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Imam Baksh

School: Kotwala
Height: 5’ 11”
Weight: 205 pounds

Gama’s younger brother, Imam Baksh, was born in 1883 in the state of Datia where his father was a court wrestler. After his father’s death in 1886, the brothers were raised by their maternal uncle, Ida Pahelwan, who taught them the basics of the art.

Imam Baksh and Gama both received patronage in various royal courts. They wrestled in the court of Rewa for four years until the maharaja’s untimely death forced them to return to Datia. Imam Baksh spent several years at Indore, often accompanying the maharaja in his hunting excursions.

Imam Baksh was part of the troupe of Punjabi pahelwans that visited London in 1910. He wrestled in forty matches, winning them all in under three minutes. He beat the Swiss champion John Lemm in 12 minutes, and a British wrestler named Pat Connolly in ten.

Back in India he comfortably defeated Hassan Baksh Multani at Allahabad. He drew with Ghulam Mohi-ud-din in 1914 at Kohlapur, a repeat result of their 1909 bout at Lahore.

During a wrestling tournament at Kohlapur in 1918, he received the coveted title of Rustum-i-Hind from his brother, who went into unofficial retirement. Imam Baksh had justified his status by beating Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala at the tournament.

During the same tournament, a 19-year old wrestler called Goonga Pahelwan caused an upset when he defeated Imam Baksh’s brother-in-law, Gama Kalloowala. Imam Baksh felt an even greater shock in 1924 when he tasted his only defeat at the hands of Goonga.

Having paid the price of underestimating a challenger, he made certain not to repeat his mistake. In their next two encounters, Goonga was crushed convincingly; in their last match in 1935, the younger pahelwan fought back to secure a draw. After avenging his only loss, Imam Baksh continued to defeat the best including Hassan Baksh and Kalia Pahelwan. At the age of fifty, he pinned Edward Kraemer in under a minute; the German had previously beaten Goonga with relative ease.

For many years, Patiala was home. From his marriage with the daughter of the famous Rehmani Pahelwan (brother to Ghulam and Kalloo), Imam Baksh had five wrestling sons: Bhollu (1922-1985), Azam (1925-1991), Aslam (1927-1989), Akram (1930-1987) and Goga (1937-1981) (his second son, Hassu, did not wrestle professionally). After Partition, the family moved to Lahore where the sons continued in the footsteps of their famous father and uncle to become champion wrestlers of Pakistan.

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