New Delhi [India], April 8 (ANI/Mediawire): The epic tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata are something most of us are aware of in India. These were widely spread across the Indian continent with the purpose that we could all learn and adapt the right values from the lives of these great sages. Beyond this, interestingly, they also narrate the story of one of the oldest martial art of India, Malla-Yudh.
The first written evidence of Malla-Yudh can be found in the Ramayana, making it the oldest codified form of fighting in the Indian subcontinent. Over a period of time, Malla-Yudh went through various changes. It had a huge influence on wrestling during the Mughal rule era, and is now commonly called Kushti. Once used to settle disputes among rival kingdoms, it has now evolved into a sport that has even made its way to the Olympics as modern-day wrestling.
We turned off the busy Delhi -Chandigarh highway after Murthal, just a few kilometres after entering Haryana. Our destination was the Choudhury Charan Singh Wrestling Academy in Sonepat. The dusty road on the verge of being concretised led us to an ordinary-looking pair of concrete structures wedged inside wheat fields. As it turned out, the bigger structure was the school, while the smaller one housed the resident students of this school. The akhara, originally a wrestling arena made of mud, hid behind the relatively modern wrestling school.
“Kushti has moved on from mud to mat,” reveals Mahender Singh, head coach and founder of this academy. “This is so that we can prepare the students better for national and international games, which are fought on wrestling mats, not mud.”
Traditional akharas like this still exist, especially in smaller villages, as it is worshipped as a temple. So, even though he started this school only in 2017, Mahender decided to make one anyway so that the sport keeps in touch with its long but humble beginnings.
Interestingly, the mud at the akhara is no ordinary affair. It is meant for training, so it is deliberately a finer grain than what is found around here. Plus, they periodically sprinkle the residue of “badamragda” – an energy drink made by slow grinding almonds, saunf, rose petals and black pepper and water – which adds to its smoothness. “This reduces unnecessary cuts and wounds while training,” he says, although he adds that no such niceness is extended in regular akharas, which are set up for big fights since those fighters are ‘hardened’.
The school runs on a hybrid model. The nearby students come for training twice a day while the distant ones stay here. The hostel is no fancy affair – a dormitory with beds. No television or smartphones are allowed to avoid distraction. Kushti requires immense physical training. Is the base of this art form. Students as young as five years old are up at 4 am for the first training session, which includes jogging and exercising to build stamina. After a quick breakfast and some rest, they attend school. Post-school and a small nap, they are back for a couple of hours of training. This is on the mats now, where they fight with fellow students under the guidance of the coach.
This is an extremely physical sport where brute strength rules, but the difference between the winners and the losers is mental strength. “You need to be confident,” says Mahinder. “One may be stronger than the opponent, but if he is she doesn’t believe that the rival can be beaten, then victory will not come.”
Ironically, this brute confidence has also been an infamous character trait of many kushti players. But those who have used it appropriately have achieved great heights.
Mahinder, who doesn’t recall when he started playing kushti because he was too small, only remembers training hard to achieve his goal of being a successful player. Something which he did and was rewarded with a job in Punjab Police in the early nineties. But after a few years, a major injury during a match cut short his playing stint. While he then got caught up in routine life, he always dreamt of training new proponents as he saw immense talent around him. A chance grant of a land parcel by a relative then saw him fulfil his dream. He trains many youngsters here and hopes to find a few diamonds among them who can bring glory to themselves and our country.
While it has been a simple life, coincidentally, cars have been a major attraction for him. The grandness of the Hyundai Alcazar was not lost to the simple coach, too, as he spoke about it looking very special and unlike anything he has seen up close.
Well, we had not seen youngsters with such focus and strength ourselves. Kushti is a fighting art form that relies on the individual more than his weapon. The warrior has to be inherently capable, just like the car we took to the hub of traditional Kushti. An art form said to be born when the “gods” roamed the earth, honed by humans through the ages and survives to this day. As is evident, it is indeed survival of the fittest.
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