“Gatka is a Sikh martial art and traditionally it is believed that its theory and techniques were taught by the Gurus. It has been handed down in an unbroken lineage of ustāds (masters), and taught in many akhāṛās (arenas) around the world. One must note that gatka was employed in historical Sikh wars and has been thoroughly battle-tested.
It originates from the need to defend dharam (righteousness), but is also based on the unification of the spirit and body (mīrī-pīrī). It is, therefore, generally considered to be both a spiritual and physical practice.”
-Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies
Gatka can be dated back to the 15th century and nowadays, is an act of leisure or even a sport for people of all ages and gender. For the sake of this project, which is titled “Miri Piri (The Spirit and The Body)”, I am looking at how this tradition has evolved and who keeps it alive.
Every Sunday there are Gatka classes held at Jot Parkash Gurdwara in Brampton. The Misl Shaheedan Gatka Akhara Damdami Taksal hosts the classes. They start with kids classes from 5-6:30pm, followed by adult classes from 6:30- 8pm. Every week the same group of people were attending, the same kids and the same instructors. After attending a few classes, I quickly realised this was more than just classes, it was a community. The instructors were passionate about teaching and the kids were excited to learn. Entering this space allowed me to speak to instructors and students on a more intimate level. By having regular conversations, I was able to understand what Gatka means to the people there and why they choose to learn it. There are many people dedicated to keeping this practice alive and I hope my project can contribute to that as well.
Arjot Sandhawalia is an emerging events and documentary photography currently based in Toronto. Her work follows social and cultural ideas within South Asian culture combined with various narratives of history to produce multi dimensional projects.