Situated on the banks of Ganga, Tulsidas Akhara in Varanasi has broken its 450-year-old tradition. Managed by the Sankat Mochan temple trust, the Akhara finally allowed women to practice wrestling in its mud pit on August 15.
To make this possible, two girls, Nandini Sarkar and Aastha Verma, both 20, persistently tried to convince the trust’s mahant for almost a decade to let women enter the akhara. Thanks to their efforts, from this Diwali, it will hold fights featuring women, reports The Times of India.
“Our coaches, Surendra Yadav and Gorakhnath Yadav, approached the mahant this year and convinced him that if the country can have a Prime Minister representing Varanasi for the first time, why can’t women achieve a first of their own?” Nandini told TOI.
However, getting this permission proved very difficult.
“We were shown texts on Hanuman’s vow of bachelorhood and told that girls are impure and their presence is a sin for the God. But it’s the same God who gave us the strength to fight,” she told the publication.
Both Nandini and Aastha have represented Uttar Pradesh in wrestling. They’ve mastered wrestling by watching men wrestle in the Akhara over the years. However, their struggles aren’t over. The two come from very humble backgrounds, due to which they can’t afford proper training and diet.
Even acceptance in the sport has been difficult. “There are times when men would try to pat us just to feel us up. We usually answer such touches with a punch and tackle,” Nandini told TOI.
Nonetheless, the two are very happy that they got to touch the mud of the Akhara and that their dream has finally materialised.