Height: 5’ 8”
Weight: 280 pounds
Ghulam Mohammad of Amritsar was arguably the best wrestler the subcontinent has seen in recent times. Born around 1860 to the celebrated wrestler Ali Baksh (better known as Alia Pahelwan), Ghulam was destined to reach the pinnacle of the sport. His training began early under the supervision of his maternal uncle, Suleman Pahelwan, who, like his father, was a court wrestler in the royal state of Jodhpur.
Ghulam’s rise in his sport was rapid; he won his first professional bout at Jodhpur in 1878 against Mullah Handa (Mohammad Ali Pahelwan). This was followed by convincing wins over two greats of the day, firstly Feroz Pahelwan, then Chirag Ali at Jodhpur in 1880.
Having earned a name and a small fortune for himself, Ghulam left the service of the Maharaja of Jodhpur and returned to Amritsar to establish an akhara. He fought several bouts against the monstrous Kikkar Singh, winning their first match at Amritsar in 1886. A month later, they met again at Jammu where Kikkar Singh was employed as the maharaja of Kashmir’s champion. In front of the maharaja, Ghulam wagered 100,000 rupees of his own money to challenge his giant Sikh wrestler. The maharaja was so struck by the idea that he gave his consent. The considerably shorter Ghulam shocked onlookers by beating Kikkar Singh a second time.
They wrestled three more times: twice at Shahdera Serai near Lahore and once before the maharaja of Jodhpur. The first Lahore bout in 1895 ended in a draw when Ghulam’s fingers were so severely damaged in a clinch that he was unable to continue. Their second meeting in Lahore was also drawn. The Jodhpur decision, however, fell in favour of Ghulam who won decisively.
Maharaja Rajendra Singh of Patiala was so impressed with Ghulam that he called him to his state in 1898 to wrestle with Shah Nawaz Nanniwala. Ghulam won with style, and enhanced his already formidable reputation.
Ghulam also participated in early “catch-as-catch-can” freestyle wrestling tournaments in Europe, appearing in Paris at the time of the great exposition in 1900. Shortly after his return to India, Ghulam died of cholera at Calcutta in 1901.