Akhadas have been an integral part of the Indian subcontinent for centuries. Housing and training aspiring wrestlers, these institutes have been primarily known for accepting only boys and men.
While wrestling remains a ‘men only’ sport in India, one akhada in Varanasi is rising against the tide by opening its doors for women.
Swaminath Akhada at Tulsi Ghat stood witness to exceptional dav pech skills with wrestlers pinning each other down on the soil turfs in the dangal organized by the institute on Friday, proving cynics and haters wrong about the fact that women can’t wrestle.
Inspired by the film, Dangal, this was the first time that the akhada has spread its arms wide open for women wrestlers —478 years since its inception to be precise.
“The credit for this goes to the Aamir Khan starrer Dangal”, the organiser of Sankatmochan Foundation told DNA.
But it looks like the Aamir Khan-starrer hasn’t just inspired the akhada. As reported by DNA, scores of young girls across Uttar Pradesh have taken up wrestling after the release of the film. About a dozen girls across the neighbouring districts in the state took part in the contest, putting Varanasi on the national pedestal for the historical feat.
With three rounds of matches and elimination at each round, the dangal culminated with four girls being declared winners by Sankatmochan Foundation.
The ghat is named after the 16th century poet Tulsidas, who, as the legend goes, started the dangal on the banks of Ganga. The akhada is also famous for producing many acclaimed wrestlers like Kallu Pehlwan.
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“It was amazing to wrestle at the place where my grandpa Kallu Pahlwan and his pupils practiced for years,” said the 10-year-old Palak Yadav, who was among the winners.
The person behind the path-breaking move is Dr. Vishambhar Nath Mishra, who is a professor and the mahant of the Sankatmochan temple, in the world’s oldest inhabited city.
“Our home in Varanasi is the place where Rani Laxmibai was born. By opening the ancient akhada for women wrestlers, we wish to encourage girls to take forward Laxmibai’s valour and courage,” Dr. Vijaya Nath Mishtra, who is the mahant’s brother and a neurologist said.