Kushti or Pehalwani is a form of wrestling contested in India wherein the wrestlers practice the sport on a clay arena situated inside an Akhara under a guru. The Pehelwans live and train together in these Akharas. They take young kids and train them for a budding career in wrestling. Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt are a few of the wrestlers who started from mud wrestling and went on to become Olympic champions. The Akhara culture is popular mostly across the states of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Since Haryana has emerged as the main wrestling hub in the past years, we during the first leg of our food tour across the state decided to visit an akhara to discover the lifestyle and food habits of the wrestlers closely.
We went to Adarsh Akhara in Jind district that is founded by Sumer Pehalwan Ji. Here we first met all the residents and then went on to see their afternoon practice session. Contrary to their intimidating muscular physique, they all were super amiable and warm. They began their training digging the soil of the wrestling pit followed by offering prayers to Lord Hanuman, the deity of strength. Then, they sought blessings from their Guruji and started the Kushti practice. The daily life of a Pehelwan is, needless to say, intense as it involves strenuous drills and physical tasks.
Coach Sandeep Pehalwan enlightened us with some details of the sport and some past and recent recognitions that our country has received in this sports both in the domestic and international levels. He also mentioned some technicalities of the moves that shows that this sport is a combination of both physical and mental caliber that needs to be mastered with rigorous practice.
We also spoke to coach Sunil Pehelwan who told us how does pehalwani helps them to evolve into a better human being.
After this training session we headed to the kitchen to see what the pehalwans were making for dinner. Here we met Nitin who is just 14 years old. He has been training for the past two years and he also teaches drills to the newcomers. He is usually in charge of making the side dishes for the meals. While he chopped the veggies, he described his daily routine. They all wake up at 4 in the morning, freshen up and go for a run. Then they dig the soil and start the conditioning drill that includes rope climbing, Hindu pushups, sparring with a partner etc. After that they have badam paani, the post workout energy drink. This is followed by a proper breakfast of roti, chhonka, halwa, kheer etc. In the afternoon they usually have fruits and natural energy drinks. Again in the late afternoon they go for a second round of practice session. Next they have their dinner which they keep light because they have to drink milk before going to bed. It is essentially roti and chhonka. So we noticed that milk and milk products formed the major part of their diet followed by fruits and nuts. The chhonka is essentially a simple curry made of seasonal veggies or paneer that is cooked in a tempering of ghee, onion, chillies and tomatoes.
We were extremely grateful that we got the opportunity to share the meal with these outstanding pehalwans whose dedication, conviction, diligence and their humility left us inspired. We saw how hard they train to bring laurels for our country at global contests. The experience took us back to our roots and helped us brush up some key philosophies of life. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did filming it.