Remembering Gama Pehelwan: A Great Wrestler With a Golden Heart
(Photo: Archival Image)
(Photo: Archival Image)

Remembering Gama Pehelwan: A Great Wrestler With a Golden Heart

Even in your wildest dreams, can you imagine lifting two baby elephants together?

While this may seem like an absurd and mammoth task, that’s what “The Great Gama” did at the age of 24 – but instead of two baby elephants, he lifted a rock weighing 1,200 kg. When the rock was shifted much later to a museum, it took nearly 25 men to do what the Gama could do alone.

(Photo: Archival Image)
(Photo: Archival Image)

Who Is The Great Gama?

Born to a Kashmiri family in Amritsar on 22 May 1878, Gulaam Mohammed went on to earn the title of “The Great Gama” and to be remembered as the greatest wrestler of all time.

Gama’s father was also a wrestler Muhammad Aziz Baksh. After the death of his father, the Maharaja of Datia took Gama under his wing and trained him. By the time he turned 10, Gama was already winning domestic tournaments and would go on to have a career spanning over 50 years, in which he would remain undefeated.

(Photo: Archival Image)
(Photo: Archival Image)
His relatively short frame of 5’7” did not deter him from taking on and overpowering other towering wrestlers.

On 15 October 1910, Gama was awarded the Indian version of the World Heavyweight Championship.

(Photo: Archival Image)
(Photo: Archival Image)

Road to Greatness

Before becoming the “Great” he was, the Gama followed a rigorous training schedule to discipline himself. His diet alone was gargantuan, consisting of 7.5 litres of milk along with 600 gm of crushed almond paste.

Gama’s diet included 2 gallons of milk per day mixed with 1.5 pound of crushed almond paste and fruit juice. He would do 5,000 baithaks and 3,000 standing push ups and then wrestle with 40 wrestlers in his arcade.
(Photo: Archival Image)
(Photo: Archival Image)

Gama’s first major bout came in 1895 when he faced Raheem Baksh Sultaniwala, the Indian wrestling giant of the time. Raheem’s bulky frame of 6’9” made him favourable to winning, but Gama proved to be more than a worthy contender. Their match lasted for hours and ended in a draw, while catapulting Gama to the limelight.

(Photo: Archival Image)
(Photo: Archival Image)

The wrestler would go on to face all of India’s major wrestlers and end up defeating them easily.

In 1910, when Gama flew to England with his wrestler-brother Imam Baksh, he was not allowed to enter the arena of the international championship. He challenged that he could defeat any wrestler there and then managed to defeat the American champion Benjamin Roller in just 1 minute, 40 seconds.
(Photo: Archival Image)
(Photo: Archival Image)

Stanislaus Zbyszko, a Polish champion was his next opponent who realised, a minute into the match that Gama was too powerful for him and stayed pinned to the mat for the next 2 hours, 35 minutes. This was seen as disgraceful by the wrestling community and Gama challenged Zbyszko to a rematch for which he didn’t show. So, Gama was finally named the international champion.

Champion With a Golden Heart

Gama was a champion through-and-through. Post Partition, the wrestler went to settle in Lahore, Pakistan. He lived on Mohni Road, where also lived a Hindu community. When the post war mobs were ravaging the areas on both sides of the border, they also reached Mohni Road.

The Gama vowed to save the lives of the Hindus with his own. When the mobs reached them, he stood along with his wrestlers and hit the mobs which then did not dare to lift a finger against the Hindus.
(Photo: Archival Image)
(Photo: Archival Image)

With tears in his eyes, Gama took the community to the border, gave them food to last a week and bid them farewell to reach India safely.

The “world’s greatest wrestler” left the world in a miserable condition, after suffering heart-related conditions. He was given land by the government for subsistence, but could not make ends meet. Indian industrialist GD Birla would send Rs 2,000 to Gama every month, hearing about which the Pakistani government also increased his pension to support him.

(Photo: Archival Image)
(Photo: Archival Image)

Just a day after his 82 birthday, the wrestler lost his bout with life and died on 23 May 1960.

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