For Hanuman-ji and the Pakistani cab-drivers: Aditya Kapoor’s beautiful photo essay of a wrestling akhara in Benares

17 Oct

“At 5 in the morning when most of us are still curled up in bed, some young wrestlers  begin a daily tradition. A tumbler full of warm milk and 30 almonds down they reach the practice ground and pay their respects to Lord Hanuman, the God of good health and courage. Then begins the strenuous training of theses wrestlers aka Pehlwans.

[Every wrestling akhara is also a Hanuman shrine]

“This is the modern day wrestling in India locally called ‘Kushti’. It is also a dying art that traces its roots to  the 5th century BC. Once, the sport enjoyed royal patronage and immense popularity. Whole villages would turn out to watch the local tournaments. But over the past few decades, like all other sports, it lost its popularity to cricket – an obsession in India.

“But these phelwans are nowhere near giving up. They lead parallel lives working as part time cops, railway officials and make do with what (if at all) the government offers them. And they need all they can get because wrestling is by no means a cheap profession. Their daily diet consists of 3-5 litres of milk, about a 100 almonds and three square meals a day.

“These photographs document the training sessions of many such wrestlers.”

— Aditya Kapoor

Indian Wrestler

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wrestlers-akhara-guru

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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