The Lucknow Tribune
Sitting outside a small non-descript building near the Sadar Bazaar fly-over, Ram Chander Yadav, a retired pehalwan waxes eloquent about the Akhara that he runs nearby. Called Guruji Ka Akhara, the place has nearly 35 youngsters learning the art of grappling.
Established in 1885, by his grand- father Kalidin Yadav alias Mast pehalwan, the akhara has seen many ups and downs. An avid wrestler, Mast Pehalwan put his heart and soul into the akhara. Owning a butter shop in Gol Bazaar, he would take a small donation from the residents and shop- owners to run the show. â€œPeople used to pay one to one and a half annas as donation,â€ says Ram Chander. Those were the days when wrestlers unlike today, used to fight for their name and the name of the akhara.Those who won were presented with angochas and the better ones were given safas or headgear. In 1929, Mast pehalwan passed away and with this also passed the baton of running the akhara into the hands of his son Chote lal Yadav, also known as guruji.
What goes into the making of an akhara. According to Ram Chander, the soil of the akhara is made up of dahi,sarso ka tel and matha. â€œAll these things are then mixed with the soil to make it soft,â€ says Ram Chander, sipping tea.What does it take to become a pehalwan? According to Ram Chander, boys of the age group of 10 to 12 can enrol themselves in the akhara for training which includes traditional dand and baithak, wielding the muqdar and using the dumb bells. They have to be on milk diet and also do traditional jobs like rolling and tilling the soil. As the pehalwans grow in age, they are given more serious exercises. They are also encouraged to train with senior wrestlers to hone up their skills. Once they reach the age of 16, they are ready to take part in the dangals.
The fights are organised during the Naag Pachami festival when it is raining, informs Ram Chander. They are also held during Raksha bandhan. Thirty-five wrestlers are already enrolled in the Akhara and are given rigourous training before being allowed to take part in competitions.
The akhara is holding the Akhil Bharatiya Mast Pehalwan Dangal these days in which 82 wrestlers from all over the country such as Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Rajput Centre Fatehgarh are taking part.
But there is no encouragement for this kind of traditional wrestling style, feels Ram Chander. He rues the days of the British when dangals in each district were organised by the police chiefs. The state government does not provide any assistance to us, says Bhagwan Chand Yadav alias Babu pehalwan, sitting next to his brother. â€œUnlike the states of Maharashtra, Punjab, Delhi there is no encouragement for this dying wrestling style. We gave a petition to Mulayam Singh Yadav,a one- time wrestler himself when he was the chief minister, but nothing happened. No help came forward,â€ says a dejected Bhagwan Yadav. The Akhara is being run on donation which the shop keepers and residents of the area willingly give, he says. Chattar Singh of 8 Jats did the akhara proud by winning the nationals in Chikmaglur in 1980. He also won the crown of Haryana Kesari.
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