The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Striving to keep tradition alive

Ranchi, March 27: Parlours for computer games score over akharas, rued members of some akharas in the city, who have been striving on to keep alive the tradition.

The skillful use of swords and lathis by youths during the Ram Navami procession may lead one to believe that such traditions are thriving well, but members of some city akharas do not believe it to be so.

Rather, they point out, Ram Navami is the only day during the year when one gets to see this show of skill nowadays.

Rest of the year, the spears and swords remain stacked in one corner of the house, as the tradition is fast losing its appeal.

“There are very few in the city today who actually know how to spin a six-feet lathi over their heads,” lamented Tapan Pandey, an active member of the Chutia Akhara.

Of the many akharas in the capital, the proper and traditional use and display of weapons is only practised at Piada Toli, Chutia, Imli Tola behind Hindpiri, Pundag, Tupudana, Ratu and Kanke, which are the few areas, which still maintain the tradition of a akhara. But even then, the attendance is poor and the young do not show much interest, Pandey rued.

“While many states have their own martial arts, we do not have anything of our own. Yet the style of using a sword or a spear remains the same and the ustad (teacher) in the akharas teach the tricks to the pupils,” said Praveen Lohia, secretary of Kushit Sangh.

Lohia, an active member of the Sangh, is pretty adept with the sword and also trains new entrants to use traditional weapons. “To know how to fight with a sword or a lathi is like an exercise and a very positive way of staying fit. With the sedentary lifestyles that we are accustomed to, these things have become passe for the GeneratioNext, who are happy with computer games,” Lohia said.

“There is a lot of talent and some youngsters are very good with the weapons, but they do not get any encouragement and their zeal dies down soon,” Lohia added.

Chandan, a member of the Piada Toli akhara, said the children are excited at the beginning. But, with the pressure of studies, priorities keep changing and parents also forbid their children from coming to the akharas.

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