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Old April 11th, 2002, 03:11 AM
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Great Indian Pahelwan ... Gama Pahelwan

We grew up admiring Darasingh. Many of us never suspected that most of wrestling matches were fixed or simply entertainment. But this here is the story of a true Indian legend ... GAMA PAHELWAN!





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Gama the Lion
Master of the Arts


For years people have asked, "Is Gama still alive?" Now it can be said: Gama is gone. One of the finest wrestlers of all time, the "Lion of the Punjab" (whose proper name was Mian Ghulam Mohammad) died after a lingering illness in Lahore, Pakistan, on 21 May, 1960. He was 80.
The writer learned of his death only recently in a Strength and Health article. What a sad commentary: a name known to sports enthusiasts throughout the world and his death goes unnoticed by news media! True, in recent years his worsening health and poverty-ridden circumstances had been reported in the West, but, as far as the writer knows, no word of his passing was ever given. For years the writer has been entranced by the exploits of Gama and had planned this year to go to Pakistan to see him. Now this is not to be. He is gone. Belatedly, homage is paid in this article.
Born in 1880 in the West Punjab (now West Pakistan), home of the great wrestling families of Kashmiri stock, Gama started wrestling at an early age. Since the grappling art is the national sport of India, the youngster found no dearth of talented opponents. He submitted nay, embraced- the rigorous regimen imposed since time immemorial on Indian wrestlers. His daily training schedule- which budding Gamas practice in the 600 wrestling gyms in Lahore today- followed these lines:
3 A.M. Rise and begin literally thousands of baitaks (squats) and dands (cat-stretches). After a five-mile run and some swimming ("wrestling with water"), weights of stone and sandbags are lifted and exercises on the malla-stambh (vertical pillar) done.
8 A.M. Competitive wrestling under the vigilant eye of the teacher is begun and continues for two hours. This is done in dirt pits carefully spaded for the purpose.
10 A.M. A complete oil massage is given followed by a rest until 4 P.M.
4 P.M. Another massage is given after which conclusions are again tried with other wrestlers until 8 P.M.
To cope with such a spartan routine (and even the sumotori or giant wrestlers of Japan do not work as hard)
Gama ate prodigiously, consuming daily two to three gallons of milk, five pounds of crushed almonds, and considerable quantities of beef, soup, and vegetables. Thus Gama struggled through the early years improving strength, stamina, and technique, exemplifying those wonderful lines:

"Adequate, erect
With will to choose or to reject;
And I choose-
Just a throne."

As he climbed toward his goal- champion of all India- he must have been spurred by the great names of Indian wrestling. Sadika, the gentle superman, who chastised his brother's attacker by killing an ass with a single blow in front of the miscreant; Kikkar Singh, in the latter half of the 19th Century, who uprooted an acacia tree with his bare hands; and Ghulam who, after beating Singh, went to Paris in 1900 to answer the challenge of the giant Turk, Cour-Derelli, whom no one else would meet. In the first minute Ghulam showed everyone including the Turk that he was complete master. Cour-Derelli ran and stalled, hugging the mat ( exactly like Zbyszco was to do ten years later with Gama) and was thus able to finish the match.

However, the experts who witnessed the match were unanimous in saying that no man alive could stand five minutes against Ghulam. Unfortunately, Ghulam contracted cholera in the same year after coming home and died in Calcutta. Soon after the age of 20 Gama began to emerge as a successor to these champions. Wrestlers from all over India felt his fury and before he was 30 the Lion had achieved his goal, the championship of India.

His stickiest moments were in three draw matches with Rahim, the great pupil of Ghulam. These were grueling two-and three-hour goes with neither man stepping back. Gama interrupted the series in 1910 by traveling to London, one of the wrestling centers of the world, to do battle with the best of Europe.

There is a story current which says that because he was small by European standards he was not permitted to enter the Tournament of Champions in London that year and was forced to rent a hall where he fought as many as 12 wrestlers a day, some 200 in all, before he finally met and beat Zbyszco. This makes exciting reading but the writer can find no basis for it.

Irrespective of this, the real facts are just as exciting. On 8 August, 1910 he met B. F. (Doe) Roller, one of the finest American wrestlers, who had wrestled the American champion, Frank Gotch, to a draw in 1906. Gama weighed an even 200 pounds against Roller's 234 pounds but was so much shorter (5'8") that he looked puny next to Roller. Two hundred pounds were wagered for the best two out of three falls. Some of the spectators gave Gama little chance because of the weight disadvantage, the surroundings- the Alhambra was quite different from the Indian dirt pits- the curious calisthenics Gama engaged in before the match started. But with the bell when Gama smote his thighs (like Cyrus on a memorable occasion), their misgivings vanished. In one minute Gama with his relatively small hands threw Roller between the mat and the footlights- the fall, being off the mat, not counting. Roller got up a bit shaken and returned to the fray only to be thrown and pinned in the total time of 10 minutes. After a short rest the second round began with Roller diving for Gotch's famed toehold. But Gama with his fluid physique easily frustrated the try and then toyed with the American before pinning him in five minutes.

The Times of London commenting on the match, in which some of Roller's ribs were broken, stated that Gama would beat Zbyszco and Gotch also. Only in Japan would Gama really be tested. All the leading European wrestlers, said the Times, are hiding in the Swiss mountains or in Berlin (where police had stopped their "championships" a few weeks before).

But S. Zbyszco, all 254 pounds of him, didn't hide. A month later the Pole, one of the finest Greco-Roman style wrestlers of all time, was seated opposite Gama in a ring at Shepherd's Bush. Zbyszco wrote the writer recently that he had trained with and greatly respected Roller and, after seeing what Gama did to the American, "I knew I had work on my hands." The match, however, was disappointing. The press stated that the Pole lay passive for two hours and 34 minutes, taking the offensive only twice. Zbyszco put it this way to the writer:

By their necks ye shall know them: Gama at the height of his career.

"From the beginning I played it defensive as I had against Poddubny (an outstanding Russian wrestler Zbyszco beat in 1907), watching for a sign of weakness. At one point I did manage to lift Gama and drop him onto his shoulders which should have constituted a fall but, because of my defensive tactics, the referee did not accept it."

The press, however, does not mention this action by the Pole. Apparently, Zbyszco knew that he could not trade techniques with the Indian and from the outset he hugged the mat, using his weight advantage, and thus was able to thwart Gama- who had never met such a tactic before. When darkness intervened and the bout was called a no decision affair the Indian was baffled and frustrated. The sequel was scheduled for the following Saturday. Zbyszco, however, failed to show up on that day and Gama was declared the winner and presented the John Bull Championship Belt.

Immediately afterward Gama returned to India. Because he failed to stop in the U. S. en route, some American wrestling authorities have conjectured that he wished to avoid Frank Gotch, arguing that Gama realized he had not been able to pin Zbyszco whom Gotch had pinned three months earlier. This is to be doubted. First, Gama probably would not have been stymied a second time by Zbyszco's novel stalling tactics. Second, Gotch was, like Roller, Gama's type of wrestler: dynamic, offensive, and rough.

However, although the writer believes Gama would have beaten Gotch decisively, it might be best to let Zbyszco, the man who wrestled both, compare them:

"Gama was supreme in the standing wrestling. I doubt that any wrestler existed who could stand in front of him any length of time. He was endowed with prodigious energy, ferocious strength, and marvelous coordination. Gotch on the other hand was a better craftsman and master of holds. But could he have applied those holds against the strength of the Lion? I doubt whether Gotch could have pulled him into the mat and, if he did, he could not have held him.

"The year before my match with Gama (25 November 1909 when Zbyszco stayed an hour with Gotch, thus winning a handicap contest) while a novice at free style wrestling, I freely mixed with Gotch. With Gama, however, I could not get going at all and was obliged to fight defensively."

When Gama returned to India he was given a hero's welcome and made the protégé of the Maharaja of Patiala. In November 1910 he met for the final time his old antagonist Rahim, and after 45 minutes Rahim called a halt due to injuries and Gama was declared the winner.

Other adversaries came forward- all wanting to rub his face in the dirt. A serious champion, he yielded not, treating every match as his first and last one. Thus he swept the field, never tasting defeat (along with Ghulam the only undefeated wrestler in Indian wrestling annals), and amassed a sizable fortune in the process.
In 1928 Zbyszco, still going strong in the Western World, was invited to India to wrestle Gama again by the Maharaja of Patiala. The match was Indian style conducted in a loose dirt wrestling pit, the first man thrown off his feet to be declared the loser. Zbyszco was determined to avenge his London loss and came out fast. But Gama, as usual, came out faster and threw him with a magnificent turn of the hips in the remarkable time of 49 seconds!

One press account said: "He went, he saw, he was conquered. Zbyszco was as strong as a bull, but in the hands of Gama he was about as much use as Fay Wray in the grip of King Kong."

Commenting later on the match Zbyszco stated: "It was like wrestling with a wild animal. Courage availed nothing in this case."

Other than an easy five minute win over the European Peterson in Patiala in the same year, the second Zbyszco match was Gama's last with a Westerner. Heavier now (260 pounds) and older, he nevertheless continued to turn back the threat of the Indian youngsters. In 1933 at the age of 55 he still reigned supreme. A few years later he retired undefeated, the holder of an unequaled record in legitimate wrestling. In the mid-30's an American journalist, in noting that Gama could beat the 10 best Americans within a half hour, stated that he was content to stay in India "unconscious that we have at least four champions of the World in the United States!"

In the bloody partition of India in 1947, Gama, a Moslem, lost his fortune moved to Pakistan, and was given a small plot of ground but no pension ( as a state wrestler of Patiala he had formerly received $300 a month pension). Beset by poverty, he was forced to sell most of his silver and gold trophies. Of the seven maces he received for important victories, only one was with him when he died. Illness, however, took the most telling shots at the superman of the ring. High blood pressure, heart trouble, and asthma finally combined to do what no man could do.
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Last edited by tantric_yogi; December 3rd, 2009 at 04:02 AM.
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  #2  
Old April 11th, 2002, 05:30 AM
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i remember my father mentioning gama phelwan to me in childhood. i will certainly follow the threads. i have never seen gama and it will be nice to see photos of a man who was like superman to the children of a bygone generation.
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Old April 13th, 2002, 07:10 PM
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Gama Pahelwan.....I remember when I was young the name of Gama Pahelwan was very famous. It was nice to know more abt him. Thank u for tht tantric bhai.


Tantric bhai do u know at present who is Bharat Kesri or Rustame-e-hind and do u know anything abt this pahalwan....King kong, he used to wrestle with Dara Sing.
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Old April 13th, 2002, 07:13 PM
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I have seen some Gujjar wrestlers in a rural dhaba near Haryana ......
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Old April 13th, 2002, 07:43 PM
amal amal is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Parashuram
I have seen some Gujjar wrestlers in a rural dhaba near Haryana ......
have u heard abt Bharat Kesri Master Changiram he was from Haryana
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Old April 13th, 2002, 08:50 PM
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All i ever hear abt is WWF Smackdown or Raw is War
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Old April 13th, 2002, 09:44 PM
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Nice find there tantik.. he must have been one hell of a wrestler
6 seconds match over vs zybsco.. ofcourse concidering match fixing was not norm those dayz.. is one hellava achievement



This was saddest part
"Beset by poverty, he was forced to sell most of his silver and gold trophies. Of the seven maces he received for important victories, only one was with him when he died"

Similar to dhyanchand who died in poverty....
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Old April 14th, 2002, 03:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by tantric_yogi

thanks yaar log ... I thought I was alone ...

Believe it or not ... here is a man we all Indians can be proud of and how shamefull that this is the first time ever that I came to read of his exploits and see his picture ... makes you angree ...

Chirag yaar a request ... could you KINDLY cut/paste remaining photoes too ... I dont know how to do it ... these web pages tend to disappear with time ...




Only if these guys Mohammad, Frequent_pisser and Dhuranderbhai could pull their heads out of arseholes of Pukis and Palistis that they can realise that we have MUSLIM HEROES that all of us Indians Hindus or Muslims can be proud of ... Lekin yeh (hutiye nahin samjhenge ...
Well i used to think that "gama pehlwaan" was like some folk story /myth .. lekin yaar sach mein aisa aadmi tha jaankar khushi hui ...aur itna accha wrester!

Its amazing yaar.. i feel like knowing more and more about his exploits
so i searched and searched
Gama the Great


The thing is ..jab site par se page jaayegaa to idhar se pic bhi jayeega...aisa apun ko lagta hai.... so `uill havta just save it 2 ure hdd tantrik... ne way.. pic ka url leyoo..aur [.img][./img]
ke beech mein daalo.. without . ofcourse





INDIAN NATIONALISM AND THE WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS OF 1910 AND 1928

by Joseph Alter


The purpose of this article is to understand the relationship between Indian wrestling and Indian nationalism during the first quarter of the 20 century. The world wrestling championships of 1910 and 1928 are interpreted within the context of growing nationalist sentiments in North India during this era. Information collected on modern Indian wrestling during a year of field research in Banaras is used to shed light on the relationship between nationalism and the body politics of wrestling. I will argue that wrestling tournaments were a form of dramatic protest against imperial power and colonial authority


Since American and European wrestling is regarded by most people as a rudimentary form of sport which enjoys limited popularity, it is necessary to begin by dispelling any such preconceptions with regard to Indian wrestling. Indian wrestling, known variably as kushti, pehlwani, or mallayudha, is very much like olympic free-style wrestling. The techniques and rules are virtually the same. Although wrestling in India may be called a profession, it is not a professional sport. Moreover, it is very different from the popularized burlesque performance known as American professional "rasslin" which appears on syndicated television. While Indian wrestling is a sport which attracts large crowds, it is, more significantly, a moral, ethical and physical way of life which defines unique parameters for self-definition in Indian society. The moral and ethical features of wrestling implicate it in the ideology of nationalism.

In order to illustrate the relationship between wrestling and nationalism it is best to consider the present situation and then reflect back on the political environment of the early part of the century.

Nationalism and the Body of the Wrestler

Wrestling is organized around the institutional structure of an akharda or gymnasium. Each akharda has between 40 and 60 members ranging in age from 15 to 60 with most being about 20 years old. Each akharda is run by a guru who disciplines his wards and instructs them in the fine art of wrestling. He also teaches them the moral and ethical philosophy which underlies the physical training and exercise regimens which structure the wrestlers every day life.

A wrestler's life is strictly regimented. At 3 am he wakes, performs his ablutions and goes to the akharda. At the akharda he wrestles and exercises until about 8 am. After practice he relaxes and bathes. Once his body has cooled down he drinks a mixture of milk, ghee and almonds. Later he eats a regular meal and if his regimen is strict he will spend the better part of the day resting. In the evening he will bathe again and return to the akharda at which time he will perform various exercises to strengthen his shoulders, thighs, lower back and neck. By 8 or 9 pm he is in bed.

Time does not permit me to describe every aspect of the wrestler's daily regimen. Suffice to say that each detail - from how, where and in what position to sleep, when to defecate, what to eat, what to wear and how and with what to brush ones teeth - is all carefully spelled out and explained in terms of its particular value in the overall scheme of health and fitness.

In addition to the disciplinary regimen of exercise, a wrestler's life is defined by strict moral rules. Paramount is the injunction of self-control and anti-sensuality. A wrestler must be a celibate bhramacharya because semen is regarded as the primary source of strength.

The concept of bhramacharya goes far beyond the basic control of ones sexuality. It structures one's attitude towards the sensory world of material objects. Thus, while it is crucial that a wrestler not engage in sexual intercourse, it is equally important that he not be concerned with material gain. Moreover, a wrestler must avoid such things as tobacco, alcohol, tea and coffee, sour and spicy foods as well as meat. All of these things are thought to enrage a person's passion and thus make the practice of bhramacharya impossible. Similarly a wrestler must turn his back on such modern evils as cinema and film. From the perspective of the wrestler, the modern Hindi film has come to represent all that is wrong with modern society: greed, fantasy, lust, disparities in wealth, loose morals, escapism and misdirected goals. Cinema halls are the target of a modern nationalistic rhetoric which emerges from the akharda. But film is but one manifestation of what wrestlers see as a much larger ethical problem. Calendar art, modern magazines, so-called chap pornographic literature and a host of other morally suspect materials - including television - are targeted for their corrupting influence. All of these things combined have conspired to erode the moral fiber of the nation.

The wrestler's view of modern India is very critical since his point of reference is the epic heroism of Ram Chander, Hanuman, Krishna, Arjun and Bhim. In this light the moral fiber of the modern world is weak indeed and heroism is virtually nonexistent. Traditional and modern institutions alike are regarded with cynicism. Out of this cynicism, however, emerges a utopian vision of national reform based on principles of ethical and physical reconstitution. In an article from the popular journal Bhartiya Kushti entitled "The True Wrestler is God" (1972-73) Dr. Shanti Prakash Atreya, one time U.P. champion writes:

These days the strength of society - not only in the villages but everywhere - is being spent on intoxicants of all kinds. Our energy should be spent building strength and wisdom. In this way we can prevent the wastage of our national wealth….

It is my prayer that the people of India send their children to the akhardas. Send your children to learn the knowledge of wrestling… It is essential to turn your children into wrestlers. Only with your effort can the condition of the nation improve. The true wrestler is god (1972-73: 21-24).

The appeal of national reform based on moral and physical reconstitution is visionary and therefore emotionally charged. In a poem on the subject Ramchandar Kesriya appeals to wrestlers - the diamonds of the red earth - to become moral reformers.

Virtuous, we will teach the world true duty.
As the diamonds of the red earth,
We will build the nations pride.
As the burning lamps of energy we will teach peace.
Tearing asunder the veil of darkness,
We will call forth a new day of brightness.
Weakness will be removed from the face of the earth.
Strength and Manhood will be fostered.
The shadow of fraud, conceit and deceit will be removed.
As the diamonds of the red earth,
We will make the nation proud.

In the vision of utopian reform the burden of responsibility is placed squarely on the individual's shoulder. Although the target of reform is corrupt society and eroded social institutions, the agent of reform is the individual who must take responsibility for his own actions. Thus personal virtues such as self-discipline, exercise, devotion, respect and world-renunciation are lauded as the primary building blocks - the new corner stones - of a nation being built from the rubble of moral demise. As. K. P. Singh writes:

Practice self-denial. Go to the villages. Be an ascetic for your work. Spread the work and do it with missionary zeal. If a wrestler only gives a fraction of himself and goes to the villages, thousands of young people will crowd around him and dig and akharda. The roots will then run deep and it will not take long to build up a tower [of moral and physical strength] (1972: 47).

The wrestling ideology emerges, if not directly, at least indirectly in response to the changes brought about by rapid and dramatic westernization. As such, the utopian vision of national reform is a counter critique designed to advocate an alternative framework form modern India. A realization of this utopia is, of course, not eminent. Wrestling is very popular but it does not have a wide appeal. Nevertheless, the wrestling ideology emerges as a coherent if largely muted voice.

What is significant about the wrestling ideology is that its history may be traced back to the late 19th and early 20th century. This was a period of strong if disparate nationalistic sentiments, and a time when imperial influence was being questioned and challenged on numerous fronts.

Early 20th Century Nationalism and Physical Culture

The latter half of the 19th century saw the rapid growth and extensive penetration of colonial institutions into the structure of Indian society. In Bengal particularly, but also in other urbanizing centers, the Hindu elite were taking advantage of educational opportunities and finding employment in the administrative and legal branches of the government. For various reasons, which John Rosselli (1980) had discussed in some detail, the Bengali Hindu elite were stereotyped as effeminate, weak-need and generally lacking in masculine virtues. All Bengalis, irrespective of whether or not they affected the character of a low ranking clerical worker, were thought of as "soft-bodied little people" and "lilliputian in size and weak in constitution" and "physically about the weakest people in India" (1980: 122-123). Although this stereotype was ascribed to the Bengali by Englishmen, over time it became a pejorative self-image. Such eminent Bengalis as Vivekananda, Bankim Chandra Chaterjee and Rabindranath Tagore came to regard the Bengali physical constitution as in need of serious overhaul.

In 1866 Rajnarayan Basu drafted a prospectus for a Nationality Promotion Society. One of the primary tasks of this society was to promote "national physical exercises" and to revive the akharda as an institution to develop fitness and character. A year later the Tagore family started a Hindu Mela which sponsored, among other things, wrestling tournaments and demonstrations of physical prowess. In 1876 Bipan Chandra Pal founded a secret society to promote physical strength and disciplined self-control (ibid: 127). During the 1860s and 70s there seems to have been a fairly widespread resurgence of interest in akharda culture and physical fitness generally and wrestling specifically. During the 1890s and particularly in the first decade of the 20th century, physical culture came to be associated with active protest against imperial authority. Swadeshi activism in Bengal was in part inspired by a resurgent interest in physical and moral strength. In the late 1920s and the early 1930s this resurgence took more concrete form. Physical culture clubs were established and members subscribed to strict rules of self-discipline (ibid: 131). While these clubs seem to have served as training centers for the terrorist activities, I do not think that terrorism became the primary motive for gymnasium membership. The discipline and physical training provided by the clubs was, in and of itself, a radical form of self-redefinition within the larger cultural environment of imperialism. While some gymnasiums may have subscribed to terrorism as a form of protest against formal injustices, the ideology of physical culture was, in fact, more a movement of ethical reform than of active agitation.

Although the association between physical education and national identity may have been strongest in Bengal, there is evidence that akharda culture - as an ideology of physical and moral fitness - gained popularity throughout India after the turn of the century.

In the Kohlapur, Sangli and Poone districts of Mahaharshtra, where wrestling is still very popular today, Lokmanya Tilak called on young Maratha men to follow in the footsteps of Shivaji and develop interest in akharda culture and the art of wrestling. In a speech he called on students and youth to be "devoted to strength and celibacy." (Patodi 1973: 62). Madan Mohan Malaviya, who was largely responsible for establishing Banaras Hindu University was a great supporter of wrestling as a means to health. He argued that along with schools, every village should have an akharda and that physical training was an essential part of basic education (Patodi 1972: 13).

In the 1920s a number of Indian educators became concerned that young men in India were being taught European gymnastics and such western sports as football, hockey and cricket to the exclusion of Indian sports and exercise. In response to this, gymnasia were established in Baroda, Ujjain, Amrothi, Banaras and Madras to train instructors in Indian style physical education. The idea was that trained instructors would then introduce Indian athletics and sports such as wrestling into school curriculums. Kashi Vyayamshala in Banaras is still active and although it suffers from an endemic lack of government support those who are in charge continue to speak in terms of a burgeoning ideology of national health.

While many leaders of the freedom movement advocated wrestling as a means to national health, and a few such as Malaviy and Tilak exercised at akhardas, it was the Indian prices who were most successful in championing the cause of wrestling. The Maharaja of Indor, The Gaikward of Baroda, Shahu Tripathi of Kohlapur and the rulers of Allwar, Datiya, Darbhanga, and Patiala all sponsored numerous wrestlers and often took part in wrestling practice themselves. As Patodi writes:

The kings and prince of India did not sponsor wrestling simply because it was entertaining. They sponsored this art because it underscored their power and also because it fostered a sense of unity (Patodi 1972: 12).

The Raja of Aundh, Bhawanrao Pantpratinidhi, clearly supported traditional Indian physical culture as a means toward national strength and unity. He particularly advocated the practice of Suryanamaskar which is part of the more general wrestling regimen of many akhardas. In the forward to D. C. Mazumdar's Encyclopedia of Indian Physical Culture he writes:

If our boys and girls, mean and women will regularly practice Suryanamaskars … there will shortly be produces a type of humanity that shall excel in body, mind, and soul more than any that the earth has yet brought forth… (Mazumdar 1950: unpaged front matter).

By no ones account was the early part of this century a golden age of wrestling revival. Nevertheless, many of the older wrestlers recall this period as a time when wrestling was a matter of national pride. To a large extent the nationalistic sentiments which are expressed to day harken back to this period as a time of moral and physical restitution.

The turn of the century saw the raise of Swadeshi sentiments among many of the Indian elite. A major feature of the Swadeshi movement was a renewed pride in "things Indian" - home spun Khadi cloth in particular. On the level of ideological sentiment, and to a lesser but more complicated extent on the level of political action, Swandeshi represented a spirit of reappropriation. It was, in many ways, an appeal to all Indians to take pride in the fruits of their own labor. On a political and ideological level Swandeshi was in direct confrontation with both the administration and economy of Imperial rule. Advocacy for homespun khadi cloth was a clear statement of economic and ideological insurgency. If khadi was a symbolic reappropriation of cloth made by Indians for Indians, wrestling may be seen as the symbolic reappropriation of the body in a similar light. The performance of uniquely Indian forms of exercise and the celebration of strength built on national moral virtues was a symbolic rejection of physical and cultural subordination.

It is in this context of political insurgency and against the backdrop of a pervasive though muted advocacy for wrestling as a nationalist ideology that we may now turn to a consideration of Gama's epic wrestling bouts in England and India.

Gama in England and India

There is no figure who epitomizes the ethical, moral and physical ideal of wrestling more than Gama, a relatively low-class rural-born Muslim who became the court wrestler of the Maharaja of Patiala. Virtually every popular article on Indian wrestling pays verbal homage to Gama. He is often called - in an odd twist of religious identity - the "Krishna of the Kaliyug," and his strength was said to be simply incomparable. In another instance he is described as an incarnation of Bhim, the epic padava hero of the Mahabharata. At the age of twelve he impressed the Raja of Datiya by doing more bethaks (deep knee bends) than any other wrestler in the king's employ.

As a young wrestler Gama distinguished himself by winning numerous contests and by sticking arduously to his regimen of diet, exercise and practice. According to one writer (Atreya 1984) Gama was the perfect embodiment of wrestling virtues. He was devoted to god, perfectly self-controlled, humble yet self-confident and committed to physical fitness as a way of life.

In 1910 the John Bull Society of London organized a world wrestling championship bout to which wrestlers the world over were invited. A Bengali millionaire, Sharatkumar Mitra, sponsored Gama and three other wrestlers who went to London by way of Italy and Paris. Gama and the others were not the first wrestlers to fight in international contests. Gulam, a famous wrestler of the late 19th century as well as many others had been to Burma, Japan and Paris to compete in various tournaments. What is significant, however, is that Gama was going to fight with British champions in London, the very bastion of Imperial power.

Upon arriving in London, however, Gama and the others were disappointed for Gama, only 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing a scant 14 stone was regarded as too small and unknown to take on the world class athletes who had assembled. Undaunted, Gama signed up with a local theater at a salary of £25 per week, and put out a general challenge saying that he would give £5 to any wrestler who could throw him down in under 5 minutes.

On the first day of the challenge only 3 wrestlers came forward and they were all easily beaten. On the second day Gama succeeded in defeating 10 British wrestlers one after the other in a matter of a few minutes. On the basis of this success Gama's sponsors were able to arrange a bout with Stanley Zbyszko, the world champion Polish wrestler.

On September 12, 1910 Gama and Zbyszko met at Sheperds Bush Stadium. Although Zbyszko weighed 55 pounds more than Gama the Times gives the following descriptions of the bout.

Zbyszko, though in perfect health and the model of herculean strength, pursued a policy of passive resistance from first to last … [F]or nearly three hours he spread himself face down on the mat, evading his busy antagonist… [and] when in danger of being pulled over and pinned out, crawling laboriously to the edge of the mat. Thrice he got up and made a futile attack - when the Indan's vast superiority in open play was at once apparent - and he was only to glad to resume his prone position (Illustrated Weekly of India, February 7, 1960).

On account of the lateness of the hour, the bout was postponed until the following day. However, Zbyszko did not show up and so the world championship belt was awarded to Gama.

As one can well imagine, the Indian press was quick to report on Gama's success. Tilak's Marathi newspaper the Kesari had created a fervent patriotic spirit in many parts of western India and Gama's heroics fed directly into a mood of growing national pride. Other patriotic newspapers in the Punjab, United Provinces and Bengal were quick to pick up on such quotes from the Times as "Gama rode gaily on Zbyszko's back and slapped him contemptuously…" In a word, Gama's triumph was India's triumph.

It is significant, however, that Gama's win did not represent a simple sporting triumph over the English. One must remember that Gama was the embodiment of wrestling as a moral, spiritual, and physical way of life. His success was, therefore, indicative of far more than mere skill and brute force. Gama proved that strength itself did not have to be construed in English terms. Although relatively small in stature Gama had a kind of energy and stamina which emerged, in equal parts, from his absolute moral self-control, his diet, and his strict regimen of uniquely Indian Exercises. The Times of Aug 9th picked up on this point, albeit somewhat obliquely, by contrasting Gama's "fluid physique" with that of the American wrestler Roller's pugilistic might. The contest, it was reported, would determine the relative merits of the "oriental physique" vs the occidental strong man.

Gama returned to India as a national hero. He was recruited by the Maharaja of Patiala as the courts preeminent wrestler. Gama fought numerous bouts in India, one of the most spectacular being in Allahabad against Rahim Sultaniaa. In 1922 when the Prince of Wales visited India he honored Gama by giving him a 30 seer silver mace. One observer wrote "seeing Gama with this mace it would appear that the epic hero Bhim had been reincarnated" (Patodi 1984: 34).

In 1928 the Maharaja of Patiala organized an industrial and agricultural trade fair which, according to the Lahore Tribune of January 29th, was "designed to break down the barriers between the backwaters of Indian village life and the main currents of our existence in the state" (1928: 4). On exhibit were various indigenous products such as hookha bowls, shawls, rope, cotton cloth, silk, carpets and numerous other things unique to the Punjab. There were, apparently, also examples of improved agricultural methods developed by the Patiala state. The exhibition was clearly a demonstration of Indian technological prowess.

On the occasion of this trade fair, to which many royal persons and foreign dignitaries were invited, the Maharaja arranged a spectacular rematch between Gama and Zbyszko. A stadium to accommodate 40, 000 spectators was built and equipped with huge spotlights in case, as had happened 18 years previously, the bout was to go on into the night. The newspapers advertised the bout well in advance and Zbyszko's journey to India was charted in the columns of the Lahore Tribune and other papers.

On January 28 the bout was scheduled to start at 4:00 pm and it is reported that people had traveled from many parts of the country to witness the fight. Among the notables were the Nawab of Bhopal, the Maharana of Dholpur, the Majaraja of Kapurthalai, Sir Leslie Scott, Sir Harcourt Butler and numerous others.

Zbyszko was late arriving and the contest did not get underway until 4:15. The bout had hardly started when Gama grabbed the 300 pound Zbyszko by one foot and kicking out his other leg sent him crashing to the ground in 42 seconds. As one observer noted: "The stadium erupted in one voice cheering 'India has won! India has won!'" The Maharaja came down and embraced Gama and gave him the pearl necklace he was wearing. A parade was organized and Gama rode on the Maharaja's prize elephant. He was awarded a silver mace, and annual stipend of 6000 Rs and a village.

As in 1910, the newspapers were quick to report on Gama's smashing success. The defeated Zbyszko was quotes as saying "Gama, you are truly a tiger!"

While Gama was clearly the most well known wrestler of this period, the extent and nature of his fame makes sense only in the larger context of the political environment of the time. In the mid 1920s the Hindu Mahasabha sponsored wrestling tournaments as part of its appeal for Hindu revival. There are also indications that in Kohlapur and Sangli as well as in Bengal wrestling was being used as a medium through which patriotism was being expressed in local regional terms.

Gandhi's philosophy was also becoming firmly entrenched during the late 1920s. While the Simon Commission of late 1927 brought a strong reaction from nationalist leaders such as Lala Lajpat Rai, Gandhi's appeal was for civil disobedience without violence. With growing Hindu-Muslim tension, increased police violence, and terrorist activities in both Bengal and the Punjab, wrestling came to represent if not the eminent climax and resolution of tension, at least the nature of the bitter struggle. Even for Gandhi who advocated passive resistance, the metaphors for political action were strength and courage. In a letter to the Lahore Tribune Nehru criticized those who referred to Gandhi as "effate and fossilized". "He is," Nehru wrote, "the supreme example of latter day India, of all that is good in youth - action and energy, courage and daring, perseverance and resolution" (1928: 9).

In spite of the fact that wrestling exemplifies martial combat and aggressive physical confrontation, violence is not its primary ideological referent. During the first quarter of this century wrestling was seen as a form of moral and ethical resistance cast in graphically physical terms. In the context of growing nationalistic sentiments, Gama's dramatic victories clearly exemplified the moral and physical primacy of wrestling as a way of life and as a form of protest.

Emerging form the era of the nationalist struggle, wrestling as a way of life has become codified as an ideology of ethical reform. Although imperialism is no longer perceived as a political threat, and freedom has long since been achieved, the wrestling ideology continues to be structured in opposition to the perceived threat of western values. In the rhetoric of a modern wrestling advocate one can hear the general nationalistic appeal which was embodied by Gama and other early 20th century wrestlers:

Now is the time, the demand of the hour, the appeal of history and the nations urgent call: go to the akhardas! We must denounce the path of delusion and insincerity and turn instead along the path of health and strength. There we will find shakti and our competence will grow. There we will realize our full potential (Akhardon ki Aur ND: 4-5).

About the author:

Joseph Alter teaches Anthropology at UC Berkeley.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Atreya, Shanti Prakash

1972-73 "Saccha Pehlwan Devta Hoti Hai." Bhartiya Kushti 10, no. 7, 8, 9: 21-24

1984 "Gama ki Kushti Sadhana." Bhartiya Kushti 21, no. 1: 41-52

Kherdawda, Ramchandra Kesriya

1978 "Bharat ki Shan Bardayenge." Bhartiya Kushti 16, no. 4, 5, 6: 28

Lahore Tribune, January 29th 1928

Mazumdar, D. C.

1950 Encyclopedia of Indian Physical Culture. Baroda: Good Companions.

Patodi, Ratan

1972 "Kushti pare se Manoranjan Kar Samapth Ho! Gaun-Gaun me Kushti Pratiyogitan Ho!" Bhartiya Kushti 9, no. 7, 8, 9: 11-14

1972 "Bharat me Pehlwani kese Panpe." Bhartiya Kushti 9, no. 10, 11, 12: 11-15

1973 Bhartiya Kushti Kala. Indor: Bhartiya Kushti Prakashan.

1984 "Akharde ka Hira, Gama." Bhartiya Kushti 21, no. 1: 23-48

Rajput, A. B.

1960 "Gama in Retirement." Illustrated Weekly of India, Feb. 7: 8-10

Rosselli, John

1980 "The Self-Image of Effeteness: Physical Education and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Bengal." Past and Present 86: 121-148

Singh, Himath Bahadur

ND "Sampadakiya." In Akharden ki Aur. Banaras: N. P. Shriwastav.

Singh, Kamala Prasad

1972 "Malla Vidhya aur Sarkar." Bhartiya Kushti 10, no. 1, 2, 3: 39-48

The Times. August 9, 1910.


http://www.yugantar.com/sum00/gama.html

Abhi bolega ke saala.. kidhar se to akhir history beech mein layeg a hi chirag.....

http://www.dawn.com/2000/02/28/spt13.htm
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  #9  
Old April 14th, 2002, 03:47 AM
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http://www.neowrestling.com/bios/gama.shtml

http://fp.sistema.f9.co.uk/Africa/As...alarticle1.htm

Stats:

Birth: 1882

Death: 1953

Height: 5'8"

Weight: 250 pounds

Matches: Claimed over 5,000

Losses: Claimed to have never lost once

Rivals: Rahim, Gulam Mohiuddin, and Stanislaus Zbyszko

_____
Oh man this guy must have been SOMETHING

BTW ..there`s another indian wresteler ..known as gama the great..who well is some singh fella..in wwf or something like that
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Old February 1st, 2008, 09:42 AM
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Re: Great Indian Pahelwan ... Gama Pahelwan

Quote:
Originally Posted by amal
have u heard abt Bharat Kesri Master Changiram he was from Haryana
Abay , his name was not Changiram but Chandagi Ram.More about him below .



Chandagi Ram (Kaliramna) was One of the best-known wrestlers of 60s and early 70s, who had a huge fan following throughout the country. Tall and well built, he was known as much for his wit and humour as for his reach and tricky holds over his opponents. He earned his name in the Indian style wrestling and his bouts always attracted huge crowds. His bouts against Mehr Din of Rajasthan for the 'Hind Kesari' title used to be packed with drama. With titles like 'Hind Kesari', 'Bharat Kesari', 'Bharat Bhim', 'RusCom-e-Hind' and 'Maha Bharat Kesari', he was the natural choice for the Arjuna Award in 1969 followed by the Padma Shri in 1971.

Born on 9 November 1937 in Kaliramna Jat gotra at 'Sisai' village in Hissar district of Haryana, Chandgi Ram passed his matriculation and then obtained a diploma in arts and crafts. For a short spell he served as a sepoy with the Jat Regimental Centre of the Indian Army and then picked up the job of a drawing teacher in a school. It was his stint as a school teacher that earned him the name of 'Master' and he came to be known as Master Chandgi Ram. The turban added to his stature.

Chandgi Ram started his wrestling career a bit late in life, at the age of 21 to be precise. He shot into fame with his victory in the National Championships, first at Ajmer in 1961 and then at Jaiandhar in 1962. In between he won the 'Hind Kesari' title in Delhi in 1962, a feat he was to repeat in Rohtak in 1968 and Indore in 1972. He also won the Delhi-based 'Bharat Kesari' title in 1968 and 1969 and the Lucknow-based 'Bharat Bhim' title in 1969 and 1970. He was crowned 'Rustom-e-Hind'in 1969.

The most impressive feat of his international career was the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok. Competing in the 100-kg class, he defeated the World Champion Amvani Abuifazi of Iran to claim a Gold Medal for the country. Two years later he represented India in the 1972 Olympic Games at Munich in Germany.

Chandgi Ram served as Additional Director of Sports in Haryana and also acted in two rims, playing the roles of Veer Ghatotkacha and Tarzan. He has still not lost touch with wrestling, a sport that gave him name and fame, He trains the budding wrestlers in his 'akhara' located on the banks of the Yamuna river in Delhi and has authored a book on wrestling, "Bhaniya Kuskti Ke DavPech".
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Old February 1st, 2008, 10:08 AM
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Re: Great Indian Pahelwan ... Gama Pahelwan

Chandagi Ram As in pahelwan Chandagi Ram Akhada near ISBT, Delhi??.... Monastery ke paas hai if I remember correctly...you can see a lot of musclemen practising there...

But...why did you reply afte 6 years, if you were around all these days....I don't think chirag is active here anymore...
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Old February 1st, 2008, 08:23 PM
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Re: Great Indian Pahelwan ... Gama Pahelwan

Quote:
Originally Posted by chitrala
Chandagi Ram As in pahelwan Chandagi Ram Akhada near ISBT, Delhi??.... Monastery ke paas hai if I remember correctly...you can see a lot of musclemen practising there...

But...why did you reply afte 6 years, if you were around all these days....I don't think chirag is active here anymore...

Don't know about the akhada , will find out and tell when I know , though there is a place in Delhi Janpath I guess ( though not sure) ...agli baar.

Replied after 6 years as I read it today only , the above post and since master chandagi ram was a familiar name since my childhood - searched on google to pull out the facts .

Intention was not to correct chirag / amal whoever but to correct the content of the site .

yaar being here for 6 years doesn't bounds you to read each and every post the same day / week/month/year of it being posted

I read very selective people / posts here
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Old December 1st, 2009, 12:37 PM
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Re: Great Indian Pahelwan ... Gama Pahelwan

Have been reading about so many strongman wrestlers of yesteryears who were lucky to be patronized by princely states and achieved world wide fame and recognition in there eras, so hats off to all those patronizers who helped these great indian wrestlers.But every wrestler was not lucky enough to be spotted,those wrestlers from areas which were away from these princely states were famous in only there small regions as they didn't get exposure or the luck was not on there side to be spotted for bigger arenas of wrestling.

One such pahelwan was Ch. Rati Ram Malik or nick named Rattia Mhaal of village Nangal Kheri or Gadi (shiva gadi) near the city of Panipat.He belonged to the JAT community.
Born in 1903 or 1904. This man was 6.4 inches in height and was true mascular specimen of the strength of the alaskan grizzly bears. His exercise routine included 10000 dands and 10000 baithaks, in doing his baithaks he carried two men on his shoulders,he used to lift a concrete roller called GIRDI in haryanvi, which is used for agricultural purposes ,it weighs around 350 to 400 kgs and is still present in this village.Only after watching this GIRDI can ONE imagine the monstrous strength of RATIA PAHELWAN.He used to eat 1 kg of ghee once at a time, 15 kgs of milk along with loads of dry fruits.He ate a vegetarian diet.

Old folk tell how Ratia pahelwan once pulled a full grown male buffalo from a village well single handedly tied with a rope , once while he was having his food a full grown ass started honking near him he tried to shoo him away but the ass didn't pay heed so he caught hold of the ass with one of its legs and threw it away like a pillow.People said he caught a full grown male buffalo tied with a rope to its neck and the buffalo was made to run it wouldn't move against the strength of Ratia pahelwan such was his enormous strength. Once at the time of Ratia pahelwans older days in his 70's a man tried to check his famous strength, he purpose fully filled his bullock cart with sugar cane which everybody claimed was nearly 700 to 800 kgs and got it stuck in a drain and asked for Ratia pahelwans help. Ratia pahelwan took his shoulders under the bullock cart and asked the driver to move the cart forwards with the bullocks help but instead of making the cart go forward the man tried to take the cart backwards with the bullock's help but little did he imagine about Ratia pahelwans enormous strength that the whole bullock cart along with load and the bullock went rolling forwards from the ditch .Hence we can imagine how strong he would have been in his heydays it is unbelievable.

It is said that he threw his opponents in matter of seconds ,all these sayings of his enormous super human strength are proved only after one watches the GIRDI which he lifted for his strength training,it still lies in the village Nangal Kheri, todays wrestlers and power lifters try to lift it but even 5 or 6 of them can only move it , few of them have got there wrists broken trying to lift it. Had this super human called RATIA MAAL got the required exposure he would have pinned all the wrestlers during the 1920s to 1950 the time of his prime.With no disrespect to some famous pahelwans of that era it was there good fortune that Ratia Pahelwan remained famous only the region from sonipat to kurukshetra and was not patronised by a princely state. Once this famous wrestler was spotted by a British Officer who took Ratia Pahelwan who was a 20 year old then and told him to join British Army and train as pahelwan under British. But he didn't took the offer as he was a nationalist to the core. Only if he had taken this opportunity for a bigger stage he would have got the fame he deserved .

Older folk in the village nangal kheri say they didn't knew much about Gama Pahelwan and other big wrestling names as there were no means to get such news in that era as it was a backward area then and moreover there was nobody to guide Ratia Pahelwan as his elder brother had an untimely death who was equally strong and wanted to make his younger brother Ratia Maal a wrestler whose mere mention would make wrestlers lose the sleep as he had seen the monstrous strength of his younger sibling, Ratia Pahelwan was only 15 when his elder brother died,people say he challenged Ratia pahelwan in his training days to till one acre of land with plough pulled by Ratia Pahelwan and one acre of land ploughed by a pair of oxens and Ratia Pahelwan did it before the oxens could plough one acre such was his super human strength .

People say had there village been close to any of the princely states and like royal patrons Indor, Kolhapur, Rampur Patiyala who famously gave a big filip to wrestling, the story of world champion would have been different.There are no records of Ratia Maals wrestling bouts but people say that once in a wresting dangal(competiton) in a nearby annual fair a famous wrestler from Uttar Pradesh who was 6.9 feet in height and who famously had animal strength to tear people apart, challenged all jats from delhi to kurukshetra that he would smash two jat wrestlers to the ground at a time at this point Ratia Maal accepted his challenge and within seconds Ratia Maal pinned this 6.9feet big giant on the ground and caught him from his feet and hurled him towards a tree bark like a doll at this moment the big giant from uttar pradesh was terrified and was trembling with fear he fell at Ratia Maal's feet and begged for his life and vowed never to use such egoist language in his life again.People saw Ratia Pahelwans real strength that day that how he threw such a big and heavy man like a gudia (doll).

The people in these areas claim that this fair, handsome and powerfull pahelwan called RATIA MAAL was five times as powerfull as the GAMA pahelwan and that RATIA MAAL would have defeated the great Gama in seconds such was the enormous strength and technique of this POWERFULL HULK called RATIA MAAL who is hidden from the pages of Indian wrestling history.
COME AND VISIT village NANGAL KHERI adjacent to National Fertiliser Lmtd. near the famous town PANIPAT and have a look at the concreate roller (GIRDI) and one can imagine the super human strength of RAATIA PAHELWAN.
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Old December 1st, 2009, 01:28 PM
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Re: Great Indian Pahelwan ... Gama Pahelwan

Do you have some more details of this pehelwan? Since you have joined and posted directly about this topic, I was interested to know more.
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Old December 2nd, 2009, 04:16 AM
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Re: Great Indian Pahelwan ... RATIA MAAL (PEHELWAN)

would post more on this wrestler and would try to get the photos as well.
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