Sultans of Strength | Wrestling Culture In India | Documentary About Desi Kushti & Dangals


Kushti is a physical art. It is a means of expressing physicality. Strength. A means of developing, enforcing and maintaining strength. This is what kushti wrestling is. All pahalwans (Kushti Wrestlers) begin in the mud. Nobody starts learning kushti on the mat, in India. Everyone learns kushti, in their village akhara (Mud Wrestling Pit). Kushti wrestling is learned in the mud and then comes to the mat. And the pahalwans who wrestle on the mat, also practice kushti in the mud. Traditional kushti matches last longer, so fighters have more stamina. …that is another benefit of kushti wrestling, in the mud. After India’s Olympic Medals, in wrestling, people have become more aware and embraced Kushti. People have become aware of a sport called Kushti and that is a very good thing. Mud wrestling (Kushti), also greatly benefits mat wrestling technique. Pahalwans! Please move away from the front of the stage! This kushti match, is being presided over by – The respected Headman of our community – Mr. Junaid Farookh Faridi! In the village of Ratol, located in the district of Paatpat (UP, India) The pride and joy of the state of UP! And the several distinguished guests, seated by his side! It is with God’s divine blessings and grace – And with much joy and happiness, that today – The second annual fair, of the Saint Makhdoom Sirajuddin, is being held here! Which one of you has the courage to fight this pahalwan (wrestler)?! Whoever has the courage to fight this man, will get Rs. 3100 from me, personally! A good cricket kit, will cost atleast Rs. 10,000 and a poor man cannot afford that. That much money can last a kushti wrestler 4-5 months. Cricketers have to buy good pads and shoes, whereas a wrestler just runs barefoot. A pahalwan can practice in a bare patch of earth – that is all that he needs. His parents are usually poor – they can either buy him food, or a sports kit. But not both. A pahalwan buys a loin cloth for Rs. 50 and goes off to train for kushti. Instead of spending thousands on a sports kit, he can buy almonds and bananas for himself. Though poor, a pahalwan has the purest soul, out of any athlete. Do you want to know my routine? – Yes, tell me. I start my day by eating Apple Preserves and then go freshen up and go for a run. This is followed by a tablespoon full, of a good workout. My physique is huge…it needs it’s daily dose of exercise. After a few rounds of kushti sparring, I do 500 push ups and squats. Then I dig the wrestling pit, lift dumbbells and climb the rope. After resting for a bit and cooling down, I drink juice and eat raisins. Once I’m done with the raisins, I wolf down anything that comes my way. – You lunge at anything at comes your way! – No! I CRUSH anything that comes my way! After this, I go to sleep and wake up, after exactly 1 hour. The wife makes me some rotis. I eat them and go for a short walk. After I’m done walking, I drink milk. By evening, I start getting the urge to do kushti again. So I run off to the akhara again. And the evening routine is pretty much the same as the morning. Yes, in the morning, my father has to kick me out of bed, in order to wake me up. Haven’t I told you enough now? Namaskar (Thank You). Meat is not meant for human consumption. People can say whatever they like, but only animals like the Tiger, can digest meat. If we consume meat, our character will change accordingly. We will develop a monstrous disposition and our thoughts will no longer be pure. And if our thought process is not good, then we will lose our virtue and morals. That is why we lay emphasis on a purely vegetarian diet. The maximum strength can be derived, only from a purely vegetarian diet. And the human body is designed to digest, only vegetarian food. So we should follow what our ancestors, elders and parents have taught us – Respect your elders, eat vegetarian food and lead a pure life – Wake up on time and work hard – good results will follow automatically. Kushti or Pahalwani and Asceticism, are the same things. Just as an ascetic is dedicated to his cause, so is a pahalwan dedicated to his. Just as an ascetic, is dedicated to realising god, by bringing his mind and senses under control – Similarly, a pahalwan (Kushti Wrestler), realises god, through the development of his strength. I used to be very weak. People would beat me up and I wasn’t able to stand up to them. I used to graze goats and came across a wrestling guru one day – Biresh Pahalwan, from Chhatarpur. One day, I requested him to let me train in his akhara (Mud Wrestling Pit). He gave me permission to train and slowly I began getting stronger and skilled in the art of pahalwani and kushti. He also gave me rich foods like gram and raisins, to supplement my diet. My clothes were worn and I couldn’t afford to buy new ones. Things were pretty bad, back then. Then I met my present guru – he saw me wrestle and offered to train me. When I started off, I used to fight other pahalwans in Dangals (Kushti Competitions), for Rs. 21. My guru told me that he would teach me to wrestle and within a short time, I’d be able to fight for Rs. 501, in dangals. He said he’d train me well and I’ve kept at it, ever since. There are no distinctions between hindus and muslims, in our village. Everyone in our village, as well as nearby areas, loves and respects Tasleem. His guru is a hindu, who runs the “Samandar Akhara.” Everyone loves to watch Tasleem wrestle and they even reward him, when he fights well. There is no distinction between Hindus and Muslims here. We all live together, in peace and harmony. I love fighting in dangals (kushti competitions), even though I get injured frequently. I’ve had several injuries over the last 6 years – both my knees have been operated upon. But the moment I recover from an injury, I feel like going to a dangal and fighting again. And despite having just recovered, I always wrestle well – my kushti matches always go well. I don’t stay down. I fight just as well after an injury, as I did before I got injured. I don’t care what I get payed. I just love fighting and doing kushti, in dangals. That is what gives me happiness. I want to tell all the viewers, that most of the kids in our village, are very interested in sports and games. Many of them want to be athletes, but the local government is not interested. The kids have prepared a running track, all by themselves, without any help from the government. We don’t even have running water here. Children have dug a bore well themselves, for water arrangements. We don’t have any machines or equipment and neither do we have a coach. It is difficult to make progress and stay motivated, in the absence of governmental support. I request the government to provide us more support and encourage children to become athletes.

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