Height: 5’ 7”
Weight: 200 pounds
The legendary Gama is regarded by many as one of the greatest pahelwan of all time. A Muslim of Kashmiri heritage, hewas born Ghulam Mohammed in 1878 in Amritsar, into one of India’s premier wrestling families. His father, Aziz Baksh (1848-1886) was an accomplished court wrestler in the service of the royal house of Datia. He oversaw his son’s training from the age of five. When he died three years later, Gama’s training continued under the direction of his grandfather and uncle.
Gama first came to notice in 1888 when he won a strength-endurance competition held by Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur. Out of four hundred experienced wrestlers, the 10-year-old was among the final fifteen who performed the greatest number of baitaks. Impressed by the boy’s determination, the maharaja announced Gama the winner.
Gama’s professional career took off in 1893. In 1901, his considerable talents, particularly his characteristicly aggressive style, gained him a draw against the masterful Khalifa Ghulam Mohi-ud-din. A year later, he scored a draw against the indomitable Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala. The match that proved a turning point was his win in 1909 over the previously unbeaten Khalifa Ghulam Mohi-ud-din; it took Gama just eight minutes to snatch the coveted title Rustum-i-Hind.
The following year Gama scored his most spectacular win against his old adversary, Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala, in Allahabad. After defeating Biddo Pahelwan during the Shalimar Fair in 1912, he was recruited by the young Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala and granted a fabulous allowance.
With a lack of worthy challengers, Gama unofficially retired in 1918, transferring his title to his brother, Imam Baksh. But he made a celebrated return in 1928 to face Stanislaus Zbyszco in a rematch of their famous bout some eighteen years earlier. Despite both men now being well into their forties, the return match drew 60,000 fans to a specially-built stadium constructed by the Maharajah of Patiala. The Great Gama would embarrass the Polish legend, throwing him in just 42 seconds with his famous ‘dhobi-pat’ shoulder throw.
Having fought several hundred competitive matches, Gama officially retired in 1933 as India’s undefeated wrestling champion. Following the partition of Punjab in 1947, the ‘Lion of the Punjab’ resettled in Lahore in Pakistan. He never competed once for the newly created country, and breathed his last in Lahore in 1960, a penniless man, after a prolonged period of illness.