UK Sikh martial art maestro revives ancient shastar vidiya

May 5th, 2009 - 4:44 pm ICT by ANI  

London, May 5 (ANI): In a fluorescent-lit sports gymnasium in Hounslow, West London, a UK Sikh martial art maestro is promoting “Shastar Vidiya” , an ancient fighting technique lost to generations of Indians.

“Shastar Vidiya”, a little-known fighting technique from north India died out when the British Raj banned it after the final, bloody defeat of the Sikh empire in the mid-19th century. Now, one man is determined to bring it back from the brink of extinction.

Nidar Singh Nihang, 41, has spent 20 years studying the secrets of “Shastar Vidiya” in order to pass it on to younger generations.

It is a journey that has taken him from being a food packer in a Wolverhampton factory to one of the world’s top authorities on ancient Indian fighting styles.

Now he is looking for young apprentices willing to devote their life to learning the secrets of an art that he believes risks dying out altogether.

“Most people who practice Indian martial arts nowadays are simply learning the toned down exhibition styles that were allowed by the British. Unless we start teaching the original fighting styles they will be extinct within 50 years. I want to find two or three sensible, intelligent and tolerant young apprentices who can pass on what I’ve learned to future generations,” The Telegraph quotes Nihang, as saying.

Although “Shastar Vidiya” was widely practiced across the subcontinent long before the emergence of Sikhism in the mid-16th century, it was the Sikh tribes of the Punjab that became the true masters of this particular fighting style.

Surrounded by hostile Hindu and Muslim empires who were opposed to the emergence of a new religion in their midst, the Sikhs quickly turned themselves into an efficient and fearsome warrior race.

The most formidable group among them were the Akali Nihangs, a blue-turbaned sect of fighters who became the crack troops and cultural guardians of the Sikh faith.

As Britain’s modernised colonial armies expanded across the Indian subcontinent, some of the stiffest opposition they faced came from the Sikhs who fought two bloody but ultimately disastrous wars in the 1840s that led to the fall of the Sikh empire and allowed Britain to expand its Indian territories as far as the Khyber Pass.

Astonished by the ferocity and bravery of the Akali Nihangs, the Punjab’s new colonial administrators swiftly banned the group and forbade Sikhs from wearing the blue turbans that defined the Akalis.

Sikh warriors were quickly given rifles and drafted into Britain’s armies. The practice of shastar vidiya went underground and was nearly forgotten.

“The key skill “Shastar Vidiya” teaches is deception. It’s the blows your enemy never sees coming that do the real damage,” Nihang says. (ANI)

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