Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt was popularly known as ‘The Great Gama’ or ‘Gama Pehlwan’.

Born on 22 May 1878 in Jabbowal village in Kapurthala district, wrestling was an integral part of the family identity.

Following the death of his father, he was raised by his maternal uncle, Ida Pehlwan.

As a December 2016 feature article by Sagnik Kundu in Sportskeeda notes, “It was Ida who vowed to transform Gama into a champion pehlwan (wrestler).”

He followed a diet of milk, fruits, almonds, meat, butter, and yakhni (a boiled-down gelatinous extract of bones, joints and tendons).

Soon, Gama became a court wrestler in the Maharaja of Datia’s court.

His training regimen included 3,000 bethaks (squats) and 1,500 dands (push-ups) every day while running a mile with a 120-pound stone ring tied around his neck.

Two years after his win in London at the John Bull World Championship, Gama and another wrestler, Raheem, fought each other before a crowd of 50,000 in Allahabad.

Many people rank this fight highly among the most famous wrestling bouts in the history of the Indian subcontinent.

Even Bruce Lee incorporated some of Gama’s exercises like the bethak and the push-ups into his training regime after reading articles about the legendary wrestler.

But while the wrestler’s wins are celebrated, few know about his role during the Partition.

Before the partition was announced, Gama lived in Amritsar, but, due to communal problems, moved to Lahore in early 1947.

Settling in a colony with Hindu families, he vowed to protect them from the violent mobs.

Sometime in April–May 1947, Gama and his fellow wrestlers saved them from the mobs armed with axes and swords.

Bearing all the expenses, he escorted the Hindu families from his colony to the border where he bid adieu to them.

Gama passed away in 1960 at the age of 82. There is little doubt that Gama was a true champion whose legacy must never be forgotten.