Individuals’ efforts making Gatka’s revival possible

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Dildar Tanoli, the man in blue dress displaying his skills as Gatka's player during a local event

Efforts being made to resuscitate traditional game of Gatka in Hazara Division

Pak Chronicle Report

Abbottabad

Gatka which is basically a form of self-defence is a traditional game of Hazara Division which has been losing its charm for inhabitants gradually due to several reasons.

However, serious efforts nowadays are being made to revive this game on different forums and little bit effort of authorities concerned would help to make it popular game again in the area.

Gatka along with Kumor, a traditional dance used to be considered integral part of festivities in the region especially on weddings and other festivals. However, speedily changing social environment has changed a lot of things over here during the past three to four decades and Gatka has turned out to be a victim of these changes.

Gatka’s players dancing on the tune of musical instruments

Due to personal interest of a few persons the tradition of playing Gatka is reviving and it is attracting the attention of young generation.

Gatka is played with wooden sword and leather shield. In some areas supple long stick which is soaked in mustard oil is also used by the players in the game for attacking purposes.

Generally it is played between two players while musicians play drums and other musical instruments when the game is in progress. The players seem to be dancing on the tune of musical instruments. They do enjoy the music, there is no doubt about it but their main focus during the session is always to avoid the attack of the opponent. Little bit of recklessness or negligence would allow the opponent to strike on the part of the body which is not covered with the shield.

Actually moving of shield to avoid attack of baton is the real art and besides defending himself attacking the other player is the beauty of the game.

The spectators enjoy every movement of the players and laud them when they witness some grandeur attack or marvelous defence when the game is in progress.

Apparently this game seems easy to play but in fact this is absolutely not the case. It requires a lot of practice, mental sharpness and good physique to play it. A good player seems to be attacking on one side while in fact he attacks on other side of body. Only that player is rated extraordinary who can judge what the move it would be at the end and he either evades the attack by movement of his body or protects his body through the leather shield. This is the game of fitness and sharpness and a perfect exercise in itself

In the hilly areas of Hazara, especially Tanawal there is saying that only that person can avoid the attack of cobra snake who is a good player of Gatka. Otherwise, as the saying further tells, cobra snake seems to attacking one part of the body while literally it attacks the other one.

Gatka in olden times was the first ladder to become a good swordsman. Only those persons were allowed to hold swords in their hands who had already learnt the art of Gatka. It was the art which was not only a game but was also a self defence technique.

However, as it is not the time of swords as modern weapons have taken its place so the tradition of Gakta is also dying.

But there are persons like Dildar Tanoli, Qazi Muhammad Shabeer, Qazi Mukhtar and some others who are trying to make its revival.

Sixty years old Dildar Tanoli who is a resident of Behali, a village of Mansehra, is an exceptional player of Gatka. He learnt this art in his childhood and for the past half century he has not only been practicing it on regular basis but also teaching it to young folks.

“I never dropped this practice even if I happened to be living in other parts of the country where I settled to earn my livelihood. So far hundreds of youngsters have already learnt playing Gatka under my supervision,” he told Pak Chronicle.

Tanoli still holds marvelous physique and fitness level which is a rare phenomenon while keeping in view his age. When he is in the field to play the game, he attacks in the style of cobra snake and defends himself like a rock. He is true master of the game and well known personality in the area.

He is optimistic about the revival and survival of game which is traditional asset and healthy activity to keep the young generation away from use of drugs.

Safdar Hussain who is a social activist and journalist is another person who has been wholeheartedly trying to revive the game and bring it on a proper platform. Last year he successfully organized ‘Gatka Festival’ in Qalandarabad, Abbottabad.

Qalandarabad is a small a town which is administratively part of District Abbottabad and is known in the area for its famous Kababs. This event or festival would again be held in April this year which would provide just another opportunity to spectators to enjoy the beauty of the game.

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