Sunday, October 4, 2015

THE GREAT GAMA WRESTLER ( GAMA PAHALWAAN ) WAS A KASHMIRI


                                                                             


GAMA PAHALWAAN OF AMRITSAR

Recurring floods , famines , cholera epidemics  and lack of opportunities   drove many kashmiris towards Plains of the country  since early years of   nineteenth  century  . though some trickle had started much earlier. Amritsar, Ludhiana , Sialkot and Lahore   remained the  preferred Destination of these migrant  kashmiris.  Again after  Maharaja Ranjit Singh invited  shawl weavers and kashmiri Artisans  to Punjab, another group of people from kashmir migrated out and   settled   in Ludhiana  and Amritsar for development crafts and    Shawl Industry . As time passed , this group ensured education of their children who eventually  moved to various Jobs and vocations . From amongst this group of kashmiris , Punjab had some proud nationalists who were at the forefront of country's freedom movement . This group also produced some  reputed Lawyers , Poets , Playwrights , writers  and even wrestlers of world  renown. Amritsar remained a favourite destination of and concentration of kashmiris . Even Shamas Fawuir, the tallest Sufi poet from kashmir,   had also moved to Amritsar for some years but decided to return to his native place . Agha Hashr kashmiri ( Playwright and poet ) too would  frequent Amritsar before partition.

Kashmiris who moved to Punjab were mostly  from Kulgam , Anantnaag , Shopian and other areas of south kashmir that used to be worst hit by floods and famines .And it is believed that Wrestlers of kashmiri origin belonged to a family tree that had migrated from  Anantnaag district .   These Butts, Mirs, Dars, and Lones moved to many cities of Punjab for settlement and after partition of the country , they moved  mostly to Lahore,   which city ,  owes its special cuisine   to this sect of kashmiris
Apart from Sufi Tabassum ( Urdu  poet , scholar and Translator  ), Sadat Hassan Mantoo ( Noted short story writer of the subcontinent  ) ,  Saif Ud Din Kitchloo ( Veteran Congress leader who opposed creation of Pakistan ) , Nawaz Sharif Butt ( Present Prime Minister of Pakistan ),  Abdul Majid ( Co founder of communist party of India at Tashkant in 1925 ) ,Amritsar was also home to   some prominent  World Wrestlers of kashmiri origin .And one such Wrestler  named Ghulam Mohd Butt Aka Ghulam Bux aka GAMA Pahalwan , rose to become world wrestling champion  or Rustam E Zamaana . He  was an illustrious son of  another noted wrestler Aziz Butt or Aziz Bux Aka Aziza Pahalwaan. And then Imam Bux Pahalwaan, Ida Pahalwaan , Azam Pahalwan, Aslam Pahalwaan , Akram Pahalwaan ,  Hamida Pahalwaan  , Hassu and Goga Pahalwaans  also  belonged to  this  kashmiri family Tree   from Amritsar.

As per Dr Amandeep a research scholar from Guru Nanak university Amritsar :-
“There is a new dimension to anti colonial consciousness among Kashmiris living in Amritsar just before the partition of the country . The notable amongst them are Abdul Salam Rafiqi, Dr Saifuddin Kitchloo and Abdul Majid. Abdul Majid, a Kashmiri was one of the founders of the communist party of India in Tashkent in 1925. Dr Kitchloo, the hero who inspired struggle against Rowlatt Act, went on to play a leading role in Indian National Congress movement..In 1891 the number of Kashmiri Muslims in Amritsar was 21, 261. It was one-third of the total Muslim population and one-sixth of the total population of Amritsar. By the last decade of the ninetenth century a few Kashmiri families had become rich enough to influence the politics of the Amritsar city. Among these families were Shaikh Ahmad Sadiq, chairman of the Amritsar Muncipal Committee, Shaikh Sadiq Hasan, a member of the Central Legislative and Punjab Legislative Assembly for Amritsar, Shaikh Muhammad Sadiq, a member of Punjab Legislative Council from Amritsar.The strongest opposition to Rowlatt Act passed by British Rulers in march 1891 was organised and led by Dr Saif Ud Din Kitchloo in entire Punjab.  With Satyapal, Dr Kitchloo surcharged the people of Amritsar emotionally on Ram Naumi day i.e. 9 April. For the first time in the history of Amritsar, the Muslims had joined the traditional Hindu festival. It was the Hindu-Muslim unity which was disturbing for the authorities. Dr Satyapal and Kitchloo were taken into custody and deported to Dharamsala. The move proved self-defeating. "


                                                                     

 The story of  GHULAM  MOHD  BUTT  OR GAMA PAHALWAAN ( 1882-1960 )  would be incomplete without mentioning the name of  Raja Bhawani Singh of Datia state ( presently In MP ).Raja Bhawani singh in particular patronized GAMA's father  Aziz Bux Butt , a well known wrestler of his time . Unfortunately Aziz Bux Butt died when Gama was too young and it was his maternal uncle Ida Pahalwan who took GAMA under his care and trained him initially .Apart from Ida Pahalwan , GAMA also received initial training from his uncle Buta Pahalwan. Buta was also from a kashmiri family of Amritsar .It may be mentioned over here that Raja Bhawani Singh Ordered closure of all  offices for a week including Courts when Aziz Mohd Butt or Aziz Bux Pahalwan ( father of GAMA ) died suddenly   .

Barkat Ali who has written a brief Biography on GAMA informs us ,

“Aziz Baksh’s death left a deep impression on his young son. Gama was, in fact, not told of his father’s death for almost a year, during which time he is said to have gone searching for him through the neighborhood lanes where he and his extended family lived, following the routes he had travelled while being carried on his father’s shoulders in hopes of meeting him along the way or finding him at a friend or relative’s house. Being regularly  told that his father wanted him to become the world’s greatest wrestler, Young GAMA  assured his trainers that he shall do so by hard work and discipline . This also gave GAMA  a deeply rooted, driving ambition to be the best  that his father wanted him to be . That also made  10 year old child GAMA to win his first  Exercise competition  organized by Maharaja of Jodhpur . It was a competition of DANDS ( Push ups ) and BAITHAKS ( Free Squats ) participated by senior wrestlers from various states .“
GAMA’s mother also hailed from a family of kashmiri wrestlers of Amritsar . His biographers have described GAMA as " Simple , truthful , almost illiterate and a clear headed person who called a spade a spade."
Before 1947, GAMA won wrestling competitions at Gwalior, Bhopal, Tikamargh, Datia, Indore, Baroda, Amritsar, and Lahore . Around 1909 he gained recognition as Indian champion when he defeated his famous rival Gulam Mohiuddin( another well known wrestler of kashmiri origin ).And then in 1910,he pinned the mighty Rahim Sultaniwali in a wrestling bout at Allahabad. Rahim Sultaniwali was a renowned wrestler of Punjab who  belonged  to a kashmiri family from Gujranwala.
Renowned wrestling promoter R B Benjamin brought him to England in 1910 where he threw challenges to almost all wrestlers of the world . This tour was co sponsored by Sharat Kumar Mishra, the Bengali millionaire for whom it was a way of demonstrating the strength of Indian physical culture right in the heart of the British Empire . It was in England that he became a world wrestling icon. After defeating Raheem Bakshi Sultaniwalla ( Six feet 9’’tall ), Gama became a symbol of strength and masculinity in the entire subcontinent. But after defeating the greatest wrestler of his time, Stanislaus Zbyszko ( from Poland ), Gama became the world champion and the title of Rustam-e-Zamana was conferred on him. This feat he performed  when Maharaja of Patiala organised a wrestling competition between GAMA and his Polish Adversary . I shall add a little more on this famous Gama - Zbyszko    wrestling bout .

In  January 1928, Maharaja of Patiala arranged a Grand bout in Patiala that involved GAMA and his Polish opponent  Zbyszko. In fact a special stadium was erected at Patiala  to accommodate the spectators  . Before a 10000 strong crowd that included Maharaja of Bharatpur , Nawab of Bhopal ,  Senior British officials  like Harcourt Butler and  Leslie Scot ,Maharaja of Kashmir and Royals from Patiala family.  To the surprise of all , Gama threw Zbyszko to ground in flat 42 seconds and won the title . The crowds turned jubilant.  Even Maharaja of Patilala personally came down to embrace GAMA and gifted him his own Pearl  Necklace and a silver mace. . GAMA was also granted a annual stipend of 6000 rupees from Patiala Darbar. The Hindustan Times issue of 31st January 1928 carried  Headline as under..
“GAMA  JUMPS LIKE  A LION AND THROWS DOWN  ZBYSZKO IN JUST 42 SECONDS . OVER A  HUNDRED THOUSAND VISITORS TURN JUBILANT “
Even Gandhi ji  made mention of GAMA’s  victory  as a contributory factor in creating Nationalistic feelings across the country  at that point of time .
When prince of wales visited Lahore in 1922, he personally witnessed a wrestling bout involving GAMA . So much was the guest pleased with GAMA’s style of wrestling that he offered  him thirty pounds and a silver mace .
GAMA defeated anybody and every body in wrestling bouts in India and abroad . From Rustam e Punjab he moved to become Rustam e Hind and finally Rustam e Zamaana.GAMA also defeated Jesse Paterson from Sweden in a professional bout before formally Retiring in 1952.

Gama also created a  record in weight lifting. In 1902,While in Baroda  for a wrestling Bout , GAMA lifted a stone weighing about 1200 Kgs  that was lying in Nazarbaug Palace Mandvi .This particular stone lies preserved in a Museum in Baroda with a Note with regard to its lifting by Great Gama . The stone was shifted inside the Museum with the  use of a  Hydraulic Machine . 

                                                            
 ( Gama with his brother Imam Baksh In an Exhibition wrestling bout outside Red Fort Delhi 1940 )

During his active period as wrestler , Gama was consuming twenty liters of milk, half a liter of clarified butter or what is known as Desi Ghee , about 2 kgs of Dry fruits and four kilograms of fresh fruit per day. In Jodhpur , he was under the supervision of his Guru and wrestler Madho Singh who had recommended this diet to him. GAMA was also fond of kashmiri YAKHNI. He was put on five hundred DAND and BAITHAKS and a rigorous two hour exercise schedule (that included weight lifting as well ) per day by his GURU.

GAMA is known for introducing DAND ( Push Ups ) and BAITHAK ( Free Squats ) for wrestlers . Even Bruce Lee copied GAMA’s style of DAND and BAITHAK and meticulous daily exercise schedule .
Renowned Indian Wrestler Dara Singh  ( 1928-2012) also adopted GAMA’s exercise  schedule , diet and DAND  BAITHAK  . And Dara Singh rose to become RUSTAM  E HIND . Dara singh moved to cinema in 1952 and could not focus on wrestling  alone .
 Paying grand tribute to him as a lovely human being , a prominent Journalist from England writes ,
“ He stood like a rock outside the colony of his Hindu neighbours, facing down a violent mob during Partition riots. That is how a wrestler should be ”

 Prof.Joseph S Alter  author of “ The Wrestler's Body: Identity and Ideology in North India” says,
“ Gama embodied strength and self-determination in the years when India was struggling for independence.”

According to Percy Longhurst, another wrestling journalist,

“The Indian system of training… has results beyond the development of great strength; it creates most remarkable powers of endurance while at the same time increasing agility. Gama, Imam Bux, Ahmed Bux – all when in action, impressed by the cat-like activity of their movements, the feline readiness with which their muscles responded to the demands of the moment, which is one of the attributes that make for the winning of falls.”

And GAMA’s son in law was none other than Dr.Hafiz  Butt the well known kashmiri physician of Lahore . And Mrs Kalsoom Butt or Kalsoom Nawaz sharif ( wife of Pakistan’s Present Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Butt ) is the  daughter of Dr Hafiz  Butt .

Life was not so easy for Ghulam Mohd Butt or GAMA PAHALWAN ( 1882-1960 ) after he migrated to Lahore ( Pakistan ) post partition . He found no patrons like Raja Bhawani singh of Datia or Raja Jaswant singh of Jodhpur or Maharaja of Patiala who patronized wrestlers .
He died in Lahore's  Mayo Hospital from multiple complications like Hypertension , Cardiac complications , Asthma , Arthritis and other ailments .


                                                    
 After meeting  Gama for the last time in Mayo Hospital bed , Wrestling journalist , Walter Steinhilber wrote ,


"The chief physician led the way through what seemed miles of antiseptic reeking corridors - ward after ward. At last we were ushered into a cold, dark and dank cot-crowded room. And here, wrapped in a blanket, squatting on his high hospital bed, I found the 'Great Gama' in the flesh. A body that was ravaged by arthritis. "
During his illness , GAMA needed money badly for his treatment . Financial Support came from some mysterious source who was later identified as seth G D Birla ( Industrialist ) from India . Seth Birla also assured Gama of monthly pension . This gesture moistened the eyes of GAMA. This philanthropic gesture acted as a catalytic agent and  thereafter ,   Government of Pakistan also paid for his treatment  at Mayo hospital  . Seth  G D Birla was  a great Fan of GAMA.

It may be pertinent to mention that another wrestler who rose on the wrestling Horizon of the world along with GAMA was BHOLU PAHALWAN ( 1922-1985 ). Bholu also belonged to a Kashmiri family of renowned wrestlers from Amritsar .After 1947, he decided to move to Lahore . The real name of BHOLU PAHALWAN was Haji Manzoor Hussain  . Bholu was a nephew of great GAMA.


The legend of GAMA continues to  live in all the Wrestling AKHAARAAS  of the subcontinent.
( Autar Mota)




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