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Akhara Training & Diet

Morning routine (4 to 10 am)

Waking up before dawn, the pahelwan typically ran a few miles to build up his stamina. After brushing his teeth, he bathed before spending some time in contemplation or prayer. In order to enter the sacred space of the akhara he would don the wrestler’s habit, the loincloth (‘langot’) and anoint his body with oil.

The preparation of the actual akhara pit would follow. It was dug with a heavy hoe and raked to remove any rocks. The consistency achieved was excellent for protecting the body; at the same time it was not so loose as to impede a pahelwan’s movement. The akhara would be blessed with a sprinkling of buttermilk, oil and red ochre before the training proper commenced.

Next came the ‘jor’ (literally ‘strength’), a form of wrestling that combined elements of practice, training and exercise to developed stamina as well as strength. Pahelwans would be paired off by the ‘guru’, ‘ustad’ or ‘khalifa’ to grapple under close supervision and instruction. The objective was for each pahelwan to throw his opponent down to the ground through the correct application of particular moves. Each move was countered by a defensive move and this sparring continued indefinitely. Unlike a competitive bout, both wrestlers tended to work together so that moves could be applied with precision and executed smoothly with a minimum of effort.

After two or three hours of jor, the pahelwan would rub his body with the earth of the akhara to dry perspiration and partake of its reinvigorating and healing qualities. As the earth dried, it would be scraped off by other pahelwans. He would then bathe and eat before taking some well-earned rest.

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