Times of India
VARANASI: The city 'akharas' (traditional wrestling grounds) that used to come alive on Nag Panchami are now struggling for existence. Now, this form has just been reduced to an occasional formality.
The city used to witness some historic and memorable 'fights' where well-known wrestlers used to lock horns in a battle of supremacy. "After a number of rounds, the final contest was reserved for the auspicious day and it used to attract a high prize beside bringing laurels to the winners," said Subhash Yadav, a well-known wrestler who had come up with a modern gymnasium in Lanka area after giving up wrestling on Wednesday. There was a ghat called Akhara Ghat in the city.
The holy city that boasted of nearly 50 'akharas' (most of them concentrated in the old parts of the city, including areas near the ghats) two decades ago, now has only less than a dozen akharas. All of them are presently struggling for survival.
Preparations for the big battle on Nag Panchami used to start months before the auspicious day and it used to attract wrestlers from entire East UP region. The 'dangal' competition (local name for wrestling contest) used to be a benchmark for gauging the might and ability of wrestlers beside attracting patronage from local leaders as well as the society. "Over the years, the competition has lost shine and interest. Now, the tradition is turning into a mere formality, witnessing occasional bouts with a handful of spectators," said Sadan Maurya, another wrestler from Sankat Mochan Akhara.