Aug 16, 2014

Pehlwani Wrestling of India

It seems that every culture has its own way of getting muscular men to take off most of their clothes and press their bodies together, while audiences watch.

Oil Wrestling in Turkey
Naadam in Mongolia
Sumo in Japan
Lucha Libre in Mexico

And Pehlwani in India.

Pehlwani or Kusti has been practiced in India for thousands of years, but it was first codified by the Mughal Emperor Babur (1483-1530).   You meet your opponent in the middle of a ring scraped from the dirt, wearing nothing but traditional Indian underwear, a skimpy loincloth called a kaupinam.

The object is to pin your opponent to the ground without kicking, hitting, or punching. And to show off your muscles.

It is a spiritual exercise as well as a sport, with the wrestlers dedicating their lives to the buffed god Hanuman.  They are expected to follow a strict dietary regiment, and get up at 3:00 am to spend the day training.

There are competitions throughout India and the Indian Diaspora, and in the annual Asian Games.  (This year they will be held in Seoul, South Korea, in August and September).

However, with the increasing globalization of sports, most pehlwani cross-train with Graeco-Roman wrestling and judo.  And professional wrestlers study pehlwan techniques.  It's rare to see "pure" pehlwani anymore.

There's a lot of internet buzz, commentators screaming that the pehlwani "weren't gay!  Absolutely not!  Can't two guys strip down to their underwear and grab each other without people thinking they're gay?"

Which, of course, suggests that the sport was intensely homoerotic.

See also: The Top 10 Public Penises of Hinduism; A Bodybuilding Contest in India

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