Free Press Journal

Mumbai: Local ‘Sultans’ struggling to keep their sport alive


Bhayandar: Movies like ‘Dangal’ and ‘Sultan’ may have become blockbusters indicating that there is interest in wrestling among the Bollywood viewers, but ground reality is different and a group of wrestlers are fighting against the odds to keep the traditional form of ‘kushti’ alive in the twin city.

This group of wrestlers, who had a small akhara (wrestling arena) at a space provided by the Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC) at its community hall in Bhayandar is not fighting opponents, but paucity of funds and absence of any logistical support.

More than a decade after charging a namesake annual fees, the MBMC in accordance with a government notification has decided to classify all its 25 community halls including the akhara as a commercial entity which will result into a manifold increase in rentals for such institutions which are not profit-driven but promote this traditional sport.

With Rs.1.52 lakh as the base annual rent, the Akhara will be handed over to the highest bidder in an auction process.

“It is the love for the sport that has enabled us to overcome all shortcomings, rekindling hopes of revival of the traditional sport, which otherwise was on the verge of extinction. The move will spell a death knell for the sport here.” says trainer Vasant Patil. “We are helpless as these are government orders.” said a civic officer.

The akhara which recently upgraded to mat system is not only a small academy imparting free training to young aspiring wrestlers, but an assembly point for former wrestlers, most hailing from downtrodden sections of society.

Despite all odds, this akhara has produced many renowned state-level wrestlers like Sneha Aagwane, Akshay Mane and Vaibhav Mane, while little mud warriors, including Shubam Lad, Kapil Harmarkar, Nayan Kamble, Komal Desai, have been religiously grappling in the hope of touching new heights in their very own mallyudh (mud wrestle).