Pune Ramdas Gopal Navghare of Khanapur looks just another well-built security guard at the Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati Temple in the city. But there’s more to this tall and sturdy guard in khaki fatigues. He is one of the 60 professional wrestlers who make up the security system at this place of worship.
“All the guards here are professional wrestlers. We are on temple duty after working out at the taleem (wrestling school.) Our salaries help us meet our dietary requirements. More than that, there is an element of devotion attached to our job. We safeguard the things here and also pay our respects to the lord everyday,” says Navghare.
Fellow guard Ganesh Darvatkar, also from Khanapur, reveals that though government-owned wrestling schools or taleems help them build their muscles free of cost, they need a heavy, nutritional diet to maintain their physique. “We are able to maintain our physique through supplementary diets that we manage to get from our salaries. Not only this, we also send money to our families back home,” he adds.
The employment of wrestlers as temple guards is a continuation of tradition. Mahesh Suryavanshi, a trustee of Dagdusheth Halwai Trust, reveals that Dagdusheth Halwai, after whom the temple is named, was himself a wrestler. “So it was both as a tribute to him and for maintaining the security of the place that the Trust came up with the idea of having wrestlers as security guards. The Dagdusheth Trust’s security comprises these 60 wrestlers. The guards work in eight-hour shifts. Each shift has 20 persons. During the 10-day Ganpati festival we increase security personnel to 200,” says Suryavanshi.
While there are youngsters like Chetan Adhvate, Kishore Gaikwad and Chetan Liman, who have made it to the national level body building championships, there are also senior wrestlers, like Dilip Bari, who feel that at the end of the day, work here is not about money alone.