Gatka is the martial art of the Sikhs, and is tied in with the religion Sikhism. It's a weapons-based martial art, which was imparted to the Sikhs in the time of Guru Hargobind Ji (the sixth Guru of the Sikhs) by the Rajputs (Hindu warriors of northern India) in the 16th century, in gratitude for their release from imprisonment by the fledgling Sikh army of that time. The Sikhs at that time opposed the Mughal Empire, which violently oppressed both Sikhs and Hindus in the name of Islam. The Tenth Master of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, was an extremely proficient martial artist.
He continued to encourage the Sikhs to train seriously in the martial arts, and in 1699 founded the Khalsa, a special Order, to which all Sikhs would thereafter aspire to joining. The Khalsa was subject to strict military and personal discipline, and were enjoined to, inter alia, always carry 5 items with them: the Kanga (a small wooden comb), Kachhehra (long drawers instead of a loincloth), Kara (a steel bracer worn on the right wrist), Kesh (uncut hair) and Kirpan (curved sword). The Khalsa was enjoined to train to fight, and to vigorously resist the oppression of any religious community, including Sikhs and Hindus. The wearing of the kirpan represented the martial character of the Khalsa, and all Sikhs, men, women and children, were encouraged to resist their Mughal oppressors, and to train diligently in gatka. Gatka was used succesfully by the Sikhs throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, in numerous battles against the Mughal forces. Eventually, the Sikhs succeeded in deposing the Mughal overlords, and in creating a new, tolerant rulership in the Punjab (the "Land of Five Rivers", a region in modern-day India and Pakistan). Gatka is, and has always been, taught as a spiritual exercise in Sikhism. Sikhism requires its followers to become absorbed in honouring the Name of God, and this is taught through the ecstatic exercise of gatka. Sikhism and gatka are inextricably intertwined, in many ways.
by Dancing with Fire May 14, 2011
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