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Aug 20, 2011


By Deepak Ansuia Prasad

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.

As the action started, an old wrestler with white hair announced the names of two young wrestlers who were going to compete. It’s traditional to announce the names of the wrestlers, their guru and the village where they are from. So they fight not only for a prize but for their akhara, their guru and their hometown.

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.


Deepak Ansuia said...

till then,
personalities like the owner of Prem mandir trust, Anil Chowdhary are thre in india, and are dedicated to organise the comptition,and following the tradition since 1935, and even if he has to arrange everything , out of his own pocket,
The culture of sports, can never end here in India, all praise for him

waynebrighton said...

you take great pics& capture the atmosphere of the occasion really well-with videos & these pics it's really like being there

Deepak Ansuia said...

Thanks wanebrighton, you really get me going, thanks for your motivation again