Gatka Early Development
The Gatka | Introduction to Gatka | History of Gatka | Origins of Gatka | Gatka Techniques | Gatka Early Development | Meaning of Gatka | Gatka Requirements | Gatka Shastar Weapons | Weapons in Gatka | Gatka Vidyaa
The system for the present day Gatka is derived from an older version of Shaster Vidiya (literally knowledge of the arms). This system was used for military training by the Sikhs. According to tradition, the roots of this art can be traced to the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, who received it through a divine summon.
Guru Nanak passed this art to Baba Budha, and stated that he would claim it back in his sixth form. The sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind, received training in the Shaster Vidiya system from Baba Budha.
Baba Budha also trained an army of Sikh warriors, soldiers of the Akal Bunga (the Immortal Fort, built in 1606), known as the Akalis (Immortals). Guru Hargobind propogated the theory of the warrior-saint, and made it mandatory for his followers to engage in martial practices.
Arrangements for training in martial arts and combat were made and the guru himself learnt the use of weapons. Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th guru of the Sikh faith, trained in the Sikh martial arts in Punjab.
One of his achievements was the founding of Khalsa, the warrior society that galvanized the martial energies of the Sikh community.
Tradition holds that the Guru carried two swords, symbolizing the temporal, as well as heavenly power. Later, this came to be known as Miri-Piri, Miri (Emir, a temporal leader); this solidified the belief that the Guru could engage in righteous armed struggle, and Pir (the Sufi word for a mystic) designating a spiritual leader, acknowledging the Guru’s religious standing.
Guru Gobind Singh’s Khalsa was a body of warriors dedicated to the Guru, outwardly defined by the uncut hair and other Sikh symbols. The Khalsa served as an armed wing to defend the Sikhs in face of increasingly aggressive policies. The Khalsa was involved in armed struggle against the armies of emperor Aurangzeb and his local allies.
The men of the Khalsa were skilled fighters. Khalsa Sikhs were accustomed to view military service in terms of individual and collective honor. According to the teachings of Guru Gobind Singh, extreme courage and even death in the heat of battle was said to bring honor to the Sikh community.
Guru Gobind Singh altered the structure of the Sikh army in such a way that only a high ranking soldier of the Akali Sena was to be known as an Akali; the lower ranking soldier was called a Nihang, or he who is not attached to life nor fears death.
Following the establishment of the British Raj, the traditional Sikh martial traditions and practitioners suffered greatly. The British ordered effective disarmament of the entire Sikh community. Even tools and farming equipment were banned. The Sikhs who refused to surrender their weapons were punished severely by the British authorities. The traditional martial knowledge of the Sikhs, previously preserved to a high standard, almost ceased to exist in the Punjab.
During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Sikhs assisted the British in crushing the mutiny. As a consequence of this assistance, restrictions on martial practices were relaxed in the Punjab. However, the form of martial arts which re-emerged after 1857 in the Panjab had altered greatly.
The new Shaster Vidiya was no longer designed to produce soldiers to serve in war. Instead, during the 1860s, it had evolved into a ritualistic martial art called Gatka (derived from the name of the weapon used, the sword training stick). Gatka was mainly practiced by the British Indian Army. As Sikh colleges opened in the Punjab during the 1880′s, European rules of fencing were applied to Gatka, resulting in further evolution. This development led to the formation of two branches of Gatka, rasmi (ritualistic) and khel (sport) Gatka.You might also like: