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Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala

School: Kotwala
Height: 6’ 9”
Weight: 290 pounds

Ghulam Pahelwan’s most successful pupil was Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala. Though born in Gujranwala, Rahim’s association with Ghulam meant that he was reared in his akhara in Amritsar.

Under his master’s watchful eye, Rahim developed a superb physical build; in his heyday he was the picture of a veritable giant, standing almost seven feet tall and weighing close to 300 pounds. To strike fear into his opponents, he would often enter the arena covered from head to toe in vermillion, appearing like a fearsome red demon arisen from the underworld.

Between 1902 and 1918, Rahim fought, and mostly won, his bouts against Khalifa Bhai Madho Singh (ustad of the Great Gama), Sain Pahelwan, Rajab, Kala Partapa, Gora Partapa, Mehanni Reniwala, Khalifa Meraj Din, Biddo Pahelwan and Channan Qasai.

Rahim’s most formidable rival in this period was the Great Gama with whom he clashed four times. They first met in 1902 during a wrestling festival in the state of Junagarh. Rahim enjoyed the rank of chief court wrestler from amongst the maharaja’s stable of sixty pahelwans. Towering over Gama, who stood five-feet-seven-inches, Rahim entered the arena as the clear favourite. The contest raged for almost an hour before a draw was eventually declared. The return match in 1906 was held at Indore at the invitation of Sivaji Rao Holkar. The two pahelwans were evenly matched, and after two hours of skilful and thrilling grappling, the bout ended in a draw once again.

They met a third time several months later at Lahore. They clashed for two hours but the issue remained undecided. Their fourth and final meeting took place in December 1910 at Allahabad. The huge Rahim was out for blood, his body covered in red powder. At first Rahim evaded Gama's favourite shoulder-throw (“dhobi pat”) but his evasive tactics soon became less effective. Gama managed to score with the throw but was unable to secure a pin. Coming to grips again, Gama hoisted Rahim up by a crotch hold, turned him, and was starting to pin when Rahim scissored his arm and extricated himself. After two-and-a-half-hours of epic wrestling, Rahim’s rib broke, forcing him to concede the fight to Gama. This rib injury also forced Rahim to forfeit the match against Gama’s brother, Imam Baksh, at Kohlapur in 1918.

Despite sustaining several serious injuries, Rahim enjoyed perhaps the longest competitive career of any pahelwan. In his last serious public engagement at Wazirabad in 1936, the 72-year-old defeated a 28-year-old Canadian wrestler named Hudson with a body-lift and throw (‘ukher’). It was all over in just three minutes. The giant from Gujranwala died in August 1942 in his native town.

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