Wrestling is a combat sport involving grappling techniques between two (or more) competitors or sparring partners.
Wrestling has been a very popular sport in India since the time of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Though, at that time only males exercised it to stay fit and strong. It was also played among kings and warriors to establish physical superiority over each other. Still, Hindu mythology considers ‘Lord Hanuman’ to be the greatest wrestler of all times. During that time, people called it as Malla- Yuddha. Where wrestlers traditionally used to wear a loincloth or langota during the sport. The India Epic Mahabharata considered Bhim as the greatest wrestler while Karna, Duryodhan and Jarasandha as the other prominent ones. Iranian and Mongolian techniques got incorporated to Malla Yuddha during Mughal Period. Thus, evolving the modern form of Indian Pehelwani.
History of the Sport
Great philosopher Socrates has famously said- “I swear it upon Zeus an outstanding runner cannot be the equal of an average wrestler”. This quote clearly shows the popularity and importance of the sport all over the world. Its origin goes back to 15000 years through Cave Drawings in France. Not only Indians, but Romans, Greeks, Turks, Chinese and Iranians have been practicing this sport since the ancient time. Early European settlers from England brought this tradition to America. In ancient Olympics, it served as focal event due to brutality associated with it. History of professional wrestling dates back to 19th century. Since the 1904 games in St.Louis, Missouri it became a regular event in modern Olympics. The 1st NCAA Wrestling Championships were held in 1912, at Ames, Iowa.
Modern Form of Sports
United World Wrestling (UWW), the International Governing body for the sport was establishes in 1912 in Antwerp, Belgium. It is known as International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA). Wrestling Federation of India is the national governing body for the sports. Wrestling has many styles associated with it. But Olympics, recognizes only three of them. They are Greco-Roman, Men’s Freestyle and Women’s Freestyle wrestling. Many countries of the world have accepted it as one of the premier sport. Its popularity can be estimated by the fact that Oil Wrestling is the National Sport of Turkey. Whereas, this game traces its roots back to Central Asia. In India, it is still the most loved sport of north and central region. Kushti, Pehelwani and Dangal are its prevalent names in local areas.
Major Tournaments and Championship
There are many forms of wrestling prevailing all over the world. While, UWW officially recognizes only six of the disciplines. Major tournaments include wrestling as their event. Also, many national and international level championships are conducted throughout the world. Some of them are : 1. World Wrestling Championship 2. Olympics 3. Commonwealth Games 4. Sports League Championship 5. NCAA Wrestling Championships 6. Asian Wrestling Championships
Women in Wrestling
The involvement of women is not new in wrestling. In ancient Greece and Sparta, it was as common for females as for males. Many tribes of Africa have also been practicing this sport with females. However, their major aim used to be that of entertainment and fitness. Still most part of Asia and Arab considered it as an epitome of strength and masculinity. Whereas, women here were kept far away from the grounds. Officially, Olympics introduced women’s freestyle wrestling far late in 2004. But, only in 2012 India first time ever qualified for Olympics held in London. Later in 2016 Rio Olympics, Sakshi Malik became the first Indian women to win a medal in this sport. Also, Geeta Phogat became the first Indian women to grab a gold in wrestling in Commonwealth Games, 2010. Today, India has many female wrestlers including Navjot Kaur, Babita Phogat, Pooja Dhanda and Divya Kakran.
Famous Wrestlers Of India
India has produced many prominent wrestlers of the world. Some of them are :
Men’s Freestyle :
- Udey Chand
- K D Jadhav
- Sushil Kumar
- Yogeshwar Dutt
- Vijendra Singh
- Ghulam Mohammad or The Great Gama
- Dara Singh
- The Great Khali
- Sakshi Malik
- Geeta Phogat
- Navjot Kaur
- Babita Phogat
- Pooja Dhanda