Gama and the Rise of Yoga

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Gama is very much synonymous with strength.

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The Great Gama

Gama, a relatively poor, was born around 1882 in Amritsar. From 1910 until 1950, he was the world champion. Unbeaten in London, Paris, and elsewhere in Europe, and in India also.

In 1928, he defended his title in Patiala against Stanley Zbyszko, the Polish former world champion.

It is said that he won the bout in two-and-a-half seconds in front of a 40,000-strong crowd. Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, gifted him the pearl necklace he was wearing before awarding him with a village and an annual stipend of ₹6,000.

His Brother Imam Baksh Pahalwan was also a became a famous wrestler. In 1918, Gama, at Kolhapur, passed his title of Indian Champion and then put a rule that anyone who wants to challenge him will have to first defeat Imam. Soon, both received patronage in various royal courts.

The Road Shows

They were also getting the invitations for more of such Matches.

Deccan Gymkhana in Pune also used to hold wrestling matches that were widely attended. In 1937, Imam was there to display his skill against Puran Singh. As expected, the match lasted a few minutes.

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The Backup Plan

But the Value for money kinda Crowd didn’t like it, they started vandalising the Gymkhana, in their demand of WE WANT MORE. Some members of the Deccan Gymkhana discussed among themselves and decided to do something unthinkable, they rushed their man to invite a skinny person.

Entered Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, better known as B.K.S. Iyengar. “It was like walking into a live minefield. No one had any idea how his demonstration would be received.” Iyengar went on to do a breath-taking 40-minute demonstration of his most advanced asanas.

Coming back to Gama.

Though he had amassed a good fortune, by Indian Royal families, in 1947. He decided to move to Pakistan, for some years it went normal, but then without any income, as no one wanted to fight against him. He was suffering from asthma and heart disease, and hence need more money to survive.

All this along with his declining income and making it tough for him. Hearing about this, GD Birla decided to give Rs 2,000 as a monthly pension. In comparison, his pension from the Government of Pakitan was Rs 300.

However, on 23rd May 1960, he lost his life battle. Today doughnut-shaped exercise disc called Hasli ~95 kg, used by him for squats, is housed at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) Museum at Patiala.

As per this book, Bruce Lee was an avid follower of Gama’s training routine.

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Political Connection

Kulsoom Nawaz, wife of Nawaz Sharif, was the granddaughter of The Great Gama. Kulsoom’s maternal family had played a pivotal role in her husband Nawaz Sharif’s political success from the very outset.

When Mian Nawaz Sharif had first entered politics in early 1980s, Gama Pehlwan’s globally- renowned wrestler sons and Kulsoom’s maternal uncles—Manzoor Hussain alias Bholu Pehlwan, Akram alias Akki, Azam Pehlwan, Moazzam alias Goga Pehlwan and late wrestling sensation Zubair Jhara’s father, Aslam Pehlwan alias Accha (World Heavyweight Champion), had taken an active part in his electoral campaign in Walled City, where they held immense sway and influence to muster support for the budding industrialist-cum-politician.

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Siddharth Misra

Siddharth Misra

Siddharth posts regular tweet threads on History/Culture/Tech, etc. He loves Data and talks about Modern Indian & Business History.
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