The saying “A Wrestler is born, not made” immediately reminds us of the Bollywood flick Sultan which is based on the rise and fall of the wrestler, Sultan Ahmed Khan. Although the movie draws the audience to the actors brilliant portrayal of the character, many of us stand deprived of the reality of these wrestlers who belong to the Heritage Communities of Kolkata (performing in Akharas) that are nearly on the verge of extinction, says Ritesh Ghosh.
10 Stunning Images of Akharas in Kolkata – A practice on the verge of extinction
There are only a handful of them left in the city who are trying their best to keep the age old art of ‘Kushti’ (Mud Wrestling) alive. In one of the recent Photography Workshops organized by Future Media School, a select few photographers (including myself) got the opportunity to interact and spend time with these wrestlers at their Akhara (Desi Gym) situated at Mullick Ghat.
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While most of the city was fast asleep on a cold winter morning, these wrestlers/pehelwans had already started their warm-up session. Bare-bodied, the only thing visible on them was a piece of cloth called ‘langot’. A common warm-up session included freehand exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups and rolling of the gada.
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An average session lasts for about 30 minutes before the wrestlers take on each other at the Akhara. The few who are practising at these Akharas belong to the financially weaker sections of the society. They can’t afford to pay for their daily diet of milk and almonds, leave alone the hefty membership fees of the modern Gyms.
Swami Gyaan Yoganand Purimath is another such place that houses a century old traditional Gym /Akhara. The Akhara is open seven days a week and operates in two time slots. Unlike the Akharas at Mullick Ghat this one has a lot of kids aged 7-13 years who come in regularly to get trained in the art of wrestling. The Akhara is open seven days a week and operates in two time slots. They undergo rigorous warm up exercises under the supervision of their trainers or ’Gurus’.
Being weak or falling out is a punishable offence. Speaking to one senior member at the Akhara, I came to learn that pehelwani (wrestling) requires following of a strict diet regimen and leading a disciplined life. The practise of wrestling makes an individual develop his inner strength and power rather than external muscles. This helps him stay fit and active in the long run.