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Aug 18, 2008


Wrestling tournaments, or dangals, are held frequently around India. Winning wrestlers get cash prizes. This tournament took place outside Delhi in late July.

Aug 16, 2008

Preparing food

After cleaning up the wrestlers prepare meals. One of the tasks is grinding up almonds. After the almonds have been reduced to a paste, they are put into a cloth or a strainer and milk or water is squeezed through - producing a protein-filled drink designed to build muscles.

Washing up

Most akharas have outdoor washing facilities. Some have shower heads, but others have a water tank where water is scooped out in buckets to wash.

Working out

Pushups and swinging huge wooden clubs are other exercises wrestlers do to build strength.

Aug 15, 2008

Wrestlers doing squats

Wrestlers perform squats to build up strength in their legs.

Training in the pit

There are no weight classes in traditional kushti, so most wrestlers aim to get as big as they can. Smaller wrestlers often train with much bigger guys.

Morning training at akhara

To get a better grip, wrestlers pour dirt from the pit on each other.

Training in the pit

Wrestling practice begins between 6 and 7 a.m. and lasts for around 2 hours usually.

Aug 14, 2008

Motibag Akhara practice

Motibag Akhara

This akhara has both a traditional clay/dirt pit and a mat as well. Wrestlers split their time training on the mat and in the pit.


The city of Kolhapur is a major center for traditional wrestling in India.


Most akharas have shrines for wrestlers to pay homage to the Hindu god Hanuman - god of strength.

Aug 13, 2008

Practice Match at Akhara


Membership at this akhara is in the hundreds, but some wrestlers only attend practice occasionally. The pit is only big enough for a few wrestlers to train at one time.


This akhara in Delhi has shrunk in size recently, as the road beside it is being widened. The government does little to support these old akharas and ignored protests by the wrestlers about losing part of their training facilities.

Aug 12, 2008

Wrestling practice

Wrestling practice

Wrestlers practice twice a day - once in the early morning and once in the afternoon. These photos are from an afternoon session at an akhara in Delhi.

Introduction to Kushti

Traditional Indian wrestling isn't just a sport - it's an ancient subculture where wrestlers live and train together and follow strict rules on everything from what they can eat to what they can do in their spare time. Drinking, smoking and even sex are off limits. The focus is on living a pure life, building strength and honing their wrestling skills.