Submitted by manika garg
There’s certainly more to being active than just hitting the treadmill. Delhi, the capital of India, teems with all sorts of physical, ‘outdoorsy’ stuff such as wrestling, riding, and similar sort of gripping games. If one is a fitness freak with a pugnacious streak, and wants to try out some good ol’ Indian style wrestling, well, Delhi certainly doesn’t disappoint. There are many traditional akharas here that can provide the perfect workout for those who don’t mind dirt and grime.
Near the banks of the Yamuna, is Hari Nagar where a multitude of akharas can be found. These look like factory sheds, all set about with trees and adorned with many pictures of Lord Hanuman. Also adorning the walls are pictures of regular ‘pahalwans’, who are supposed to be ‘Brahmcharis’- celibate, single men.
The pride of the place is the wrestling pit where all the action takes place. If one turns up at an akhara at any day of the week, excluding Tuesday (the day of Lord Hanuman), between 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., one can surely hear the grunts of a wrestling match in progress. It is pretty amazing to see the six feet and above pahalwans, that comprise the majority of the crowd, as well as others that vary between five to seven feet.
Akharas don’t use wrestling mats to cushion the ‘pahalwans.’ Instead, there is the soft soil of the fertile banks of Yamuna. The common feature of each akhara is a ‘guru’ for all the budding ‘pahalwans’. The akharas charge a fee and conduct tournaments. The prize money can vary- from a few thousands to even fifty grand. The “Kushti Kala Kendra” akhara doesn’t charge any fee, and anyone can join this akhara. The founder and ‘guru’ of this esteemed akhara is Hukumi who’s been a trainer for last thirty years. Before that, he had been a wrestler for fifteen years. Retired now, he maintains a very well disciplined akhara.
“It takes two years just to come to grips of the techniques”, said one ‘guru’. There is no age bar in any of these akharas and admission is open even if any one wants to join at a mature age. The practice sessions take place between 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on all days except Tuesday. Before a match, the pahalwans/combatants/wrestlers pay obeisance to the wrestling pit every single time- and even rub some soil on their bodies for luck.
Our Olympic representatives like Sushil Kumar and Ashok Kumar were the products of these humble ‘akharas’. Rather than leaning ‘westward’, we should learn to take pride in them. Do go for a ‘dekko’ at these wrestling arenas, who knows, even you might be tempted to join up.