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Mar 24, 2011

Wrestling Competition on March 27

Times of India
As part of jatra mahotsava, a wrestling competition will be hosted at the Sri Mahalingeshwara temple at K Hemanahalli on March 27. Call 9449264920.

Mar 20, 2011


Guru Hote Lal Akhara

Photos and video by Deepak Ansuia Prasad


Youth Take to Traditional Wrestling in Kerala

Deccan Chronicle

Traditional wrestling is still very much part of Kerala

They push and pull and wrestle in the mud, trying to nail down their opponents. They are the custodians of a once popular sport, ghatta gusthi, or Indian-style wrestling.

Despite, cricket, football and other popular sports luring a majority of Kerala’s traditional wrestlers, youngsters still find the sport appealing and keeping this in mind, Kochi is planning to host the 46th state championship.

Cochin Gymnasium, a 66-year-old akhara at Mattanchery is readying itself for the competition. “Last year nearly 180 wrestlers, including teenagers participated in the state championship and apart from Ernakulam, entries are pouring in from Kottayam, Thiruvanathapuram, Thrisur, Kozhikode and Kannur,” said M.M. Salim, state secretary of the Indian-style Wrestling Association.

Unlike, Olympic events like Greco-Roman and freestyle, ghatta gusthi is played in mud and used to enjoy massive popularity much before the other games gained prominence, Salim recalled.

“Though, the game has suffered over the years, young boys still come into the sport mainly because winners are given grace marks in their Board examinations,” Salim — who also trains young wrestlers at Cochin Gymnasium — said.

Vyppin resident K.V. Vipin Das was crowned Kerala Kesari (best wrestler) last year. He is 26 and says he was attracted to the sport when he was just eight.

“The game is masculine and youngsters take it up mainly because there are grace marks for the PSC examination,” said Vipin, who practices on the beach.

Grappling for Glory

The Business Standard
Veenu Sandhu
New Delhi March 19, 2011

The akhara is their home, wrestling their way of life. Veenu Sandhu enters the wrestlers’ world.

Eighty-five-year-old Guru Jasram is angry. And his students, brawny young wrestlers-in-the-making, know it. As he raises his stick to give them one whack after another, the men, all of them wearing loincloths, cringe and move back to save themselves. The octogenarian’s stick catches the unlucky few on their bare arms, legs and backs. It’s a startling sight but not an unusual one in this world of akharas where the guru is next only to God.

Guru Jasram Akhara — most akharas (traditional wrestling schools) are named after the wrestler who set them up — is located near Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in upscale South Delhi. It is a universe to itself, guarded by a high wall and iron gate — neither of which shields it from the din of traffic and the deafening sound of the Delhi Metro trains that run past every few minutes. The wrestlers at this akhara, which was set up in 1970 and currently has about 100 students, don’t seem to be bothered by the noise. They practise their moves in the mud pit under the watchful eye of their teacher, who sits under a tree with the stick in his hand.

“There are over 200 akharas in Delhi,” says Deepak Ansuia Prasad, a wrestling coach at Jasram Akhara. There is Hanuman Akhara in Old Delhi which has given India wrestlers like Satpal Singh, who won the gold in the 1982 Asiad, Arjuna awardee Sujit Mann and Dara Singh. It was set up in 1925, when the Birlas gave land to wrestling coach Hanuman. Called Birla Vyayamshala then, it wasn’t long before the name changed to Hanuman Akhara. Since Hanuman’s death in 1999 in a road accident (he was 98 and fighting fit) the akhara is run by his disciple, Dronacharya awardee Maha Singh Rao. There is also Amichand Akhara in South Delhi, Sanjay Akhara, run by Arjuna awardee Sanjay ‘Pehelwan’, Northern Railway Akhara, Shyam Lal Akhara, Chandgi Ram ka Akhara (the only one where women wrestlers are trained) and many, many more.

“But only a handful of the akharas in Delhi meet national standards,” says 40-year-old Prasad, a former pehelwan. He is a chartered accountant and is appearing for his MBA exams. He also wants to do a PhD in wrestling. Not every young wrestler or aspiring wrestler is as educated as he is. “Most of the boys belong to farmer families and are uneducated,” says coach Jasram who retired from the Air Force as a sergeant. He’d entered the armed forces on his merit as a wrestler. The young men who train at Jasram Akhara come from Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and even Madhya Pradesh. About 40 live at the akhara where their routine and diet are fixed and strictly followed. The living quarters are sparsely furnished, though they do have a TV set and a cooler for when the Delhi heat gets unbearable.

The day begins before dawn, at 5 am, when they go for a run. Exercise includes weight training with nals (stone weights), rope-climbing and practising with gadas (maces).

Akhara rules call for celibacy and a diet without meat, fish or eggs. “Even spices and too much salt are harmful for the wrestler,” says Jasram. Instead, the focus is on milk, almonds, ghee, eggs, fruit and simple meals of daal, roti and vegetables. In most akharas, the students not only train, they also prepare the meal, clean the place and do chores. But the ones like Jasram Akhara and Chandgi Ram ka Akhara have in-house cooks and coaches, provided by the Sports Authority of India (SAI), so that the wrestlers can focus on wrestling.

Around 3 pm — the time varies from akhara to akhara — the wrestlers hit the mud pit. The mud is carefully chosen, sieved and sprinkled with oil and turmeric, even flowers. Before bouts, the wrestlers dig it up to make it soft. When they wrestle, the mud flies everywhere — some even makes its way into bystanders’ tea. Before the mud runs out, it is replaced.

“Mud wrestling isn’t recognised internationally. SAI, too, acknowledges only mat wrestling,” says Deepika Kaliraman, daughter of Chandgi Ram, who revolutionalised Indian wrestling by bringing women into the sport. Kaliraman, her sister Sonalika and some of their friends were the first women to hit the mud, in late 1998. “A lot of people objected. Some would throw stones at us when we went for dangals [competitions] in the villages,” recalls Kaliraman. But some others were totally bowled over. Kamlesh, 27, is one of them. “I saw them wrestle and told my husband that I too wanted to be a wrestler,” she says. Kamlesh belongs to a village near Panipat and had then been married for two years. Six years later, Kamlesh has won the Bharat Kumari title in wrestling four times over and participated in several international events. Her husband has joined her in Delhi as she chases her dream.

Chandgi Ram died of a heart attack last year. But at the akhara he set up, his legacy lives on. About 10 girls are currently training here. “Others have gone home because of the exams,” says Kaliraman. Chandgi Ram’s son, Jagdish Kaliraman, an inspector in the UP Police, now runs the place. Efforts are being made to modernise the akhara. It now has a gym and mess, and students can enjoy a steam bath. Women and men train on the mat, though there is also a mud pit. The akhara is located on the banks of the Yamuna, off Ring Road. “The impression that kushti (Indian wrestling) is a rustic sport needs to change,” says Kaliraman. She is president of the All India Women Wrestling Association. “That will happen if wrestlers are groomed better.”

A big question is: what after wrestling? “While wrestlers [men and women] do get jobs in the police, there seems to be a bias in the government against employing women wrestling coaches,” says Kaliraman. “Most of the men are uneducated and from poor families. Jobs don’t come easily to them,” adds Prasad. That can be frustrating.

Which is why, when some companies go looking for recovery agents, bouncers and personal security guards, pehalwans are easy recruits. “Their gurus try to stop them, but there is only so much they can do,” reveals a wrestler. In 2008, during the Delhi Assembly elections, the Haryana administration directed wrestlers to remain in their akharas to prevent them from acting as musclemen for politicians.

It’s not a happy state of affairs. But while they are training at the akharas and life is still innocent, even the youngest student doesn’t seem to mind the hardships. A chubby Vipin Yadav, 13, who has been at the akhara for only six days, says he is getting used to its ways and quite liking it. Neeraj Singh, 14, with whom he’s been wrestling, has been there for six months and is losing the childhood fat which Yadav is yet to shed. Sitting on a bench next to the mud pit, an elderly man watches his grandson locked in a tangle with another wrestler. The boy’s father, wrestler Ved Pal, was shot dead some years ago. But the old man would like to see his grandson also become a wrestler. For him and others like him, it’s a way of life that is to be lived from generation to generation.


The Hindu
NEW DELHI: An action-packed year-end awaits wrestling fans of the country with the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), in collaboration with Kolkata-based Leisure Sports, planning to organise the Indian Wrestling League (IWL).

The IWL format is clearly based on the popular cricket extravaganza, the Indian Premier League (IPL). However, WFI President G.S. Mander did not want to compare the two as the IPL was a much bigger and richer event.

The IWL will be held in seven weight categories for men's and women's freestyle wrestling. During the first year, there will be six city-based teams competing against one another. Each side will be named after the franchise owner and may have two foreign wrestlers in every style.

“The franchises will be city-based and will be located in States like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. We are working out the details but the franchises will operate from pockets where wrestling is popular,” said Mander.

The competition will be held on extended weekends — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — for five weeks.

The wrestlers will obtain classification points after every bout. At the conclusion of the league, prize money will be awarded to the winning team and the champion wrestlers. The event will be telecast live on a sports channel.

“We are in the final stages. We are working on finding sponsors and finalising other details,” said Mander. A concrete picture of the league is expected to emerge next month.

Mander also said the league would not clash with any important international events as “these months are free.”

The WFI is yet to get any approval from the International Wrestling Federation (FILA). However, Mander said the apex body should not have any problems about such a league. “After all it's a domestic event and we are promoting the sport through this,” said Mander.

Indian Wrestlers Shine

Deccan Herald

Belgaum, March 13

Playing amid the cheering home crowd, Indian wrestlers had an edge over their counterparts from abroad. They won the first two places by defeating wrestlers from Russia and Georgia respectively.

Hind Kesari title winner, Joginder Singh from Punjab, won the Vishwa Kannada Kesari title after a tough fight against Illadrukka Furtinaze from Russia. Singh was presented a purse of Rs 11 lakh and a silver mace.

Uttar Pradesh Kesari title winner Varunkumar flattened to ground Levan Shetraje from Georgia and won the bout.

During the 16-minute bout, Varunkumar overcame the initial attacks of Shetraje and defeated him deploying the Indian wrestling techniques flawlessly.

For the Indian players, bouts on mud proved to be an advantage.



Work has begun on the Punjab tourism department’s prestigious Heritage Village, coming up in Amritsar. And to make this prime tourism destination as “authentic” as possible, the department is keen on sourcing rural artifacts from all over the state.

The Heritage Village is coming up over an 11-acre complex on the campus of Guru Nanak Dev University. The purpose is conservation of Punjab’s village culture and showcasing its traditional crafts. It will also have kiosks for traditional food and beverages, an akhara where wrestling bouts will be conducted and a fair ground, complete with rides and rural sports.

Mar 17, 2011

Moori Kesari Dangal on April 3

JAMMU, March 11: 56th Moori Kesari Dangal, organised by Moori Dangal Committee under the aegis of J&K Indian Style Wrestling Association, shall be held on April three near Domail in district Reasi.
A decision in this regard was taken in a meeting held under the chairmanship of president J&K Indian Style Wrestling Association, Shiv Kumar Sharma, a handout issued here today informed.
The meeting beside others was attended by Badri Nath, Om Parkash, Romesh Chander, Dharam Chand, Sher Mohd., Jakeen Ali, Brij Paul Singh, Bodh Raj, Sukhdev Sharma and Mohan Singh.
For further queries, interested wrestlers of the Jammu region can contact Shiv Kumar Sharma on Mobile No. 94191 61880.

Mar 13, 2011


The Tribune

Bilaspur, March 12
The famous wrestling bouts of the Nalwadi fair will begin at the Luhnu Ground here in the town from March 20. The final bouts to decide the “Malli Pehalwan” and “Him Kumar” will be held in front of the chief guest on March 23.

State-level Nalwadi fair Wrestling Sub-Committee convener and Superintendent of Police Kapil Sharma said this here.

He said renowned wrestlers from well-known “akharas” from all parts of the country had been invited to participate and show their worth as handsome cash prizes would be awarded to them. He said more than 500 wrestlers were expected to compete in these bouts.

Sharma said only Himachali youths till the age of 21 years could compete for the title of “Him Kumar”. Wrestlers for this category must come along with attested and original copies of their age proofs and Himachali certificates. They should also bring attested photographs and register themselves with the Wrestling Sub Committee on March 20 or 21 before 1 pm.


Mar 6, 2011

Visit To Guru Shyam Lal Akhara

Deepak Ansuia Prasad takes his friend from America to visit Guru Shyam Lal akhara, to practice with some of the wrestlers there and to see just how devoted Indian wrestlers and gurus are to their sport.

Jim McSweeney and I attended the wedding reception of Guru Ajit’s daughter and were welcomed by people of the village. Jim fit in well, eating spicy Indian food with no problem and speaking Hindi with some of the other guests. I dropped him at nearby metro station and we made plans to meet the next day to visit Guru Shyam Lal akhara (after getting permission to visit from Guru Ajit Pahalwan and other senior wrestler of the reputed akhara.)

The akhara is at Ayanagar crossing, in the immediate vicinity of Arjan Gadh metro station. We met there at 2 pm, along with photographer Kartik Dhar, and were welcomed by the gurus Ajit Pahalwan, Rajinder Pahalwan, Khalifa Rahbar Pahalwan, and other senior wrestlers, as well as Coach Tony. Jim was amused at the name Tony, saying this is an American name, and I said it is common here too.

We reached the akhara before practice started, so had time to talk to one of the senior gurus and Khalifa Raghbar, who was getting cleaned up at that time. We sat beside him and he told us that he lives at the akhara, taking care of the wrestling education of the pupils, and coaching them while they practice. He never married and devoted his whole life to kushti. I consider him a great man for devoting his life to wrestling and Jim agreed that few men could make such a commitment.

We watched the wrestlers begin their chores, first by digging the akhara pit with a big iron spade (weighing about 15-16 kg) and I asked Jim if he wanted to try digging too. He was happy to do so. Then a wrestler leveled the dirt by dragging a heavy wooden plan attached by a big rope which he wrapped around his shoulders as a young wrestler stood on the plank to add more weight. Then the akhara was sanctified with dhoop, and we all prayed before the exercises and other chores began.

Jim explained to the coach that the warm-up exercises were almost the same as the ones done by wrestlers in his country. After the warm-up it was time for some practice and Jim wanted to try wrestling with some of the wrestlers.

He started with Jeetu Pahalwan, a great young wrestler. Jeetu, who is 15 years old, is the grandson of Guru Shyamlal, who used to run the akhara at Aya Nagar. I have great respect for Jeetu because of his devotion, hard work, and amiable nature. Jim said he could probably pin any wrestler of equal weight and age back in the U.S. Jeetu easily pinned Jim two or three times, so we decided to practice some more with other wrestlers.

Jim wrestled some of the other younger wrestlers and told me that they are indeed very good and bright young men.

The akhara has also has a wrestling mat for wrestlers, so they can practice their skills their freestyle skills to prepare them for competition at the school and state championship level.

I have been reading comments on the blog asking about the rules of Indian wrestling and how a win is declared, so I decided to discuss it with Jim on video. (The link to the video is here.)

After the wrestlers practiced it was our time to leave, Guru Ajit Pahalwan asked us to have some tea and refreshments, which we accepted.
Guru Ajit reflected on some of the challenges facing akharas as they train a new generation of Indian wrestlers. He said that the attitude of children is changing and most of the kids nowadays are in search of instant results. He also said that gurus don’t beat the pupils like they used to so they won’t feel humiliated. He told us that in his time, it was the guruji who used to beat the slow wrestlers very badly so that they would work harder. I agreed with him, having been taught the same way. However, he said that he demands the same level of good moral behavior from his pupils and follows the tradition of guru and shisya or the teacher – student of Indian system.

I thanked Jim for his visit and told him that it was wonderful to have him here. It gave me and the other wrestlers a lot of pleasure to learn about a different culture and to make a new friendship with someone from half way around the world.