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Jan 30, 2010

Haryana wrestling tournament photos

On January 20, an annual dangal was held in Haryana. Thousands of spectators watched hundreds of wrestling  matches. The grand prize was 50,000 rupees.

Jan 29, 2010

Chatting after Practice at Guru Hanuman Wrestling club, Delhi India Sujeet Maan

Wrestling matches get a spirited response

One upmanship: Wrestlers in action at the competition at Hampi on Thursday.
The Hindu
HAMPI: A wrestling match was held here on Thursday as a part of the 500th anniversary celebrations of Sri Krishnadevaraya’s coronation.
As the two combatants faced each other, there were spirited shouts of encouragement from the audience, a sign that wrestling remains as popular today as it was during the Vijayanagar era.
Emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya himself was an accomplished wrestler.
As many as 65 pairs of wrestlers from Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, New Delhi and the State battled it out at the clay arenas here.
Ajjappa Hanchinahal, a senior “pehalwan” began the tournament by offering pooja to the “kusti kana” B.S.Anand Singh, Vijayanagar MLA, was present.

Jan 5, 2010

An akhara of aspirations

Young wrestlers in the invisible margins, ignored by the sports establishment, prepare for another year of reckoning and recognition

Akash Bisht Delhi


It is one of the coldest days of the season and the icy winds following fresh snowfall in Himachal and Kashmir enter the bone marrow as people shiver in Delhi. In these hostile weather conditions, a young man dressed only in langot (a piece of cloth tied like an underwear), tries hard to light a diya at a Hanuman temple in Guru Hanuman Akhara near Roshanara Park in Old Delhi. Several others dressed in langots roam around the courtyard of the akhara busy with their daily chores, unperturbed and completely unselfconscious of their bodies.
Born in 1925, the akhara (wrestling pit) was a gift from industrialist KK Birla to Guru Hanuman, a legendary wrestler and trainer, who used it to groom young wrestlers as world-class competitors. It was earlier known as Birla Vyayamshala and later renamed after Guru Hanuman.
Guru Hanuman was an icon in the wrestling spectrum in India, a media celebrity those days when sports did not only mean big bucks cricket, a familiar face around sports journalists at newspaper offices during the 1980s. His old akhara is considered as the epicentre of wrestling in India. It has produced some of the finest wrestling talents of the country.
Indeed, time stands still here, despite the hype around the wrestling Olympic bronze won by Sushil Kumar. (Indeed, before his Olympic feat, Sushil Kumar himself trained in a huge ramshackle dormitory in Delhi with abysmal facilities, sharing living space with other youngsters, completely ignored by our sports establishment.) Nothing much has changed in this akhara too since 1925.
The door that leads to the akhara bears the testimony of time. The small door looks like the typical entrance to an archaic temple tucked under a tree in the backwaters of a small town. One wonders how these 6 feet plus wrestlers manage to wriggle in and out of this miniscule structure with such ease.
The door leads to a small courtyard that has several gas stoves strewn all over. On some of these stoves, empty utensils used for boiling milk are yet to be cleaned. Some drops of milk and coarse almonds stuck at the bottom give a clue of the ingredients. Few steps further you can get a glimpse of a small pit filled with sand that has young boys trying hard to pin down their counterparts in a wrestling bout.
Senior wrestlers dressed in langots watch carefully while a vocal instructor keeps the young boys on their toes. The instructor in a blue jacket with 'India' written on it keeps patting the heads of boys and men who bow down to touch his feet, reaffirming the old guru-shishya parampara.
He is Maha Singh Rao who has for the past 26 years dedicated his life to the cause of wrestling, "ignoring his family life", as the folklore goes among young wrestlers. It's like 'tapasya' and 'sanyas' for him, says one of his disciples. Rao came to Delhi in the mid-1980s and met his fellow villager Guru Hanuman who asked him to come over to the akhara. So impressed was he with Guru Hanuman that he soon became his assistant. Thus began a long legacy of great wrestling, Indian style.


Jan 3, 2010

Naga wrestling championship

Dimapur, Jan 2 (NPN): The 23rd Naga wrestling championship organized by Chokri Area Wrestling Association (CAWA) will be held on January 19 at RD Block Kikruma with Neiba Kronu, Deputy Chairman State Planning Board and Chairman Monitoring Cell as the Chief Guest and Mutsikhoyo Yhobu, president NSF as the Guest of Honour.
49 wrestlers representing 11 units will participate in the meet of the CAWA. Prominent wrestlers and formers champions of Nagaland will act as referees during the meet. All the well wishers and general public are cordially invited to witness the event.

Jan 1, 2010

A Dynasty Spent

In Pakistan Chowk, Karachi, the once famous akhara of the Bholu brothers is now a gymnasium for youth wishing to beef up. Outside, Wasim Tara, a wrestler from the yesteryears, is engaged in dressing the fractured leg of a woman. Whatever happened to wrestling?
Traditional wrestling or Pahalwani had its most famous practioner and proponent in Rustam-e-Zaman Gama Pahalwan. The legendary strongman who remained undefeated in his career of over 50 years in undivided India and abroad, his strength(s) were soon those of his sons, the famed Bholu Pahalwan brothers. Today, however, the familial as well as cultural heritage of this sport, considered sacred by its patrons – a world away from the evils of modern-day steroids and supplements – is shrinking, as Nasir Bholu, grandson of The Great Gama, and son of Bholu Pahalwan points out. This third generation wrestler laments how the Gama kin are reduced to running a gymnasium in Karachi, or living off the local custom of getting medical dressing done by pahalwans.

TSI: When did you start your wrestling career?

Nasir Bholu (NB): It started in 1976 when I was 15. The famous Japanese wrestler Anoki was in Pakistan along with a team of wrestlers. I fought with one of the wrestlers accompanying him and won the bout.

TSI: When did your family migrate to Pakistan?

NB: My father Bholu Pahalwan was born in Amritsar. In India, the Maharaja of Indore and Maharaja of Baroda encouraged wrestling a lot. My father migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and during the early years, we received a lot of encouragement from the Pakistan government too.

TSI: Why is the tradition of local wrestling losing out in Pakistan?

NB: Wrestling is a very costly affair. Previous governments encouraged wrestling and people in general were emotionally involved in it.

Thousands of people would come to watch a wrestling bout, and hundreds of thousands would watch it on television. It used to be exciting to watch these matches, especially between Pakistani wrestlers and world famous foreign wrestlers. President Ayub Khan gave Rs 100,000 and agricultural land to Bholu brothers as a mark of appreciation, but then the governments withdrew their support for unknown reasons and local wrestling faded away. The prime land for our akhara in Karachi, that has now been converted into a (modern) gymnasium, was allotted by no less a person than then Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan.

TSI: So don’t we have any wrestling in Pakistan any more?

NB: No… Wrestling does take place in Punjab, but not on the scale like when it used to be a national game and everybody took interest in it. The number of wrestlers has also dropped significantly in Pakistan. Despite discouragement from the government we do have wrestling in oriental style in Pakistan. Now our youth only comes to the akharas for exercise. Akharas survive but there is no wrestling.

TSI: Who or what was your inspiration to wrestle?

NB: When I was in the school I would see my uncles doing exercise in our akhara early in the morning and I was inspired by them. They taught me the art of wrestling and also guided me to the right type of fitness regime, and the right diet to maintain a good physique.

TSI: Who were your main trainers?

NB: My uncles Aslam Pahalwan and Akram Pahalwan trained me. They would also advise me on the type of food to be had to keep myself fit. They trained me on the tactics of wrestling.

TSI: Have you also participated in wrestling abroad?

NB: Yes. I have not only won wrestling bouts with prominent wrestlers in Pakistan but have also participated in wrestling matches in the Middle-Eastern countries, Bangladesh and other countries. In 1982, when I went to Bangladesh to participate in Asian Games, there was curfew in Dhaka but Bangladesh ruler Gen. Irshad relaxed it so that everybody could watch wrestling matches. I bagged the Asian title in wrestling there.

TSI: What are your dreams?

NB: I had a dream to contest for the world title. Sadly enough, we had even negotiated with world title holders in wrestling, but appropriate arrangements could not be made in Pakistan for these wrestling bouts and thus they were never held. It was disappointing. In a family that has a tradition of wrestling since 100-150 years, we don’t find wrestlers anymore and it’s very frustrating.

Interview with wrestler Harishchandra Birajdar

By Kunal Chonkar

Rustam-e-Hind’ (Lion of India) of 1972, Common Wealth Games gold medallist and Olympic participant Harishchandra Birajdar, the wrestling legend gets talking at the coveted Maharashtra-Kesri wrestling tournament

Harishchandra Birajdar (right) felicitating a wrestler at Maharashtra-Kesri wrestling tournament
Even at this age you are hardly away from the ‘matti’ (wrestling soil)?

I am just 72. And the first thing I have ever stored in my memory, as a kid is the sweet smell of the wrestling soil. I pray that when I die my ash to be mixed with this soil.

How did this dedication and devotion towards wrestling sprout?
A part of it was genetic and a part personal. My coven had taken wrestling as a part of our culture. I always saw my grandfather and my father slugging it out in our courtyard. When I became 12, I wrestled with my father and siblings. Wrestling for about one hour every morning was like our daily breakfast.

So it was your father who introduced you to the ‘matti’?
(Interrupts) No not only did he introduced me to the sport but he was also my first guru as well. An ardent student of wrestling, he would never skip his workout even when he was ailing at the age of 80. He taught me till the age of 12 after that I was enrolled in an Akhada (wrestling school).

Wrestling happened to you at the tender age of 8 and continued till 30; don’t you feel it was very early?
It was the perfect move on my part. Wrestling is the best sport for a complete mental and physical development of a child. The sport makes you active, immune, strong and smart. The exercises and bouts help in building strong muscles and increases bone density, while the body-throws and locks to counter your opponent increase your cognitive skills and intellectual ability.

Indian wrestling struggles to stand in its own country, the sport was recently echoed after the Olympic win of Sushil Kumar. What do you think are the reasons for its downfall?
Traditional Indian wrestling is battling two opponents at the same time. One is politics while other is media; the former has crippled the sport while the later has sidelined it. Political interference in sport competitions and media neglecting wrestling events and achievements has contributed for the downfall of our heritage.

What reasons do you have for blaming the media?
The media always writes and publishes news of some foreign wrestler visiting our country or some entertainment moneymaking event happening in our country. Apart from the news of Sushil Kumar winning the Olympic medal, how much have we read about the aspiring wrestlers. How many articles do we see questioning the role, contribution or progressive steps taken by the government? How will the young minds and the educated people know and acknowledge their heritage sport if the press continues to ignore the sport? 

Even with age the aggression and intensity of a wrestler is still abundant?
(Laughs) Well, it will only get more intensifying. They saw that tigers are dangerous at their old age. My anger is not towards anyone in particular but we should be able to respect and accept our heritage. Some of our great freedom fighters were wrestlers, but these facts need to be conveyed to gather appreciation and applause for the matti.

The world now wrestles on foam mats, why do we still slug it in the red soil?
With modernisation, the world has moved to a life of comfort and safety. Previously the soft red soil was the only available option for wrestling enthusiasts. Apart from that there is a science behind that soil it has medicinal properties.