A great dangal was held Sunday at the local stadium of Village Dundaheda in Haryana. The dangal was held to celebrate Vijayadashmi, the last day of the Dassara festival, when people go to see the burning effigy of Ravana, the cruel king of Lanka. But in Dundaheda, wrestling was the center of attention and thousands of spectators crowded together like sardines to witness some unforgettable bouts.
As I approached the dirt pit, the wrestling had begun and the intensity was already rising. Two wrestlers were fighting hard, each determined to win. The referee held a microphone in hand, watching the athletes’ every move and making sure they kept to the rules (like not grabbing hold of the langot during bout). The wrestlers were locked up, showing off the skills honed through years of practice under their gurus at their respective akharas. The crowd grew boisterous as the thousands of spectators who had packed into the local stadium clapped and shouted. For the wrestlers, the honor of their akharas, their pride as athletes and a lot of prize money was at stake.
As the two wrestlers in the center of the put struggled against each other, one of the fans approached the referee to contribute more money for the prize, in an effort to lend encouragement to his favorite wrestler. The referee announced that the prize money had grown and excitement began to build. The spectators clapped louder, yelling support for their favorite wrestler as the two combatants poured all their power into the match.
Then the referee announced that the prize had increased by another Rs. 500/-, and then 11000/-. Then another fan put in even more money, and another, and another until the original prize of Rs 11000/- swelled to 44000/-. The stadium became a battlefield as the crowd cheered and clapped.
Then came 2 X 21000 Rs bouts. And then the 1 X 1000 Rs. bouts all made the same fortune. The most amazing match of the dangal was originally for a first prize of Rs. 31000/-. But by the time it ended, the pot had ballooned to 100000/- with more and more contributions from the public.
The time limit for the bouts was extended and the wrestlers put everything they had into the match. I had never witnessed such a sight before. Mukesh Kumar, the main referee, himself increased the prize money by 21000/-. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Everyone who participated and watched the dangal deserves credit for its success, including the great wrestlers themselves, the spectators, the village committee, the SHO of two police stations and HUDA or the Haryana Urban Development Authority, which gave Village Dundaheda the local stadium.
Like every year, the dangal was organized by the village committee of Dundaheda, Haryana and the village head, who is the son of Khalifa lt. Om Rao Pahlwan. It was Khalifa Om Rao who started this dangal in the 1960s and the whole village would always pitch in to help stage the event. While Khalifa Late Om Rao is gone, his love for the sport and legacy of the dangal in this village continues.
At times, the relatives and friends of defeated wrestlers disputed the decisions of the referees, but the referees were great judges. They never made mistakes and above all the assurance and presence of Station House Officers of both the Udyog Vihar and Palam Vihar police stations made the event hassle-free and chaos-free. They did an excellent job maintain security and ensuring that everything ran smoothly.
The Dassara Dangal committee was led by President Bharat Singh Yadav.
- Pandit Leela Ram,
- Narain Singh
- Dhram Veer Yadav,
- Virender Singh Yadav
- Narsingh Yadav
- D.K. Yadav
- Manmohan Singh s/o sh. Omrar Singh
- Surjeet Singh Yadav
- Tara Chand Yadav
The main referee was Mukesh Pahlwan.
Among others were:
- Naresh Yadav, Pappu,
- Devender Pahlwan,
- Rajinder Nambardar
The funding for the prizes and other arrangements were made by the committee and by the whole village of Dundaheda.
The Chief Guests included:
- Local MLA – Badshah Pur MLA. Rao Dharmpal Ji
- Khalifa Pahlwan Kirpa Ram Yadav. – of Jafarpur Najaf Garh
- First Prize 31000/- increased to 100000/- during the bout.
- Second Prize 21000 X 2 Which rose to 60 000/-
- Third Prize 11000 X 4, which increased to 44000/-
- 3100 X 6
- 2100 X 10
- 11 X 20
- 500 X 30
There were some unforgettable matches throughout the day – by young wrestlers as well as seniors. There were more than 100 winning wrestlers who were awarded prizes as well as a few pairs of wrestlers who split their prize because their bouts ended in a draw. The costs of staging the dangal went well into lakhs of rupees because on top of the prize money, there was also the cost of lighting and audio equipment as well as food and bathing facilities for the wrestlers.
The participating wrestlers came mostly from Delhi and neighboring states, like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, but there were even some wrestlers from Maharashtra. I was lucky enough to be accompanied by Khalifa Guru Ajit Singh Ji of Ghitorni Village, who is from Guru Shyam Lal Akhara. He was honored with a pagree (head dress) and was welcomed by the village committee. After the dangal concluded, Guru Ajit Singh Pahlwan invited me for refreshments, so I took the opportunity to express my thanks to the organizers for staging such a great event. By that time, it was getting dark, so I said goodbye and left, and even now am looking forward to the next dangal.