ANGAMPORA– The traditional fighting art of the Sinhalese.
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COMBATIVE SPORT OF THE SINHALESE.[ The Island Newspaper -25 April 1995].
Combative sports was practiced from the earliest times not merely for amusement but in order to foster disregard for pain and death, and to inculcate the valor and pugnacity essential for the survival of a race.
Under natural conditions both qualities are closely linked with the reproductive urge, and gregarious animals illustrate this well. The leader of a herd generally loses these Propensities towards the end of the mating period.and is defeated by a rival he had chased away from the females earlier in the season.After an interval of isolation the vanquished leader returns full of pugnacity and regains his position.
By intensive selective breeding from the males where possible females that have distinguished themselves in combat man has produced breeds of animals that that fight to death instead of quitting when the fighter realises that it has encountered its superior.
The present volume deals with combat displays between man and man, as well as between animals as staged by the Sinhalese, for producing soldiers who kept their small Island free for over two thousand five hundred years.
Ceylon originally known as Sri Lanka Dvipe, Sinhala Dvipe , Silemdip,ZeiIan – CeyIon, received the vanguard of the Aryan invasion down lndia, who superimposed their North lndian sports upon the semi-religious practices of the aboriginals. ln this connexion it is interesting to note the presence in, Ceylon of early Seals of Lapis lazuli, a mineral restricted to north West lndia, the references to Scind horses in the earlier lithic inscriptions in brahmi script than any similar area in India (Deraniyagala 1947).
Saimese records mention combative sports staged in the island two hundred years before Christ, and intercourse with home to which Pliny refers and now so abundantly proved by numismatic finds no doubt supplied a contribution from the Roman arena. Arabs, Persians and Chinese who were mainly responsible for the sea-born traffic who were keenly appreciative of these sports which Abu Zeid mentions in the eight Cent AD. Eight hundred years later European influence again made itself felt and the choicest -breeds of foreign sporting animals where among the most welcome presents to the local autocrats they were so anxious to placate. Sinhala culture commenced to disintegrate under the wars of foreign invasion and after the reign of King Raja Sinha ll, his harassed successors found scant leisure to enjoy their customary Pastimes.
Much of the present knowledge regarding several sports is through a few scattered sculptures, frescoes, current lingual expressions traditions, and the meager references sports at Raja Sinha’s Court (1581 AC).
The system that once existed when reconstructed from these sources appears to have been as follows:– The Gaja Nayaka Nilame was the chief in charge and to him were responsible then Mohandirams, and Lekamas or Mohottalas-of the various departments such as theVedikkara, Bondikula and Kodi thuvakku( Varieties of guns) the Dhanu kara( archers), the Sudhaliye and Maruvalliye (martial clans), the Ath Panttiye (elephant Stables ), the As Panthiye (horse). for the maintenance of which the tax of Assela once existed, the Pattiye or royal cattle its sub-divisions beign”with Sudu harak pantiye( Indian White Cattle),and the Dande Migon pantiye( stalking Baffoloes)t, the Otu Pantiya( Camel Stables), The Dadayak-karayas( The huntsmen), the Sunekayan Maduwa or the Kukkan Maduwa(the Kennels), the Kurullan Maduwa( Falcon mews and Aviary) and the Ran Adu Maduva Lekam or the Master of Arms who had 48 assistants under him.
“Ange”” means “body”, pora, Signifies “combat”. These were fighting dislays either with or without weapons: angam Saramba or haramba were the various banches of the fighting sciences taught in the centres for Military taining,, of the Muruailye or Maruve and Sudaliye Clans. Each Centre was divided into the. ,”Saramba or Haramba Salava” dealing ith Angan haramba and the “or Illangama for training of Mucsicians and dancers who accoplanied each clan in procession or in war. There were also Vasala Saramba Salava Illanganmaduva for reserved for princes.
The Mahavamsa shows up to the 6th or 7th.centuries, Sinhala Heros and warriors were termed “Yodaya“, which is a corruption of the Indian term Yodhajiva, towards the end of the 16th century it had become restricted to mythical giant and was replaced by the title “panikrala“, in Malabar this term is derived trom pani-work, (Thurston Vol, lV, page 295) and the masters of martial and and gymnastic school.Termed “Panikkers”.
“Considerable interchange of teachers in wrestling and fencing had occurred between Ceylon and Malabar. ln Ceylon these sciences are extinct, the ancient record pertaining to them being restricted few painted cloth, frescoes, sculpture folk songs.
In Ceylon the term Pinik-Rala, was originally conferred upon members of these Martial schools who had distingushed them selves in the gladiatorial arena, but latterly the title became applicable to anyone of outstanding courage and prowess, in any form of physical activity ,such as , noosing of elephants or gathering honey of the rock bee Apis dorsata-by being swung over the cliff face and let down on to have by means of forest lianes.
Amoug the sciences taught at the Saramba Salavaa
(a) Panum and pinum jumping and. acrobatics.
(b) Malla or Mallava ora_wrestling and boxing.
(c) lee haramba _ single stick.
(d) Polu haramba _ quarter staff.
(e) Muguru Pora – Mace Combat.
(f)Kadu-Palis Haramba- Sword and Shield Combat.
(g). Asum Haramba- Fighting from horse back.
(h).Khatga Silpe- Fencing.
(i). Hastthi Silpe- Managing the Elephant
(h). Dhunu Silpe- Archery.
In India “ Mushi“; fist, ” Yuddhe ” – conflict, and fist fighters were termed” Mushti Yuddham“. “All in” fighting were akin to the “Pankrateon” of the ancient Greeks was practised and comprised “Guti Haramba” or hitting and “Pora haramba” or grapppling, a science practiced even today among the Telegu Jettis. lt was originally termed “Naki -na Gusthi”, or tiger-claw combat, which name is derived from the iron cestrs armed with four tiger-claw-like blades. When this was later replaced by a spiked weapon of buffalo horn which was ought to resemble the “Vajira”, or thunderbolt held in the hand of certain gods, the sport came to be termed “Vajira Mushti”, signifying “the fist armed with a thunderbolt”. This science combining hitting with wrestling has continued into modern times in India, where displays are staged by the Telegu Jettis, especially in the court of the late Gaekwar of Baroda.Wrestling also developed as a distinct science, and the original arena of hard ground which was termed the “Malla Bhumi” or “pora Bhumi”,was replaced by the wrestling pit termed “Aka Vala” or “Akada”. This pit is about 25 feet in diameter, 3 feet deep, filled with crumbled earth extracted from termite mounds mixed with sesmum oil to render it a soft, yielding and antiseptic Fresh oil is sprinkled at intervals until in course of time the earth becomes sterilized so that when it enters the eyes, nostrils, mouth or wounds it would not produce sepsis. Both. sciences practiced by the Sinhalese who termed them Malla Pora.
The ancient poems all refer to the violent nature of these lights which invariably end in the death of the loser. While some contests combined hitting and grappling others were restricted to wrestling. Leaping kicks were also employed.
Two ola manuscripts are known to have been written by Levuke Dissava and by Migastanne Adigar respectively, describing the vital centres that could be attacked by blows with the little linger edge of the outstretched hand, knee and elbow, and also by thrusts with the stiff outstretched fingers which were the f irst and second digits, and at times three fingers.The works were termed Mara Nil Sastre or the science of the death inducing centres. Thrusts to the ears, eyes, nostrils, Adam’s apple, solar plexus, liver, heart, &c., the depth to which the thrust should sink to injure the vital organ attacked, the time taken for the victim to laint or die, and lhe counter or reviving blow were mentioned. For instance, Levuke states that a blow across the Adam’s apple of the throat with the edge of the hand would render a man unconscious and that he could be revived bv gently striking the back of his neck with the heel of the clenched fist. Mr. M. B. Galagoda inf orms me that some of the guti haramba blows were as follows:-
(a) Dhig gutiya – a long range blow straight lrom the shoulder,
(b) Haras gutiya a cross-counter hooked over the opponent’s arm as he hits,
(c) Is guttiya – the arm is swung over the striker’s head as in bowling and lands upon the opponent’s jaw, temple or neck,
(d) Kapuma – a blow hammered down-wards with the heel or little finger edge of the ciosed f ist upon the face, temple, collar bone or solar plexus. This was followed up by the,
(e) Cholie or chokke – Where the striker hooked his knee of the same side as his striking arm, behind the opponents corresponding knee, kicked backward, and simultaneously drove his elbow into the latter’s solar plexus, hurling him backwards.
The word “Cholle” or “chokke” still survives as a metaphor although few know its origin, and”Eyata Cholie thamai” “He has _experienced a Cholie indeed”, “Hondatoma Chokka Vela”,signif ies that the person ref erred to has suffered a severe reverse.
(f) The reference to the seizing of the losers legs and tearing him asunder appears be an exaggerated description of the well known leg lock or splits used both in ju jutsu and in wrestling today,where it is easy to dislocate a thigh by Putting on Pressure.
Although highly stylized, the.represetations of contests here reproduced, as well as traditional accounts of others, afford some insight into the science of combat as practised by the Sinhala malla fighter.
1. Blows. – The straight punch, cross-counter, over-arm swing, the Hammer blow,fig (1).'”Chokke”, are described above Fig(1) shows an attempt to counter a left punch with the right, and to throw the opponent by hooking his knee behind his rival’s and kicking backwards. Fig. 2 shows a cestus blow to the short ribs and f ig. 3 (a) shows a man butting his rival and simultaneously eaving up the latter’s left leg.
2. Throws. Fig. 1 (2) reveals the contestant to the reader’s left sweeping upward and outwards with his left leg his rival’s right,and pulling him towards his own right to overbalance him.Fig 3.a shows a man pulling his rival’s leg upwards,while 4c shows each hocking his kiree behind that of his rival and pulling him.
3. Locks. – shows each wrestler squeezing his opponent’s head between his legs. Fig. 3b shows one contestant squeezing his rival’s head between the sole of one foot and the top of the other.Fig. 5 shows the men with legs and elbows locked in a “stale mate’. The use of the thigh in levering apart a rival’s lock is also well in evidence in f ig. 1 (3), 4b, while the “splits” and neck locks are also shown.
It can also be seen that –
4. While some kings employed regular court wrestlers, olhers selected a champion when occasion demanded.
5. Both challenger and challenged were housed and fed by the king.
6. The Wrestlers partook of food immedately prior to combat.
. .7. He either gyrated as he advanced or circled around his opponent boasting prowess and insulting his opponent it beenconsidered unseemly to attack a man unprovoked.
8. ln frescoes each wrestler differs in colour from his opponent. This probably signifies that thev are Sudhaliye and Maruvaliya champions respectively.
9. ln the 17th century the cestus was popular (fig. 2) and in certain forms at contest the long hair is untouched(figs. 4,5).
To be continued.
10. To avoid this, the hair was sometimes white a span cloth
worn.in some types of [rjlini]
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