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Gama Pehelwan-The greatest wrestler of all time

Gama Pehelwan (Ghulam Muhammad) was born in Amritsar, Punjab, British India, was a renowned Kashmiri wrestler, warrior and a practitioner of Pehlwani wrestling. He was awarded the South Asian version of the World Heavyweight Championship on October 15, 1910. To this date he is the only wrestler in history who remained undefeated his whole life, which was substantial, as his career had spanned more than 50 years. He has been billed as the greatest Pehlwani wrestler in history. After India’s independence in 1947, Gama moved to Pakistan.

Ghulam Muhammad, whose Punjabi nickname was “Gama”, was born to the renowned wrestler Muhammad Aziz in Punjab. Maharaja Bhawani Singh, the ruler of the princely state of Datia, patronized the young wrestler and his brother Imam Bukhsh. Gama was first noticed at the age of ten when he entered a strongman competition held in Jodhpur, which included many grueling exercises such as squats. The contest was attended by more than four hundred wrestlers and young Gama was among the last remaining fifteen wrestlers. At that point the Maharaja of Jodhpur announced Gama as the victor due to his remarkable show of enormous stamina and dedication among the many older wrestlers.

Fame came to Gama at the age of 19 when he challenged the then Indian Wrestling Champion,middle aged Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala, who was also a Punjabi wrestler from Gujranwala, in Punjab, Pakistan. At about 7 feet tall with a very impressive record, Raheem was thought 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.This was the only contest in Gama’s wrestling career which ended in a draw,otherwise in his whole wrestling career from the beginning to end, Gama always remained victorious. 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 Bukhsh, Gama sailed to England to compete with the Western Wrestlers. 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 promoter R.B. Benjamin. For a long time no one came forward to accept the challenge. In order 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.

The next to accept Gama’s challenge was Stanislaus Zbyszko, and the date of bout was set as 10 September 1910. The match was £250 in prize money and the John Bull Belt. 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. The two men were set to face each other again on 17 September 1910. On that date, Zbyszko failed to show up and Gama was announced the winner by default. He was awarded the prize and the John Bull Belt. Receiving this belt entitled Gama to be called Rustam-e-Zamana or World Champion.

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 favor 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”.

After beating Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala, Gama beat Pandit Biddu, who was one of the best wrestlers in India of that time (1916).

In 1922, during a visit to India, the Prince of Wales presented Gama with a Silver Mace.


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. He was now known as the “Great wrestler” of South Asia.

After soundly beating Zbyszko in 42 seconds, Gama beat Jesse Petersen in February 1929. This bout lasted only one and a half minutes. This was the last bout that Gama fought during his career and although he did not retire until 1952, he did not find any opponent and retired undefeated.

After the independence in 1947, Gama moved to Pakistan where he lived the rest of his life with his brother, the Champion Imam Bux and his nephews, the famous Bholu Brothers. After retiring, he trained his nephew Bholu Pahalwan who held the Pakistani wrestling championship for almost 20 years.

The Great Gama died in Lahore, Pakistan on 21 May 1960.

 

News : 1,200 kg stone lifted by Gama Pehelwan on display

VADODARA: Most of the contemporary weight-lifters, with years of training and exercises, would puff and pant to lift a few 100 kilograms of weight in professional contests. But, a young boy in his 20s left Barodians gasping for breath way back in 1902 when he lifted a stone weighing over 1,200 kilograms. World-renowned Gulaam Mohammed alias Great Gama Pehelwan had lifted the stone that was lying in Nazarbaug Palace near Mandvi.

The stone that has now been kept at Baroda Museum in Sayajibaug is two-and-a-half feet in height and has text inscribed on it. The text says that the stone was lifted by Gulaam Mohammed on December 23, 1902. Gama had visited the then Baroda state to attend a wrestling competition when he achieved the feat. He was the best wrestler in the country in those times and remained unbeaten till he died in 1960.

“The museum register has an entry number 10-10, which states that the stone was brought in the museum sometime after 1912. It is said that the stone was lifted by Gama on his chest. The stone is of historical value and so we have kept it on display outside the museum,” museum director R D Parmar said

Born in Amritsar in 1882, Gama was awarded the World Heavyweight title in 1910 after he defeated international wrestlers in London. He started wrestling career at the age of 10 and went through rigorous training after Maharaja Bhawani Singh of Datia – a princely state in Madhya Pradesh – became Gama’s patron.

“Maharaja Sayajirao was an avid sports enthusiast and he used to organise many contests. Gama had visited the city to attend wrestling competition. He was a champion and couldn’t find anyone of his match,” recalled Daddumiyaan, a historian, who has done a detailed study on Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad. “He lifted the stone and carried it for some distance as a show of strength,” Daddumiyaan added.

 

Legend has it that in his prime, he would do up to one thousand dand (jack-knife pushups) and baithaks (deep knee bends) in one drop. His diet included as many as six desi chickens, 10 litres of milk, up to half a litre of ghee and almonds crushed into a strength tonic. The ‘he’ here refers to Ghulam Muhammad aka ‘The Great Gama’ – the greatest pehelwan wrestler to ever walk on Indian soil.

The Great Gama: Story Of The Greatest 'Pehelwan' To Ever Walk On Indian Soil The Great Gama: Story Of The Greatest 'Pehelwan' To Ever Walk On Indian SoilBorn in May 1878 in Amritsar, Punjab, British India, Ghulam had no idea that he would grow up to surpass the likes of the legendary Karim Bux, prove Pehelwani’s mettle to the rest of the world, and become a subject of study and inspiration to the likes of Bruce Lee.

The Great Gama: Story Of The Greatest 'Pehelwan' To Ever Walk On Indian Soil

After the death of his father Wrestler Muhammad Aziz Baksh, Gama was taken into training by the Maharaja of Datia. By the time he was 10 years old, he was already winning domestic tournaments and started to build himself a reputation.

The Great Gama: Story Of The Greatest 'Pehelwan' To Ever Walk On Indian Soil

While he was destroying all the wrestlers coming his way, it was in 1895 that he faced the feared Rustam-e-Hind, Raheem Baksh Sultaniwala. While Raheem stood a monstrous 6 feet 9 inches tall, Gama at 5 feet 7 inches held him down real well and the bout ended in a draw. This boosted Gama’s reputation of being a fierce pehelwan all over the country.The Great Gama: Story Of The Greatest 'Pehelwan' To Ever Walk On Indian Soil

The following years saw Gama rise to the status of an invincible wrestler by winning back-to-back bouts against Ghulam Mohiuddin of Datia in 1898, Partab Singh from Bhopal in 1902, Ali Baba Sain of Indore in 1904 and Hasan Baksh of Multan in 1907. In 1910, Gama again faced Raheem Baksh Sultaniwala, his long-time rival and strength equivalent but again, the clash of the titans ended in a draw. Gama remained the only wrestler in India who was still undefeated.

The Great Gama: Story Of The Greatest 'Pehelwan' To Ever Walk On Indian Soil

Undefeated in India, Gama sailed to England to fight great western wrestlers. Surprisingly, he was not easily granted permission to fight because of his short height. To this Gama threw an open challenge claiming to defeat any wrestler of any weight class in under 30 minutes. But wrestlers thought this to be a hoax by  promoter R. B. Benjamin and nobody stepped up to fight him. Unfazed, Gama challenged the feared legendary English wrestlers Stanislaus Zbyszko and Frank Gotch.

The Great Gama: Story Of The Greatest 'Pehelwan' To Ever Walk On Indian Soil

Reigning wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko stood up to the challenge and the fight went down on September 10th 1910. Contrary to public expectation, Gama totally destroyed Zbyszko. Gama pinned him down in less than a minute and kept him crushed in the same position for 2 hours 35 minutes. The match ended in a draw. A rematch was arranged on the 19th of the same month but Stanislaus never showed up, and Gama became the first Indian wrestler to ever win the Word Heavyweight Title, the equivalent of Rustam-e-Zamana.

The Great Gama: Story Of The Greatest 'Pehelwan' To Ever Walk On Indian Soil

Finally in 1911, Gama faced Raheem Baksh Sultaniwala for the final time and won the title of Rustam-e-hind. His last bout was in 1929 against Swedish wrestler Jesse Peterson, and after winning this, he unofficially retired from the sport undefeated throughout his 50-year career. Gama stayed in Pakistan after Partition in 1947, and died a rather painful death in 1963 suffering from acute arthritis.

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