Chinchechi Talim - Life of a Pehalwan in Pune's Oldest Akhara

Set up in the year 1786, Chinchechi Talim is the oldest and the most famous Akhara of Pune. Over the last 200 plus years, the pehalwan from the akhara traveled across the entire country and won competitions everywhere. Even today the akhara is quite well known in North India and the pehalwani from here often go there and compete.

There are two teachers at the Talim (an Akhara is called so in Pune, more details later in the post), Balasaheb Kolte and Bandhu Shedge, and has 35 students right now. The youngest boy is just eight right now, while the oldest man is about thirty. They all live together and have an almost identical schedule everyday. The elder pehalwans also travel often to participate in competitions across India, while the younger ones go to school and college during the day time.

Indian man male langot akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
Posing in a group at the Chinchechi Talim

Why is an Akhara called Talim in Maharashtra?

You might have noticed that an akhara is known as a Talim in Pune (and all of Maharashtra). In the pre-partition days of India, the akharas of Maharashtra were closely linked to the ones in Punjab (now in Pakistan). The term used there was talim (a place of learning) and the same was adopted in Maharashtra also.

So now an Akhara is known as Talim across Maharashtra, especially the two wrestling hubs of Kolhapur and Pune.

So how did I end up at the Talim?

One evening after I finished interviewing a young man who made Radium stickers, his other friends also came over and a discussion started in Pune and what it means to them all. Someone mentioned kushti and we started talking about it. I shared about my experience of a visit to an akhara in Mathura. Anyway, I got quite intrigued about the akharas in Pune and one of them suggested Chinchechi Talim as has a friend who once went there. He knew the address and immediately wrote it down for me and my plan was made for the next morning.

I knew akharas start functioning early in the morning so I also started at six in an auto. My auto guy knew exactly where it was and I didn't even have to show him the address. I was going to this rather famous akhara and I had no clue if it was working on a Sunday and if they would at all entertain me at their premises. Unlike the akharas in North India, this was a closed akhara and there was just one small black gate which looked more like a back gate. I could hear some noises from inside so I was confident that the place was at least functional.

Indian man male langot akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
The Black Door - the only entrance to the Talim

I knocked and a young man in track suit opened and asked if I was alone. I nodded and he asked me to come inside. He asked me to sit anywhere I felt comfortable. I just kept my bag there and waited for him to ask me questions. When he didn't ask me anything, I went upto him and introduced myself. This made everyone ruse stop their stretching exercises and look at me. I somehow figured there was no one in charge so decided to talk to them all directly. Apologizing first for my inability to speak Marathi, I told them who I was and why I was here. In the end of asked if anyone had a problem if I took pictures to which every one shook their heads and asked me to take as many pictures as I wanted.

Indian man male langot underwear akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
A wrestler relaxing...
Indian man male langot akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
There is a small shower and men get crammed up and shower together
Indian man male langot akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
Relaxing after some stretching


Over the next few hours I took only a few pictures but had long conversations with many wrestlers. They took me around their living area, bathing area (I interviewed one of them while he happily splashed himself with water), their kitchen, TV area, and answered all my questions, including a few taboo subjects, like sex.

Schedule of a Pehalwan at the Talim

A pehalwan has a very busy day and most of it is spent exercising, resting and eating. Though most follow the schedule below, many also go to schools and colleges during the day time.
  • The day starts at 4am for the wrestlers when they get up and freshen up
  • Go for running to Parvati hill and then play some sports, like Football
  • Come back to the Talim and do exercise
  • This is followed by relaxing and stretching, and a break about 30 minutes when they take shower together
  • Then finally it's time for food - thandai and sheera
  • Then cooking starts and they eat lunch at about 10.30am
  • Then its sleep time between 11am to 3pm
  • At 4pm they start practice again, and also wrestle
  • At 6.30pm the practice ends and they have thandai at 7pm
  • Dinner is cooked at 8pm and they eat at 8.30pm
  • Then they usually sit together and watch tv or study or just talk
  • 10pm is sleep time for most pehalwans

Where does the money come from?

Like an akhara, a Talim is open to all and there is no fee. However, there are expenses for each student - food, living costs, logistics and so on. Some of these are paid for by the trust and some by the Hanuman temple adjoining the Talim. Many students are also from good families and their parents also send them ghee, dry fruits and other things which are added to the overall pool of food items. Any prize money won by the wrestler, however, remains with him only and is not given to the Talim.

Indian man male langot akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
The dinner getting ready - everyone participates in this

Indian man male langot akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
The Pehalwans relaxing - some sleeping, others watching tv
Indian man male langot akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
Having run in the morning, this Pehalwan took another short nap before breakfast

Sex, Lies and Girlfriends

When I asked some questions about abstinence in the beginning, everyone told me that it was compulsory to not even look at girls, leaving alone touching one. I was skeptical with the answers and decided to probe this again after they became comfortable with me to open up more. And once one young man started talking, everyone started opening up as well.

It's not at all uncommon for a man here to have a girl-friend and even get intimate with her. Many believed that it was only in the past that men did that, and now most men do have sexual relations with women and it was more like an open secret within the community. Many refrained from kushti right after sex as they would not have either the mood or the energy for it. Also, they also always took bath after making out with a woman or masturbation before getting into an akhara, which is considered sacred space.

Indian man male langot akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
Yogesh sharing tales

Asprations of Pehalwans

Most wrestlers aspire to fight at national level and win some prize money which will support them later in life. Most wrestlers generally fight till their mid-twenties and then retire to live another life. Many get married at that age and start a family. Some get into other businesses, some take up a job, some go back to their villages to take up farming again and live a more conventional life. Many continue staying at the akhara and teach the young boys.

Kushti vs Greeko-Roman

As against the Greek-Roman style of wrestling, where only upper body contact is allowed, kushti is free style and entire body contact is allowed. Being a more intimate form of wrestling, kushti is also more challenging and often requires a mix of body and skill to win. Kushti is also not always based on body weight, and there are free weight competitions where anyone can fight against anyone else. These are also the most popular amongst the fans.

Bromance and Intimacy

Living with each other almost through the day, the men share an intimacy unlike what's seen in the world outside the walls of an akhara. They sleep on mattresses together and share blankets, and there are no inhibitions to hold on to one another. Almost everyone at the akhara wears a langot (which barely covers your genitals) and this also brings a certain kind of intimacy between the men.

Indian man male langot akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
Watching an mms together!
Indian man male langot akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
Helping each other out in the shower

How to reach Chinchechi Talim?

Here is the address to the Chinchechi Talim. The best way to go there is to take an auto or a two-wheeler and go there. Parking your car can be a challenge on a busy day.

Chinchechi Talim
Chinchechi Chowk
Shukrawar Peth
Pune - 411 030

Indian man male langot underwear akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
A pehalwan showing his muscles!

Indian man male langot akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
The idol of hanuman is the most sacred element at the akhara
Indian man male langot akhara pehalwan chinchechi talim pune
Aniket posing for me during an interview
Hanuman temple chinchechi talim chowk pune
Hanuman Temple in front of the Talim

To buy a langot

If you planning to buy a langot for yourself, you can do so now on Amazon.


Kushti video

Here's a video from a hot afternoon in a traditional akhara.

Comments

  1. Very interesting series...I have myself visited a few Akharas.. need to share the pics...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Prasad. I have heard much about the Akharas in Delhi and Punjab, might try and visit one of those on my next visit.

      Would be great to see your pics!

      Delete
  2. These are the most special sports club pictures I have ever seen. I would not like to be a member.

    Greetings,
    Filip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :) I can understand...it's not an easy club to be a part of. Life is very tough here...

      Delete
  3. These are very interesting photos but also so very different lifestyle I've seen.
    Very good serie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes it is a very different lifestyle, a new way of living for me also...even though they are from my city!

      Delete
  4. How to the practice fees plz rply fast

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You must join an akhara and practice with rest of the boys there...

      Delete
  5. Nice post ...
    As u mentioned this area is free of cost.???
    Any one can join this without paying anything??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Technically yes, but students often do give some donations. Many of them come from poor families and the money goes into supporting them.

      Delete
  6. I want to join talim for gain weight i m 22 yrs old and my weight is 52 i m like skiny guy i want to build my muscle is it help me ??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can reach out to the Talim directly...they do have special weight-gain programs as well :)

      Delete
  7. Can anyone go to talon at the age of 28 reply fast brother

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you can Prafull, though it can be difficult as most start very young...

      Delete
  8. My age is 21 .can i join talim .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess so - why don't you visit the talim and ask them directly. They can certainly help you out.

      Delete

Post a Comment