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Wrestling, a true Indian sport both mythical and (8/13/2012)
--K. Arumugam
Indian wrestlers light up our London Olympics. Yogeswar Dutt (third Olympics, bronze now) and Sushil Kumar (third Olympics, bronze last time, now silver), with their timely feats on right stage, Olympics, lifted wrestling to a new level. Being a co-author of 'Great Indian Olympians' book, which Field Hockey Publications publish every four, I watch them with interest. Here is a piece on the "History of Wrestling'. This was published by Hindustan Times during the 2008 Olympics.

Wrestling is an Indian sports accidentally brought to limelight by the feat of Delhi's own Sushil Kumar during the last Olympics though long before one KD Jadhav did the same -- winning a bronze at the Olympics.

Like Chess, wrestling sports has its origin in India. Archeological Evidences exist how wrestling went to Greece and Egypt from where it spread to the rest of world. Indian wrestling stones of India dating back to about 5000 years were excavated in the Kayafji temple in Baghdad in 1938.

One can agree to the historicity of wrestling if one look at our mythological epics – Ramayana and Mahabharat. Bhim and Karna, Balram, brother of Lord Krishna, are wrestlers. Ramayana too is replete with wrestling heroes like Hanuman, Bali and Sugriv.

In the recorded sports history of India, wrestling predates every other sports in India including cricket and hockey. There is no second opinion on that. Its Mohuls who extended patronage to wrestling, before any homecrown kingdoms picked up the gauntlet from them. In those times, wrestling came to be identified with pride of common man, a must for soldiers and a great form of entertainment in 'courts'.

India had on its soils the heroes like Kikkar Singh, Karm Bux, Ghulam, Gama and Gobar even before Indian cricketers and hockey players had chance to cross the shores.

Karim Bux defeated Tom Canon of England in 1892, exactly 42 years before Indian hockey made its first foreign tour in 1926!

Another famous wrestler Ghulam defeated Kader Ali of Turkey in Paris in 1900 and became first Indian to be crowned the World Champion in any sport. Ghulam had the patronage of Motila Nehru, father of Jawaharlal Nehru. It was Nehru Sr. who accompanied Ghulam all the way to Paris.

Next year the title was successfully defended by Gobar in San Francisco and the loser was one Ali Santal.

However, the greatest wrestler that India ever produced is Gama. He stands head and shoulders above the galaxy of wrestling stars that dot the wide horizon of Indian wrestling history.

Legends has it that he was denied entry for the World Wrestling Championship in 1910 held in London. Because, according to the organizers, he was stood no chance. They thought his height of 5 feet and 5 inches and weight 250 lbs was far less than the other entries. Not to be cowed down, he threw open challenge that he would give 15 pounds to any one who could last more than five minutes against him. Like this, 15 challengers went dejected in just two days. This changed the mind of the organizers and Game got the entry. There was no stopping of him then. He went on to reach the final which lasted for three consecutive days. First two days it was a draw and for the last day his rival Zybisko failed to turn up! 8 years later same Zybisko fought in vain against Gama at Patiala. He was pinned down within 25 seconds.

Indian wrestling Federation was formed in 1948 which helped stereamline various form of wrestling into an Olympic format. With that the formats of All India Championships, which was first held in 1932 at Chennai, metamorphosed to suit the modern day requirements. For instance, pinning down the rival is sufficient in India for winning but there were other requirement in the world outside.

The Marata region in Maharashtra had been a wrestling belt and it was in the fitness of things this area produced the first ever Olympic medalist in wrestling – Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav. He earned 6th place in the 1948 Olympics and bronze four years later at Helsinki. His feats were not suitably rewarded except that he got his Arjuna posthumously in 2000!. However, Sushil Kumar was lucky to born in television era. He earned about Rs. 2 crores within one hour from his medal bout at Beijing. The second medal from wrestling is a tribute for long tradition of wrestling in India.

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