Kushti at Tulsi Ghat Akhara of Varanasi

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Akharas have always been an integral part of Varanasi's culture and wrestlers who come out of the these have won enough tournaments outside the city as well. Tulsi Akhara of Varanasi, in particular, is the most famous one and has produced many famous pehalwans (wrestlers) in the past and hence is also the most famous one.

Not just Akhara, kushti is extremely popular in many other North Indian cities like Mathura, and Agra, among others.

pehalwan langot akhara varanasi desi bulge
A wrestler getting ready...
kushti akhara langot tulsi ghat varanasi banaras desi lund lauda pic
A wrestling match in progress...

I stumbled on this akhara while taking a walk early in the morning when I was sitting on the ghat and just chilling out alone. I saw an old man doing yoga on the steps and on following him for some cool shots, eventually reached the akhara itself.

Over the next hour or so I witnessed their morning rituals, which included some heavy-dose workout and a few bouts of wrestling. Interestingly I wasn't alone and there were a few foreigners as well who joined me. The head of the akhara was very particular about only letting the men take pictures and come close to the pehalwans, as they usually practice celibacy (it's quite rare though and the wrestlers also confirmed to me that they were quite active..ahem ahem...in bed!).



The day usually starts with wrestlers stripping down and putting on a special garment, called langot, which is a sort of underwear to keep your manhood safe, as wrestler put it to me with a smile. Wearing a langot is quite a challenge, though pehalwans do it with ease. One of the American guy wanted to try it out himself, but decided to skip it when he realised the risk of exposure was way too high and there were so many people ready with their cameras...hahaha!

Once the langot is worn, the pehalwan oils his body with mustard oil. Oil is essential as it helps you to slip out of the grip of the opponent and is also believed to have healing properties. Usually wrestlers help each other for this.

kushti akhara langot tulsi ghat varanasi banaras
Oiling before the start

Next is exercising which actually takes up most of the morning as building stamina is considered essential for this sport. Both strength and agility are focus here. Our American friend who shied away from wearing the langot, did join the wrestlers for this session.

kushti akhara langot tulsi ghat varanasi banaras
Working out!

And finally, the wrestlers get down to practice with each other guided by a coach. Usually each pair plays one complete game (i.e. till the time one of them is defeated) and by the time it ends, they are too exhausted to play another game.

They practice moves, exercise some more, take a bath, change and go back home, college or to their offices. Most wrestlers are quite young and have school or college right after they finish practice.

kushti akhara langot tulsi ghat varanasi banaras
Coach giving lessons
kushti akhara langot tulsi ghat varanasi banaras
Match in progress...
kushti akhara langot tulsi ghat varanasi banaras desi lund lauda pic
There is quite a bit of throwing around...
kushti akhara langot tulsi ghat varanasi banaras
And finally one of them loses!

How to reach the Akhara?

The best way to reach the Akhara would be to take any local transport and reach Assi ghat. Get off at the Assi ghat and walk towards Tulsi ghat - will be on your left if you are facing the river. A short five minutes ride later you will reach Tulsi ghat. Take the steep steps which go up, and the akhara is right there on the right after the last step across the narrow lane.

It's really easy to find, but ask for directions if you don't find it yourself.

Timings:

Unlike other akharas, this one starts a little late in the morning:

Morning: 8am to 10am
Evening: 4-5pm to 7pm

The timings are always approximate and change as per the season.
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10 comments:

  1. I don't know if I will ever walk into an akhara… so thank you for taking me there virtually!

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  2. It's always nice to see young people getting involved in a traditional custom. Kushti is definitely worth preserving.

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  3. Nice write up and pictures on the wrestling school. As a Photographer I wished to go to an Akhara this write up have a good idea on what to expect.

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  4. heyhi i am woking on project related to oldest akhara in india. can you please help me with contact no of tulsi ghat akhara

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, I do not have the contact number. The Akhara is really easy to find though...just ask anyone at the Tulsi ghat and they will direct you to it.

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  5. HI Siddhartha ,

    Do these Akhara's new students , i would like to train in a traditional akhara for 1-2 weeks when i visit Kashi , any contact no/address list of Akharas will help

    Also do they teach Hanumanti or Jamvanti style of wrestling

    thanks
    Rohit

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    Replies
    1. Hi Rohti, unfortunately I do not have any contact number. But they do take new students, in fact they would be very happy to do so...

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