The city of Gurgaon, near Delhi, is the mix of traditional village culture and modern suburban life. There’s a temple in the heart of the city called Prem Mandir, which means love and compassion for all. And every year since 1938 the patrons of the temple organize a great wrestling competition. An Italian photographer named Roberto asked if I could bring him to see Indian wrestling, so I invited him along. The weather was fine as we reached Gurgaon.
We were greeted by Anil Azad, the organizer of the dangal. His grandfather helped build the temple and started the tradition of the annual dangal. It was a very busy time for Anil because the festival of Janamashtami was approaching and thousands of people gather here to celebrate. The dangal wasn’t set to start until 4 pm so Roberto and I had a look around the temple and played some games at the fair next to it.
The kids were really good. One after another they challenged their opponents. There were a lot of kids in the crowd, too, so they all had fun.
A wrestler named Harsh from Guru Shyamlal Akhara defeated a very strong opponent and the crowd went wild with applause.
An aspiring junior wrestler named Mougli beat a chubby wrestler in a very good match. He wrestled three more matches and the last one ended in a draw.
In another good match, a wrestler from Pataudi Village, which actress Julia Roberts visited recently while shooting the film “Eat, Pray, Love”, challenged a wrestler from Guru Shyamlal Akhara. The Shyamlal wrestler pinned him, but the referee didn’t see the pin, so the match continued. Finally, the wrestler from Pataudi won.
Then another wrestler from Shyamlal akhara, challenged him, hoping to avenge the loss. But their tempers got the better of them and it turned out to be more of a real fight than a wrestling match. They were both penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected from the competition. It was 9 pm when the final bout ended.
The winner was given 5100/- and a plaque. The crowed started dwindling and the organizers invited us to have dinner. So we drove towards house of Siri pahalwan, of Nathupur and had dal, roti, ghee, makhan, raita, vegetables, salad … a good Indian meal for my guest from Italy.