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Covid-19 pandemic forces Wadiyars to call off ‘Vajra Mushti’ bout this Dasara

4 min read

Mysuru: The centuries old tradition of “Vajramusti Kalaga” ( traditional wrestling between wrestlers armed with sharp edged weapon made of ivory) has been called off due to Covid-19 pandemic this time.

“Vajramusti Kalaga” is a part of the tradition that is still practiced by Wadiyar’s the erstwhile royal family of Mysuru on the day of Vijayadashami.

As a result of increasing Covid-19 cases in Mysuru and across the State, the State government and district administration have already decided to celebrate Dasara in a simple manner.

Vajramustikalaga is also one of the traditional sports organised by the erstwhile royal family at Kannadi Thotti on the palace premises.

The tradition has it that when two jetties (wrestlers) armed with sharp edged ivory made weapon in their fists hit the rival wrestler above his forehead spilling blood, it signals the start of Vijayadashami procession on the day.

It is a unique feature that this traditional bout is always organised between two pairs of wrestlers of four districts. The Jetty community is confined to the four districts- Mysuru, Chamarajanagar, Bengaluru and Channapatna in Ramanagar. After much discussion, elders of the community, along with Ustads and others from four districts select the pairs of wrestlers for the fight.

According to jetty community, this fight is held in order to invoke blessings for the welfare of the royal family. However the wrestlers who were eager to show their prowess on the arena are left disappointed this time due to the cancellation of the traditional event.

The origin and various names of a wrestling community

Tracing the origin of this community of wrestlers is equal to tracing the birth of wrestling and rare martial arts known as Vajra Mushti. Nowhere in the world can we find a community of wrestlers who have preserved and practiced a martial art for several thousands of years.

Puranic literature refers to this community of professional wrestlers as Jyestha Mallas. Jyestha meaning the foremost and Malla- wrestler. The term Malla Yuddha, meaning the knowledge of wrestling bout are attributive expressions of this community’s deep knowledge and excellent professional skills in wrestling. They are a fair complexioned well-built community. Their profession was to wrestle. They toiled to acquire immense physical strength, accomplish victories and earn fame.

The term Vajra Musti meaning fist as hard as diamond, Vajranaka meaning nails as hard as diamond. Even today, the jettys of Bengaluru, Mysuru, Channapattana, and Chamarajanagar attach severe religious and professional importance to their Vajranakha, which they used to fight among themselves during Dasara festivities.

The dangerous blood sport that these Jesthamallas indulge during annual Dasara festivities are popularly known as Vajra Mushti bouts.

Puranic references evidently prove that this community was in existence in Gujarat ever since. Jettys were located in the vicinity of Delmal. A village predominantly inhabited by Jettys, which is 15 kilometres from Modhera at Gujarat.

Migration of Jettys from Modhera to South India

Jettys have left a deep impact of their valour in different parts of the Indian subcontinent. Their habitation at various kingdoms during the medieval age indicates that they migrated gradually and migration was not a complete exodus.

The Jettys have migrated to various kingdoms of India in pursuit of royal patronage for their martial skills. They are found in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

The cultural interaction that existed between the kingdoms in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Mysuru and Gujarat facilitated the migratory tendency of Jettys.

Two specific reasons are said to be the cause of their migration

Basically the need and availability of royal patronage to the art of wrestling, Pugilism and Vajramusti prompted them to migrate. Numerous Jyesthmallas are known to have visited various kingdoms during the festivals of Holi and Dasara with a specific purpose of participating in wrestling bouts. Talented Jyesthmallas, with remarkable performance and strength were offered permanent patronage by the invitee kings.

High social esteem, royal patronage huge monetary incentives and gifts offered by the kings made the Jyesthmallas to migrate. Such offers also prompted them to settle down in various kingdoms. Younger Jyesthmallas were also patronised to undergo severe physical probations. They were to represent their respective kingdoms at various bouts held in different kingdoms throughout the country to accomplish victories and bring glory to their patron king.

Their relationship with Mysuru Kingdoms

The jettys had migrated to one dynasty to another dynasty for royal patronage, abd their relationship started with Vijayanagara dynasty. Later they took Tipu Sultan’s patronage when Tipu made Srirangapatna as his capital. Soon after the fall of Tipu, they came under Wadiyar’s. According to history, the Jettys have been showing their  skill for 220 years at Mysuru Dasara.

With their beefy physique, they had also served as bodyguards of Wadiyar kings. It is still in practice with a person from jetty community on security duty of the erstwhile royals who stay in a portion of the Palace.

– Team Mysoorunews 

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