The flamboyant game of Indian wrestling has been a neglected has been a feature of Indian village life for a long period of time. Wrestling was mentioned in the great epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata and many more; it is followed by the majority of people in rural areas in India.
Rural people organise more than three hundred mega wrestling events ever year, particularly in the form of traditional Dangles which have a cultural and religious ethos of wellness and prosperity across the society.
The training and preparation for such events give the village a group focus and a local champion builds a sense of pride within the community.
Kushti is located at the intersection of sports, politics, culture and economy in the rural regions of Maharashtra. Wrestling exists in urban areas, but the wrestlers are from the villages, mostly from poor farming families.
Kushti is a route out of poverty, a striving for status, for the rural poor. Nearly 90 per cent of them are from poor farming families, the rest are the children of landless labourers, carpenters, and so on. None are from the educated classes. Wrestling is also a passion. Barely five per cent of pehelwans make it to higher levels.
Scant government support
Despite the many champions they’ve produced — and despite top political leaders heading their federations — the gurus of kushti have received little support from government. It’s a complaint across western Maharashtra that Punjab and Haryana treat their wrestlers a lot better.
Obviously there are health benefits. Vyayam or physical training is meant tobuild strength and develop muscle bulk and flexibility. Exercises that employ the wrestler’s own body-weight include the SuryaNamaskara, shirshasana, and the danda, which are also found in hathayoga, as well as the bethak. Sawari (from Persian savâri, meaning “the passenger”) is the practice of using another person’s body-weight to add resistance to such exercises.
Traditional wrestling arenas are made from mitti (mud-clay). Preparing the mitti for wrestling, in hundreds of villages, is a complex job involving lots of labour. Mixed into it are amounts of curd, limewater, ghee and haldi. The last for curative purposes as wrestlers often suffer injuries. (In a few cases, small amounts of minced meat go into the mitti mix.)
Traditional mitti (mud-clay) wresting arena.
The standard-size mat measuring 40 feet by 40 feet costs around Rs.7 lakh ($9000 US). This is far beyond the reach of tiny village taleems that cannot afford even smaller sizes. If everyone switched to mats, most local tournaments might fold, argue traditionalists. Some predict it would “do to Indian wrestling what astro-turf has done to Indian hockey. Local communities could not afford it and India and Pakistan lost their dominance over that sport.
Mat wrestling makes for speed and bouts are over in a couple of minutes. A wresting bout on mitti can go on for 25 minutes. If the players from our area do not have the opportunity and facilities to practice on the modern mat surface they opportunity for progressing towards a professional career is greatly reduced.
To protect the surface of the mat from the sun and the monsoon, this area will need to be covered. As wee as sourcing recycled materials and donations from local construction builds we will need to pay for the materials we are not gifted.
“Our plan is to construct two arenas, one using the traditional rural method based on mitti and the other on matting which will allow our players a better chance in the competitive game.”
Amol Shide, Project Manager – Pandavgad Rural Action Group
As well as the two arenas we are creating an outdoor exercise area. This will be sand covered space with fencing around (to keep animals out) which will contain climbing apparatus, parallel bars, and other items of training equipment.
What we need.
Here is a breakdown of our costings for this project. We are seeking sponsorship, donations of materials, volunteers and financial contributions to help up achieve our aim.
- Perimeter Fencing – Rs. 2 lakh – approx $2,800 US
- Mitti Arena – Rs. 2 lakh – approx $2,800 US
- Matting Arena with covering roof – Rs 5 lakh – approx – $7,000 US
- Practice Area – Rs. 3 lakh – approx – $4,200 US
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