taken from 'NORTH COUNTRY SPORTS AND PASTIMES' published in 1893

Wrestling in india


THERE is a great similarity in the wrestling in India , and the same pastime in Japan . This similitude is so close, that after a description of the latter, there need not be much space devoted to a narrative of the sport in our great Eastern Empire . The public exhibition of the sport is, in a great measure, confined to the soldiers of the native regiments of infantry. Sometimes matches are made and come off which create wide-spread interest, by men who do not belong the service. So great is the interest taken in the contests, that they often continue for the best part of a day ; and during the whole time couple after couple enter the ring, and continue to exhibit their skill. There can be no doubt, the encouragement of such pastimes will exercise a powerful influence in making them better soldiers, and more attached to the service.

The wrestlers are lithe active young fellows, and enter the ring in exuberant spirits. Before the actual commencement of the struggle at close quarters, each resorts to a ridiculous ceremony, in order to propitiate some powerful deity to whom they look for assistance to achieve success. The act consists in simply touching the forehead with a small portion of earth picked from the ground. On the conclusion of this preparatory proceeding, they return to the edge of the ring, and go through a series of manoeuvres, which a stranger would look at with astonishment, and which in reality can exercise no influence on the struggle. They jump about, first on one leg, then the other, bounding backwards and forwards repeatedly, with great agility. Loud bangs on the body follow, inflicted by the hands with such violence as to make a noise that resounds all over the ring. This is the opening play, followed by sham attacks, till an opportunity presents for close work. With surprising quickness, the arms are grasped high up towards the shoulders, and followed by violent butting of head against head, accompanied by twisting and wrenching. Meanwhile one of the two is thrown to the ground, where the struggle is continued amid excited cheering, till one of the tawny coloured competitors is forced on his back and securely held. This is seldom successful, until three or four bouts have been fought out, and a clear back fall gained.

The following account of a great wrestling match between the Mysore hero and the Punjaubee champion, was written by an Englishman in Madras :

The Punjaubee champion is from North India. The Mysore man has lately won a great match, and was highly elated in consequence ; while the Punjaubee had such confidence in his powers, that he pledged himself to give up the Sikh religion and turn Mahomedan if he lost the match. ' After waiting a few minutes the Punjaubee was the first to put in an appearance ; he walked up amidst scrutinising glances and stood "within the ring. He was a great big fellow, beautifully built, and splendidly developed, with muscles standing out in knots on the arms and legs. He was the same colour as most Punjaubees light brown ; taken on the whole, he was rather a handsome man. His opponent was not long in following him ; he stood up, stripped, and stepped into the sand. He, too, was remarkably well built, but nearly black, and villainously ugly. He was not quite up to the Punjaubee. His muscles were large, and he looked the more wiry and active of the two ; but the Punjaubee was the bigger and looked the stronger. They begin by standing two or three yards apart, in an inclined position, stooping towards each other, and advancing as stealthily as cats, suddenly making a snatch at each other's wrists and hands, and then drawing back with inconceivable rapidity. The neck was the great object of attack, and many attempts were made by the native of Mysore to get hold of his antagonist's neck, while the Punjaubee made desperate efforts to clutch his adversary by the neck, and force his head down into chancery. After a good deal of dodging, and advances and retreats, clutches at neck, head, and wrists, the Punjaubee, who seemed the most eager of the two to finish the job at once, and had been acting more on the offensive than the defensive, suddenly made a rush in, tried to close and trip. Quick as he was, his antagonist was quicker, and the Punjaubee hero was foiled. Then time was called, and a short interval allowed for breathing.

Round, number two, began in right good earnest ; each man seemed thoroughly buckled to his work, and in a few seconds the Punjaubee, who was in rare fettle, threw the Mysore man on to his knees ; but the latter giving him a sudden and well directed push, nearly caused him to change his religion. Both men recovered themselves with marvellous dexterity, and grasping each other, they struggled up together, the Mysore champion getting upright a little the first ; but almost immediately the Punjaubee gave his man a clean throw forwards, and the native of Mysore was discovered lying full length on his chest, with the Punjaubee kneeling on his back.

From this time the contest resembled nothing so much as a "grovel" behind goals for a touch down. For a time the struggles of both men were intense, the Punjaubee having to do all he knew to keep his man down at all ; and it seemed quite possible that, if the Mysore native could not get up himself, he would pull his opponent down, when the latter tried to roll him over. Presently came a pause, which the Punjaubee used to advantage, by covering his fallen foe with sand, so as to get the better grip. Skilful as the Mysore champion was, he could in no way retaliate when in this distressing position. However, he continually made clever attempts to regain his feet, and still cleverer ones to pull down the Punjaubee when he was endeavouring to turn him over. But finally the contest ended by the Mysore champion mistaking his chance to get to his feet, and after a grand struggle up to the very last moment, the muscular Punjaubee turned him flat over, so that there remained not the slightest doubt in the minds of all the spectators that both his shoulders were resting on the ground, the one throw was given, and the battle was won.