Mallakhamba: ever wonder where pole dancing came from?


Mallakhamba pole dancing
Image: Facebook

Pole dancing traces back to the traditional Indian sport of Mallakhamba, where gymnasts perform aerial yoga and gymnastic postures using wrestling grips on a stationary vertical pole.

Who knew pole dancing came from an ancient tradition? Pottery from the 2nd century BCE shows illustrations of mallakhamba with images of gymnasts hanging from pole-like structures.

However, despite a long tradition of the sport in rural India, it appears to have died off between the late 17th and 18th centuries. Some attribute the sport’s decline to the suppression of Indian culture by the overlords of the British Raj.

However, the sport began a comeback in the early 19th century and was demonstrated at the 1936 Summer Olympics.

Mallakhamba demonstration. (Ignore the juvenile homophobia on the tweet.)

Although Pole Mallakhamba is best known, the sport has two other variations. Hanging Mallakhamba is similar to Pole but uses a shorter pole suspended in the air.

The aerial silk acts commonly seen in modern circus and even pop concerts probably derive from Rope Mallakhamba. Traditionally favoured by female gymnasts,  the sport sees the gymnast run through a sequence of exercises while hanging by a rope tied around their body.

Pole, Hanging, and Rope Mallakhamba

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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