Pehlwani, Varanasi

Pehlwani, Varanasi by Marji Lang
Pehlwani, Varanasi, a photo by Marji Lang on Flickr.

Kushti wrestlers making hand massage inside a small akhara of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Pehlwani or kushti is a form of wrestling from South Asia. It was developed in the Mughal era through a synthesis of Indian malla-yuddha and Iranian Varzesh-e Bastani. A practitioner of this sport is referred to as a pehlwan, while teachers are known as ustad (or guru, for Hindu teachers).

The ancient South Asian form of wrestling is called malla-yuddha. Practiced at least since the 5th century BC and described in the 13th century treatise Malla Purana, it was the precursor of modern pehlwani. In the 16th century India was conquered by the Central Asian Mughals, who were of Mongol descent and officially promoted Persian culture. They brought the influence of Iranian and Mongolian wrestling to the local malla-yuddha, thereby creating modern pehlwani. Pehlwan who compete in wrestling nowadays are also known to cross train in the grappling aspects of judo and jujitsu. (wiki)

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