Even the titles Rustam-e-Hind (Champion of India) and Rustam-e-Zamana (Champion of the Universe) fail to do justice whenever it is time to describe the legendary wrestler who is none other than Gama Pehalwan. Gama Pehalwan remains to be the source of inspiration of infinite wrestlers around the globe no matter how much time has passed. Although more than five decades have passed, Gama, also referred to as The Undefeated, is still undefeated in all the hearts of the Indian subcontinent. Check out Gama Pehalwan Wiki, Age, Wife, Family, Death, Religion, Caste, Diet & More.
The Great Gama, popularly known by his ring name Gama Pehalwan was born on 22 May 1878 (82 years) as Ghulam Muhammad Baksh into a traditional Kashmiri Muslim family of wrestlers in the village Jabbowal, Amritsar, Punjab, British India. His family was kenned to produce top-notch and fine wrestlers. All through his lifetime, he remained famous for challenging various nationally and even internationally acclaimed wrestlers to defeat him. So great was this legendary wrestler that he used to pin down his opponents in just a couple of minutes.
Family, Religion, & Children
Muhammad Aziz Baksh was the father of Indian wrestler, Gama Pehalwan. The Muslim wrestler also had a brother, Imam Baksh Pehalwan.
Gama married twice in his life; Wazeer Begum and one more. He had five sons and four daughters. His granddaughter, Kalsoom Nawaz, is the wife of Nawaz Sharif. Kalsoom’s sister Saira Bano, also Gama’s granddaughter, is the wife of Jhara Pehalwan.
The Great Gama had a robust stature with 5′ 8″ height and 110 kg weight. He had black eyes and hair. His body measurements were 46″ chest, 34″ waist, and 22″ biceps.
Diet & Exercise
If sources are to be believed The Great Gama’s daily diet included 2 gallons (7.5 litre) of milk, six desi chickens and more than a pound of crushed almond paste made into a tonic drink.
His daily training did not use to be a cake walk. Gama used to grapple with 40 of his fellow wrestlers in the court. Gama also used to do 5000 Baithaks (squats) and 3000 Dands (pushups) in a day.
The Great Gama used to squat with a 95 kg doughnut-shaped exercise disc. The disc is now displayed at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) Museum at Patiala.
The Beginning Of The Wrestling Career
When Gama was 6-year-old, he lost his father, Muhammad Aziz Baksh, who was also a prominent wrestler. After his father’s demise, his maternal grandfather and wrestler Nun Pahalwan took care of him. After Nun Pahalwan’s death, he was put under the supervision of his uncle Ida, another wrestler, who gave Gama his first training in wrestling.
First Recognition & Training
In 1888, at the age of 10, Gama was first noticed when he entered a strongman competition held in Jodhpur. In the contest, Gama was among the last 15, and the Maharaja of Jodhpur was so impressed by Gama’s performance that he declared him winner due to his young age.
When the story of Gama’s prowess in wrestling reached to the Maharaja of Datia, he took him into training, and from here onwards, the journey of Gama’s professional wrestling had started.
A Rare Achievement
While on a visit to the then Baroda state (modern-day Vadodara) to attend a wrestling competition, Gama Pehalwan lifted a stone weighing over 1,200 kilograms. The stone has now been kept at Baroda Museum.
The Turning Point
In 1895, at the age of 17, Gama challenged Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala (the then Indian Wrestling Champion), another ethnic Kashmiri wrestler from Gujranwala, now in Punjab, Pakistan. Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala was a middle-aged guy with almost 7-feet height and also had an impressive record. The bout continued for hours and eventually ended in a draw. This bout with Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala was the turning point in Gama’s career.
By 1910, except Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala, Gama had defeated all the prominent Indian wrestlers who faced him. After his domestic successes, Gama started focussing his attention on the rest of the world.
Challenge That Was Considered Bluff
To compete with the Western Wrestlers, Gama sailed to England, accompanied by his younger brother Imam Bakhsh. However, because of his short stature, he could not gain instant entry. While in London, he issued a challenge that he could throw any 3 wrestlers in 30 minutes of any weight class, but no one turned as they considered it a bluff. Further, Gama specifically challenged Stanislaus Zbyszko and Frank Gotch that either they turn up or give away the prize money.
But American wrestler Benjamin Roller was the first one to take Gama’s challenge. Gama pinned him in 1 minute 40 seconds the 1st time, and in 9 minutes 10 seconds the other. The next day, Gama gained entry to the official tournament after defeating 12 wrestlers.
Gama & The World Champion
On 10 September 1910, in the finals of the John Bull World Championships in London, Gama faced world champion Stanislaus Zbyszko. The match was £250 (₹22000) in prize money. After nearly three hours of grappling, Zbyszko wrestled the great Gama to a draw.
Next time, when Zbyszko and Gama were set to face each other, Zbyszko didn’t show up and Gama emerged the winner.
During his tour to the Western countries, Gama defeated some of the most respected grapplers in the world-Maurice Deriaz of France, “Doc” Benjamin Roller of the United States, Jesse Peterson (World Champion) from Sweden, and Johann Lemm (the European Champion) of Switzerland.
In the match with Benjamin Roller, Gama threw him 13 times in the 15-minute match.
Challenge That Went Untaken
After defeating many of world’s prominent grapplers, Gama issued a challenge to the rest of those who claimed to the World Champion’s Title, including George Hackenschmidt of Russia, Japanese Judo champion Taro Miyake, and Frank Gotch of the United States. However, each of them declined his invitation.
At one point, Gama offered to fight 20 English wrestlers back-to-back, but still, no one would take up his challenge.
When Gama returned to India from England, Gama faced Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala in Allahabad. After a long struggle between them, Gama emerged the winner and won the title of “Rustam-e-Hind.”
When asked about his strongest opponent, Gama replied, “Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala.”
In 1916, Gama defeated another best wrestler of India, Pandit Biddu.
Laurels From The Prince Of Wales
In 1922, when the Prince of Wales was on his visit to India, he presented Gama with a silver mace.
Until 1927, Gama did not have any opponents. However, shortly, it was announced that Gama and Zbyszko would face each other again. In the bout in January 1928 in Patiala, Gama defeated Zbyszko within a minute and won the Indian version of the World Wrestling Championship. Following the bout, Zbyszko referred Gama as a “tiger.”
Beginning Of The End
The last bout that Gama fought during his career was with Jesse Petersen in February 1929. The bout lasted only one and a half minutes in which Gama emerged the winner.
In the 1940s, on the invitation of the Nizam of Hyderabad, Gama defeated all his fighters. Then, Nizam sent him to fight the wrestler Balram Heeraman Singh Yadav, who was never defeated in his life. After a long fight, Gama was not able to defeat him and eventually neither wrestler won.
After the partition of India in 1947, Gama moved to Pakistan.
Until his retirement in 1952, Gama failed to find any other opponents. After his retirement, Gama trained his nephew Bholu Pahalwan who held the Pakistani wrestling championship for almost twenty years.
In his last days, Gama suffered a chronic illness and struggled to pay for his treatment. To help him out, G. D. Birla, an industrialist & a wrestling fan, donated ₹2,000 and a monthly pension of ₹300. The Government of Pakistan also supported his medical expenses until his death on 23 May 1960.
Bruce Lee, International martial arts trainer describes himself as an avid follower and the biggest admirer of The Great Gama. What’s more fascinating is that he has even incorporated the Indian elements of push-ups and squats (baithaks) in his own training regime.
- Gama Pehalwan did not drink alcohol or smoke.
- Here’s a sneak peek into the legendary wrestler’s life: