Silent arrogance

  • Photographer
    Anirban Mandal
  • Prize
    Honorable Mention
  • Company/Studios
    Anirban Mandal Photography
  • Date of Photograph
    June 2018
  • Technical Info
    Nikon D810, 20-35mm f2.8, 85mm f1.8

Indian mud wresting or Kushti (also known as Pehlwani) in Akharas (place of the wrestling and wrestlers) is not just an ancient sport but a way of life, taught through generations of Guru (Teacher) and Shishyas (pupils). The brotherhood of the men living in Akharas practice strict diet, discipline and sacrifice from distractions in order to prepare their bodies and minds, learning techniques, gathering strength and speed for the sport. Many Olympians representing India have come from these traditional Akharas.


The origin of the traditional wrestling of India is almost as old as the civilization, history of it can be traced back to 5000 BC. It is also mentioned in the great epic of the 'Mahabharata'. Over centuries it has changed forms with different cultures and races. South Asian wresting got influenced by Persian styles ('Pehlwani') and got strengthened during the Mughal empire period.
Today, this ancient art is still practiced religiously in a few corners of India, in numbered 'Akhara's and the skill is transferred to generations through a 'Guru' (Teacher) -'Shishya' (Pupils) relationship. The akhara is formed by members of varying ages, from young to elders, led by a 'Guru'. It is almost a holy place where 'Kushti' (another name of 'Pehlwani') or wrestling is a way of life, a form strict discipline and also a struggle because of lack of sponsorship and less popularity compared to popular games of cricket,soccer etc.
The warm up exercise starts at dawn with push ups, sit ups, ropes to heavy exercises with weights dumbbells, barbells, 'Gada's and 'Mugur's (heavy wooden and metal clubs with blunt heads). After the heavy sweating, the soil on the sparring ground is carefully examined. This soil has been nurtured with various ingredients, Ayurvedic (Traditional Indian Herb medicines) oils, Ghee (purified butter) etc. since months. The wrestling sparring or full contact 'Kushti' begin among the selected members as per schedule. the winner of a match takes on the next challenger , then rest and another set of wrestlers follow. The wrestlers smear the earth on their bodies and even on faces to prevent slipping from sweat. The wresting primarily aims at grabbing the opponents shoulders, maneuvering with moves to lift off the opponent from ground or removing his balance to pin him on the ground. But to do this actually, is a rather complex process and requires immense strength, skill, agility, concentration and definitely, courage.

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