sure they will be happy to help you out.  

There are many akhadas or wrestling houses in Bangalore and Mysore and they will be able to give you more details. If you still fail to gather information, check out with the Karnataka Wrestling Federation. They should be having some information. If all this fails, head straight to Mysore, talk to the auto drivers and ask them to take you to the house of  Madhava or any other Jetty.

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