We all photographers love Kusthi a lot . Here is one from me as well!
I visited Kondli ( Siddapura, KA ) fair this year which happens every five years. I was there during a nice golden hour in the evening and the Kusthi was just incredible. It was a tight packed akhada and a cheerful environment. Here are photos with some explanation how these happen in fairs.
Organizers start calling the prize money for which Kusthi pehelwans ( participants ) start betting for. For small money you get small pehelwans and for big money you get bigger and better . So it starts with kids who fight for a coconut or a 10 rupee note. Sometime the kid’s kusthi also wins heart of the viewers who might give some additional prize money .
Tougher or experienced pehelwans look for a good opponent when the prize money is big. The biggest prize money can be in thousands rupees and some silver too. The pehelwans wear a staring look to show how ‘tough’ he is while circling the akhada .
Some pehelwans start exercising to show their body which is the first step to impress their opponents and the viewers. Apart from local wrestlers , neighboring village wrestlers and sometime wrestlers from distant places also participate to win the prize
Rules are pretty detailed and the only way to win is by pressing the opponents back on the floor or by tap out using a hold. The akhada is a rough surface prepared by cleaning a existing farm . One can still find lot of stones and other things which the umpires keep cleaning it. But these pehelwans are so tough that very rarely they get starches!
But kusthi is not about muscles and power. It is more about technique and experience . An experienced pehelwan can easily beat a heavy muscled pehelwan in seconds. Some fights go on for hours where no one wants to give up. The referees who are usually the trainers call it as draw with the feedback from the viewers .
The pehelwans can participate for more than one and bet for higher money. So some pehelwans who lost or won sit and watch other kusthi and invite the looser sometime as well. There is also saying that very close friends fix the matches and divide the money. But if found the organizers ban them and they might get banned from other kusthis happening in nearby fairs also.
It gets really beautiful when the dust surrounds the wrestlers . It is a visual treat for any photographer and millions of pictures are made on Indian kusthi
Home boys always get the psychological advantage as he can get the crowd support. But the visitors cannot be ignored as the announcers keep announcing about the strengths and number of wins of the visiting wrestler.
When the homeboy wins he gets a huge pop from the local crowd !
For some Kusthi is their pride . It is not a daily bred earning sport. It is more of a culture, fun, showing strengths and winning. Entertaining crowd also is a great skill. Some wrestlers are quite popular for that and they are cheered whenever they come to akhada.
The loser also get a small amount of prize and a pat from the trainers . He can visit another fair and cna compete the same wrestler again. This is where the rivalries, friendships start and kusthi gets a story angle. Sometime local politics and cultural backgrounds also help to develop a story and people love watching such things. Some kustis can turn very ugly as well after this sport turns out to be a real fight!