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Shastar Vidiya Silambam Thang-Ta Vajra Mushti    

Shastar Vidiya is a little-known fighting art from north India that virtually died out when the British Raj banned it after the final, bloody defeat of the Sikh empire in the mid-19th century. While Chinese and Japanese art forms have become national institutions, Shastar Vidiya has languished alongside many of India's fighting techniques as a forgotten art form.

Although shastar vidiya was widely practised across the subcontinent long before the emergence of Sikhism in the mid-16th century, it was the Sikh tribes of the Punjab that came to be 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. In its place, the British allowed and encouraged "Gatka", a ceremonial and toned-down version of Shastar Vidiya which is widely displayed during Sikh festivals today.



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