Kusti is India’s traditional form of wrestling that dates back over three thousand years. But it’s much more than just the sport of wrestling. Along with it comes a strict vegetarian diet, work ethic, disciplined prayer, and spiritual routine. A Kusti practitioner’s life can be monastic and even celibate. Smoking and drinking are forbidden in the relentless quest for purity, physical strength, and form.
In Kolkata, the Kusti akhara, where the pehelwans (wrestlers) practice, is located on the banks of the Hooghly River and within sight of the famed Howrah Bridge. The akhara is a clay pit covered by a rudimentary shed just behind the Mullick Ghat flower market. This is sacred ground for the wrestlers and no one else is allowed inside. The clay is dug from the Hooghly and carefully mixed with Ayurvedic oils, turmeric, salt, and neem. You can see the neem leaves scattered about the pit.
The Kusti pehelwans day starts at 4:30 am with a Hanuman prayer, followed by a series of exercises. Then multiple rounds of wrestling bouts with more warming exercises in between.
India is full of surprises. Watching and photographing the kusti of Kolkata was a delight, all the more so, because it was so unexpected. One never knows what’s next when visiting the City of Joy.
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This Post Has 4 Comments
Alison and Don22 Mar 2020
Oh oh oh this was amazing! Wonderful photos. I’ve never heard of this, but you captured it so well that I was completely there. You’re right – India is full of surprises. We just spent a month in Rishikesh, our 4th trip to India. Amazing place!
Ron Mayhew29 Mar 2020
Looks like you had a great time in Rishikesh even without luggage. Any plans for a fifth visit? Thanks for your comment.
Alison and Don29 Mar 2020
No plans at the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we landed there again in the future. It’s an incredible country.
Admin19 Apr 2020
Great work, keep it up