The Great Gama
The "Great" Gama Pehelwan
|Born||22 May 1878
Amritsar, Punjab, British India
|Died||21 May 1960 (aged 82) 
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Gama Pahalwan|
Born in Amritsar, Punjab, British India, he was awarded the Indian version of the World Heavyweight Championship on 15 October 1910. Undefeated in a career spanning more than 52 years, he is considered one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. After Independence in 1947, Gama moved to the newly created state of Pakistan.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 3 Death
- 4 Influences
- 5 Championships and accomplishments
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Gama was born in the city of Amritsar, in present day Punjab, India. He hailed from a prominent wrestling family which was known to produce world-class wrestlers. Gama had two wives: one in Pakistan and the other in Baroda, Gujarat, India. His granddaughter Kalsoom Nawaz Sharif is a three time First Lady of Pakistan.
Gama was first noticed at the age of ten when he entered a strongman competition held in Jodhpur, which included many gruelling exercises such as squats. The contest was attended by more than four hundred wrestlers and young Gama was among the last fifteen. At that point the Maharajah of Jodhpur announced Gama as the victor due to his remarkable show of enormous stamina and dedication.
Training and diet
Gama's daily training consisted of grappling with forty of his fellow wrestlers in the court. He used to do five thousand Baithaks (Indian squats) and three thousand Dands (Indian pushups). Gama's daily diet was 2 gallons (7.5 litres) of milk, a pound and a half of crushed almond paste made into a tonic drink along with fruit juice and other ingredients to promote good digestion. This high protein and high energy diet helped him accumulate muscle mass.
First encounter with Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala
Fame came to Gama at the age of 17 when he challenged then-Indian Wrestling Champion, middle-aged Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala, a Muslim wrestler from Gujranwala, now in Punjab, Pakistan. At about 7 feet tall, with a very impressive win-loss record, Raheem was expected to easily defeat the 5'7" Gama. Raheem's only drawback was his age as he was much older than Gama, and near the end of his career. The bout continued for hours and eventually ended in a draw. The contest with Raheem was the turning point in Gama's career. After that, he was looked upon as the next contender for the Indian Wrestling Championship. In the first bout Gama remained defensive, but in the second bout, Gama went on the offensive. Despite severe bleeding from his nose and ears, he managed to deal out a great deal of damage to Raheem Bakhsh. By 1910, Gama had defeated all the prominent Indian wrestlers who faced him except the champion, Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala. At this time, he focused his attention on the rest of the world. Accompanied by his younger brother Imam Bakhsh, Gama sailed to England to compete with the Western Wrestlers but could not gain instant entry, because of his lower height.
In London, Gama issued a challenge that he could throw any three wrestlers in thirty minutes of any weight class. This announcement however was seen as a bluff by the wrestlers and their wrestling promoter R. B. Benjamin. For a long time no one came forward to accept the challenge. To break the ice, Gama presented another challenge to specific heavy weight wrestlers. He challenged Stanislaus Zbyszko and Frank Gotch, either he would beat them or pay them the prize money and go home. The first professional wrestler to take his challenge was the American Benjamin Roller. In the bout, Gama pinned Roller in 1 minute 40 seconds the first time, and in 9 minutes 10 seconds the other. On the second day, he defeated 12 wrestlers and thus gained entry to official tournament.
He was pitted against world champion Stanislaus Zbyszko and the date of bout was set as 10 September 1910. The match was contested over prize money and the John Bull Belt as winning prizes. Within a minute, Zbyszko was taken down and remained in that position for the remaining 2 hours and 35 minutes of the match. There were a few brief moments when Zbyszko would get up, but he just ended back down in his previous position. Crafting a defensive strategy of hugging the mat to nullify Gama's greatest strengths, Zbyszko wrestled the Indian legend to a draw after nearly three hours of grappling, though Zbyszko's lack of tenacity angered many of the fans in attendance. The two men were set to face each other again but Zbyszko didn't show up and Gama was announced victor.
Final encounter with Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala
Shortly after his return from England, Gama faced Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala in Allahabad. This bout eventually ended the long struggle between the two pillars of Indian wrestling of that time in favour of Gama and he won the title of Rustam-e-Hind or Champion of India. Later in his life when asked about who was his strongest opponent, Gama replied, "Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala".
Rematch with Zbyszko
Gama did not have any opponents until 1927, when it was announced that Gama and Zbyszko would face each other again. The day finally came in 1928 when both wrestlers met again in Patiala. The result of the bout was quick when Gama threw Zbyszko in only 42 seconds.
At forty-eight years old he was now known as the "Great wrestler" of India.
After the independence and partitioning of India in 1947, Gama moved to Pakistan. Although Gama did not retire until 1952, he failed to find any other opponents. After his retirement, he trained his nephew Bholu Pahalwan, who held the Pakistani wrestling championship for almost 20 years.
Fight With Balram Heeraman Singh Yadav
After defeating Zbyszko, Gama beat Jesse Petersen in February 1929. The bout lasted only one and a half minutes. This was the last bout that Gama fought during his career. In the 1940s he was invited by the Nizam of Hyderabad and defeated all his fighters. The Nizam then sent him to face the wrestler Balram Heeraman Singh Yadav (The Lion from Hyderabad), who was never defeated in his life.The fight was very long, Gama was unable to defeat Heeraman and eventually neither wrestler won.Gama's only drawback was his age as he was much older than heeraman. After the independence and partitioning of India in 1947, Gama moved to Pakistan. Although Gama did not retire until 1952, he failed to find any other opponents. After his retirement he trained his nephew Bholu Pahalwan, who held the Pakistani wrestling championship for almost 20 years.
The Great Gama died in Lahore, Pakistan on 23 May 1960 after a period of illness. He was given land by the government but he still struggled to pay for treatment for his heart and asthma. G. D. Birla, an industrialist and wrestling fan, donated ₹2,000 and a monthly pension of ₹300, and the Government of Pakistan increased the pension to Gama and supported his medical expenses until his death.
Bruce Lee was an avid follower of Gama's training routine. Lee read articles about Gama and how he employed his exercises to build his legendary strength for wrestling, and Lee quickly incorporated them into his own routine. The training routines Lee used included "the cat stretch" (Hindu push-ups), "the squat" (known as "baithak" in India), and also known as the "deep-knee bend."
Championships and accomplishments
- Nidaay-e-Millat, Urdu Weekly Magazine 21-27 July, 2016. Lahore
- "The culture and crisis of kushti". The Hindu. 31 October 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- "The Great Gama -". Legendary Strength. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
- Alter, Joseph S. (1992). The wrestler's body identity and ideology in North India. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 76. ISBN 9780520912175.
- Banerjee, Saranath (10 March 2012). "Gamanamah: The story of a strongman". The Times of India newspaper-timescrest. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- A rare museum The Tribune, Published 24 November 2001, Retrieved 2 July 2016
- Little, John, Bruce Lee – The Art of Expressing The Human Body (Tuttle Publishing, 1998), p. 58
- Oliver, Greg (26 November 2014). "Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2015 announced". Slam! Sports. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved 2 July 2016.