Ancient Kusti wrestlers

Kolhalpur, India

Indian men practice the three thousand year old sport known as "Kushti", a form of wrestling, in its traditional form at the fight club Shahupuri, Kolhapur, India. In this south-eastern Indian city Kushti has a long tradition. It used to be supported by local maharajas and is financed by the government.

Kushti is traditional Indian wrestling. It's not just a sport art, it's an ancient subculture. Wrestlers live and train together, have their strict rules. They may not drink, smoke and have sex. Their life must be pure. Kushti wrestlers live in gyms called akhara. Their diet consists of milk, eggs, almonds and chapatitis.

But its days are Last year, the Indian Fighters Federation in the capital of New Delhi stunned thousands of fighters when it announced prohibition of fighting on red soil and ordered fight clubs to buy mattresses for their arenas. Ending the traditional red clay wrestling was an idea sprouted from the aspiration to achieve more Olympic medals since the last and only medal India brought home in wrestling was a bronze in 1952. So far no one here in Kolhapur is buying the mattresses and instead they continue the rigorous schedule of waking up at 3:30am six times a week and practicing more than 6 hours every day. They live together in one small room above the arena and their only belongings are a blanket, a few items of clothes and some books about the art of Kushti. They have been compared to holy men because of their celibacy and dedication and they practice exercises like standing on one's head for lengths of time to expel "filthy" thoughts.

Photography by
Music by Badila – “Jelo Shahi”
Watch on YouTube: Kushti Wrestling