Wrestling features prominently at the annual mela in the village of Surajpur in Uttar Pradesh. Deepak Ansuia Prasad reports on the event, which attracted some great wrestlers, including Jeetu Pahalwan.
On the 24th of April, I was invited to a dangal in the village of Surajpur. The wrestling competition was part of a huge fair organized by the village leaders and tradesmen.
Village fairs, or melas, in India are a mix of everything. There is a big outdoor market where people can find everything from clothing to jewelry to Indian sweets. Then there are carnival rides for the kids and singers entertaining the crowds. It’s a colorful sight, with everyone dressed up in their best clothes, milling about and enjoying themselves.
The most famous mela in India is the Kumbh Mela in the holy cities of Haridwar and Prayag. The Surajpur mela was held in honor of the goddess Varahi. (You can learn more about Sri Varahi here.)
The Varahi mela is organized every year at Surajpur and the wrestling competition honors the memory of the late Ajit Singh, a famous wrestler of the area.
Accompanying me to the dangal were Shri Rajinder Pahalwan and Guru Rahabr of Guru Shyamlal Akhara along with their team of wrestlers. We reached the wrestling area in the afternoon just as the inauguration was taking place.
Many wrestlers came to compete. There was a large crowd, but it was all very orderly as there were also a large number of policemen.
The heat, however, was intense. It was the hottest day in three years. The wrestlers were baking in the heat and some were overcome by the temperatures. Others suffered bloody noses. But that didn’t stop them from wrestling their best.
Some of the babas from the temples also came out to wrestle. People were amused by them – with their long curly hair – but they all fought well. There was also an older wrestler who had three matches. He won the first two but on the third he lost.
One of the rules of almost all dangals is that once a wrestler loses he can’t fight in the completion again. Also, a defeated wrestler can’t challenge the wrestler who beat him for at least 6 months.
One of the referees was 80 years old, but he still stood in the scorching heat from the beginning of the competition till the end, judging each and every bout and giving his final decision. His stamina and dedication was as impressive as the wrestlers’.
The dangal committee gave each winner a costume and prize money. There was one wrestler from Meerut University who wrestled four matches but he could not win a single match. There was not prize for him as the dangal committee doesn’t award prizes for matches that end in a draw.
The great wrestler Jeetu Pahalwan had a bout with a wrestler from Guru Jasram Akhara. Both wrestlers were very skilled so it was fascinating to see them compete and the crowd was very excited, shouting for their favorite wrestler. In the end, Jeetu triumphed - as always. He is the great hope for all his fans, his guru, his akhara, and for the country.
The bigger wrestlers came out after Jeetu Pahalwan’s match. Azad from Guru Jasram Akhara wrestled to a draw against his opponent.
It was very good dangal and I want to extend my thanks to the beautiful people of Surajpur for organizing such a great event.
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