Height: 6’ 6”
Weight: 266-364 pounds
Born in a village near Lahore in 1857, Kikkar Singh was encouraged by his wrestling father to train in the tradition. After establishing himself as an upcoming pahelwan, he put himself under the tutelage of Boota Pahelwan, Rustum-i-Hind.
When Boota Pahelwan retired from the sport in the late 19th century, his gigantic Sikh pupil was acknowledged as champion. Kikkar Singh’s prodigious frame and Herculean strength soon became hallmarks sought after by the rulers of the princely states of Jodhpur, Indore, Datia, Tonk, and Jammu and Kashmir. His physique and strength were of such proportions that the Maharaja of Kashmir regarded him as an incarnation of Bhairav, the fierce form of Shiva. But with all his size, he wrestled with the nimbleness of a lion. Few competitors could match the strength and skill of this ‘Dev-i-Hind’ (demi-god of India).
Kikkar Singh’s greatest rival was Ghulam Pahelwan of Amritsar. They fought on several occasions, drawing huge crowds from all over Punjab to their epic bouts. After Ghulam’s death in 1900, his brother Kalloo, laid claim to his title, but Kikkar Singh stood in his way. Of the seven times they grappled, Kikkar Singh won four matches, lost two and drew their last, which took place during the Delhi Durbar celebrations held in December 1911 to commemorate King George V’s coronation. Kikkar Singh was challenged by his old rival, Kalloo. Although the Sikh was way past his prime (he had grown enormous: according to the referee, Brigadier General Charles Granville Bruce, his weight had ballooned from his prime weight of 19 stones or 266 pounds to 26 stones or 364 pounds) and had become a patient of asthma, he would not let a challenge go unanswered. When the match began, the two pahelwans were said to have circled the arena like two hungry lions. Kalloo brought Kikkar Singh to the ground but was fouled by the giant. On resuming the match Kalloo gave Kikkar Singh a thorough beating until the referee intervened and declared the match a draw.
Kikkar Singh died in 1914 at his native village where a ‘samadhi’ or memorial shrine was raised in his memory.