September 25, 2022


Wrestling competitions on the Olympics have begun, and India is but to medal. India has a seven-member contingent, which incorporates two ladies. Many could recall that Sakshi Malik received a bronze medal in 2016 in Reno.  (By the way, she didn’t make the workforce for Tokyo). Additionally, in 2012 in London, India received two medals (a rarity!) within the males’s division: a silver and a bronze. So, there may be good cause for conserving our eyes on wrestling from India’s Olympic perspective.

Lots of you might recall my diatribes in my earlier article the place I used to be crying hoarsely to ‘show’ that Indians’ lack of success in sports activities (aside from cricket) is primarily on account of lack of expertise and never on account of scarcity of coaching and related services and enough monetary rewards. Properly, maybe I’m now backtracking considerably from my cussed stand earlier, on account of some new data and developments. I’m speaking about wrestling.

India had fourth-place finishes on seven events! This woke me up – how come I used to be not conscious of it? 

I’ve compiled the desk under which incorporates all of the medalists, and fourth, fifth and sixth place finishers in Olympic wrestling, each women and men: 

1920

Randhir Shinde: 4th in Males’s Featherweight, Freestyle

1948

Khashaba Jhadav: sixth in Males’s Flyweight, Freestyle

1952

Khashaba Jhadav: BRONZE MEDAL in Males’s Bantamweight, Freestyle

Keshav Mangave: 4th in Males’s Featherweight, Freestyle

1968

Sudesh Kumar: sixth in Males’s Flyweight, Freestyle

Udey Chand: sixth in Males’s Light-weight, Freestyle

1972

Adkar Maruti: 4th in Males’s Flyweight, Freestyle

Sudesh Kumar: 4th in Males’s Flyweight, Freestyle

Prem Nath: 4th in Males’s Bantamweight, Freestyle

1980

Jagmander Singh: 4th in Males’s Light-weight, Freestyle

Mahabir Singh: fifth in Males’s Gentle-Flyweight, Freestyle

1984

Rajinder Singh: 4th Males’s Welterweight, Freestyle

Mahabir Singh: sixth Males’s Flyweight, Freestyle

Rohtas Singh: fifth Males’s Bantamweight, Freestyle

1992

Subhash Verma: sixth Males’s Heavyweight, Freestyle

2008

Sushil Kumar: BRONZE MEDAL in Males’s Welterweight, Freestyle

2012

Sushil Kumar: SILVER MEDAL in Males’s Welterweight, Freestyle

Yogeshwar Dutt: BRONZE MEDAL in Males’s Light-weight, Freestyle

2016

Sakshi Malik: BRONZE MEDAL in Girls’s freestyle 58 kg

The desk above is unquestionably spectacular. No different Olympic sport can boast of an analogous degree of efficiency on the a part of Indians (besides maybe Discipline Hockey, if the current successes mature into one thing extra substantive). 

Add to that the 59 medals within the Asian Video games (11 gold, 14 silver, and 34 bronze) from 1954 to 2018 together with 5 medals (2 gold, and 1 bronze) in 2018. As well as, India received 11 medals within the 2018 Commonwealth Video games (5 gold, 3 silver, and three bronze). The higher performances within the Commonwealth Video games in comparison with the Asian Video games are clearly reflective of the presence of wrestling powerhouses Iran, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Japan within the Asiads.  All this has me totally satisfied that there’s expertise in India in wrestling, a sport that has been included in all the fashionable Olympics and even within the Historic Olympics in Greece.  

A Temporary Historical past of Wrestling in India

Wrestling (pehlwani or kushti) has in spite of everything been part of our heritage from the times of yore. The epic Mahabharata is replete with the exploits of Bhima, the second Pandava who demolishes quite a few kings and demons along with his superhuman power. I’m tempted to place Bhima because the world’s first completed wrestler. 

The malla-yuddha in Ramayana speaks of the presence of wrestling in India in antiquity. There are additionally allusions to Krishna and his brother Balaram being legendary wrestlers.  Actually, there’s a Purana dated within the thirteenth century known as Malla Purana.  It describes the assorted wrestling methods.  Apparently, the methods are named after the legendary wrestlers Jarasandha, Hanuman and Jambuvan, and naturally Bhima.

Bhima kills Jarasandha in a wrestling match, a folio from the Bhagavata Purana. c. 1520–1540 (Picture from the Met Museum)

Nevertheless, the prevailing type of wrestling in India in all probability developed throughout the Mughal rule by combining the native malla-yuddha (which contains grappling, joint-breaking, punching, biting, choking and stress level placing) with influences from Persian sources. A specific characteristic that distinguished pehlwani from the sooner malla-yuddha was that strikes and kicks throughout a match weren’t allowed. Wrestling (of the pehlwani selection) grew to become a very fashionable sport within the nineteenth and early components of the 20 th century, notably in Punjab and North India.  Many zamindars and maharajas just like the Maharaja of Patiala, avidly patronized the game and had a secure of fighters.

Legendary fighters like Karim Bux, Gulam, Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala, and The Nice Gama caught the creativeness of the sporting public of the day. The Nice Gama (1878-1960), also referred to as the Gama Pehalwan, whose actual title was Ghulam Mohammed Butt, was undoubtedly the best Indian wrestler of his time, maybe of all time. In 2015, The Nice Gama was inducted posthumously within the Skilled Wrestling Corridor of Fame (PWHF) as a wrestler of the Pioneer Period.   

Wrestling in numerous types emerged as a spectator sport in numerous components of India. One widespread type to emerge, notably in Punjab, Haryana, and western UP was the Dangal.  It was showcased by a preferred blockbuster by the identical title. The movie offered the story of a Phogat household, the place a person from Haryana educated his six daughters and nieces, all of whom grew to become profitable wrestlers with distinguished successes within the Asian Video games and the Olympics. In our era had all grown up with the title of Dara Singh and his match with a overseas wrestler named King Kong. 

And at last speaking about our custom of wrestling, I can’t chorus from remembering the massive fats males, typically with big mustaches, gleefully engaged making an attempt to pin down one another in akhadas (wrestling mats) within the banks of the Ganges. It’s considerably of a thriller to me as to why these devoted and gifted practitioners of the game didn’t attempt their hand on the Olympics. Maybe it was as a result of typical pehlwani, as practiced in India, doesn’t translate simply to the extra stringent guidelines of Olympic wrestling.


Partha Sircar has a BE in Civil Engineering from Bengal Engineering Faculty in Shibpur, India, and a Ph.D. in Geotechnical Engineering from the College of California at Berkeley. He’s a 53-year resident of the USA, together with the final 36 years in California. He loves to write down and could be reached by e-mail at psircar@yahoo.com.


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