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Indian Traditional Wrestling

Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee


Also known as Kushti, Indian traditional wrestling, is an ancient sport with a glorious past. Besides being a popular sport in the country, for some who train and practice rigorously and religiously, it is also a way of life.


Traditional Indian wrestlers train under a master or a trainer locally called a Guru. The disciples stay and train together following a strict dietary regime mainly consisting of milk, almonds, ghee, eggs and chapattis which is usually prepared by the wrestlers themselves. Another aspect of traditional Indian wrestling is the abstinence from malpractices like smoking, drinking, and even sex, hence a wrestler concentrates his focus on his wrestling skills, building strength and living a pure life.


The mud pit or arena where they train or wrestle known as 'akhara,' is unique in its ingredients; the clay or mud is mixed with ghee, mustard oil, turmeric and other things which are believed to act as antiseptics. In addition, the wrestlers wrap their bodies with this mud in order to prevent from slipping due to sweat during the Kushti. The rigorous training includes rope climbing, log pulling running and push-ups.


In India during ancient times wrestling was primarily used as a way to keep physically fit and to train as a military without any weapons. Wrestlers also have a public display of their skills in the form of a competition, locally known as 'dangals'. With the introduction of modern mat wrestling, many wrestlers have shifted to this style in order to get exposure and access to top international sports competitions, while others keep practicing Kushti to keep the tradition alive.