A pehelwan is an extraordinary person. Not only is his workout and diet plan amazingly difficult but his training is something else. We bring you our Akhada workout plan.
So you’ve heard of the Great Gamma and other such notable strongmen. But do you know the amount of blood, soil and tears that is needed to develop such a frame, mentality and moreover the diet? Before we delve into the inner workings of what makes a pehelwan tick, you must first understand the pehelwan mentality.
If you’ve read our yoga and ayurveda article, you’d know that the 3 gunnas are what determines our nature in life. According to this, right off the bat most pehelwans do not indulge in the partake of meat although some do. A pehelwan considers it’s his utmost duty to not only clean the akhada but also nourish his body both mentally and physically so that he can be at the top of his game. This mentality stretches and reaches out to the other facets of life as well. Pehelwans from a young age were taught the nuances of wrestling because most of them were born into wrestling families. The interesting thing to note here is that as soon as one entered the Akhada, all worldly issues were trivial. Money, greed, family, caste and religion just to name a few. This perfect state of mind was referred to as ‘jeevanmukti’. This obviously meant that the physical self needed to be worked but unlike Bodybuilding, there’s no emphasis on how the body looks, but how the body functions. There were a set specific exercises that needed to be done to make the body adapt to wrestling or ‘kushti’ or what you could call desi gymming.
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The routine of the pehelwan is drenched in discipline. Before performing any exercises in the akhada the pehelwan usually woke up at 4am and ran a few laps of the compound. Getting ready was a simple matter of putting some oil and getting to the akhada for a workout.
This generation is so stimulated and has pre workout addiction that we forget how the pehelwans used to stimulate the body for exercise. Before working out, pehelwans used to dig up the entire ground, placing buttermilk, oil and red ochre into the pit and removing the stones that might hurt the pehelwans during their bouts. However the pit must be strong enough to not hinder the movements of the pehelwan while he is performing a technique.
Next comes the actual bout itself called the ‘jor’ which literally means strength. Depending on religion, and location, the ustaad or khalifa or master would supervise the wrestling bouts where two opponents grappled each other. In kushti the objective is to pin down the shoulders to the ground although knockout can be achieved by other means as well although this ‘jor’ wouldn’t be a sparring bout and both wrestlers would need to work together so that all exercises in akhada could be carried out smoothly. The senior most candidates would go first and the youngest would be last after which the junior candidates would perform ‘maalish’ or ‘message’. This message was another unique facet to the pehelwan mentality. The younger, more novice athletes messaged their senior counterparts as a sign of respect and humility. This act of respect also transcended all boundaries in the regards to religion and caste as the act of kushti can connect people like nothing else.
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This is where it gets really interesting. No akhada workout is complete without the diet and regimen fit to feed a king. The holy trinity in the pehelwaans diet would consist of ghee, milk and almonds and they would have this in copious amounts. It is well known that the famous Gamma Pehelwan would have at least 4 liters of milk and have a mixture of ghee and almond paste for good digestion. For the pehelwans who had meat, having a meat soup, ‘yakani’, made with one chicken was not uncommon along with two loaves of bread.
Believe it or not this was only one meal. The same would also be had for dinner. Now we know you’re surprised as we are that how can one man consume so much food? Well given the amounts of exercise that one individual in the akhada did, I’d hardly be surprised if they didn’t have the metabolism of a tiger!
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After resting the Pehelwan would return to the akhada to perform exercise that would primarily be compound movements. Even then the pehelwan knew the importance of multi joint movements as all their training or were centered around the ‘dand’ (the jackknife push ups) and the ‘baithak’ (the squat). The ratio of these would be twice the amount of baithaks to the amount of dands. A healthy pehelwan would thus perform a minimum of 1000 ‘dands’ and thus 2000 ‘baithaks’.
Other akhada exercises include strengthening the vital points in the body like shoulders with swinging the ‘moongli’ or the ‘jori’, which were wooden clubs and/or the infamous ‘gada’ or mace which was the most popular pehelwani exercises. Usually a silver or golden ‘gada’ was given to the winners of the competitive bouts with the titles as follows:
- Rustam-e-Hind: The Champion of India, Dara Singh was one.
- Rustam-e-Panjaab: The Champion of Punjab
- Maharashtra Kesari: Lion of Maharashtra
- Bharat Kesari: Best heavyweight wrestler
- Rustam-e-Zamaana: World Champion. The great Gamma was declared a Rustam-e-Zamaana
It can be well inferred that the exercises for a pehelwan aren’t cakewalk. That being said the biggest takeaway from kushti is the mentality that it binds everyone regardless caste, creed or race. Naturally then the discipline that comes with a strict regimen are also some of the benefits we can learn from these tough pehelwans!