Kushti or pehalwani is one of the most ancient sports of India. I got a chance to document/shoot some of the oldest Akhadas. One of those just celebrated 100 years in 2011.
Shooting Akhadas was on my bucket list from a long time. I didn’t get a chance to shoot at any of the Varanasi’s famous Akhadas.
This sports is now limited to the narrow alleys of cities and towns. Everyone was so busy that they barely had time to watch or participate in such sports but now, this sports is resurrected again and getting the much deserved attention from everyone. People nowadays, not only enjoy watching the wrestling but actively coming forward to be trained at the Akhadas. Even foreigners seemed to have developed an interest to witness this sports in many small towns or villages.
So, in my city- Delhi – I chanced upon another such akhada, located at the beautiful Delhi. I got a chance to shoot there.
Watching these body builders fighting and working out is a great moment. The Golden rays of the sun makes the entire surrounding more attractive. I was more concentrated on capturing their moves in my shot.
How hard these pehalwans workout is really impressive! Their energy level and JUNOON/enthusiasm of doing better, sometimes makes you energetic too.
These Pehalwans were practicing/fighting while their 2 Guru/Instructors/Ustad were telling them- what to do and what they are doing wrong.
The soil of the akhada is considered sacred by the pehalwans, they rub it against their forehead and bodies when they first step into the akhada’s ground and while doing kushti. The soil is mixed with Milk, Oil, Lemon, Curd, and Ghee. They also mix water 2-3 days before so that mud become thick and it won’t scatter off while practicing. Even when they are competing against eachother and trying to get more points- they do take care of their opponents. Their moves and actions are not harmful for their opponents. It’s good to see that how dedicated and passionate these pehalwans are for this sport. I also met few young pehalwans during this assignment who come here everyday (except tuesday and sunday) for practice, suddenly while talking to some of them, I saw very a young kid who was also there to learn pehalwani.
Young pehalwans were excited and happy to see that someone is photographing them, which made me more happy.