Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Kinsuk and the Seemal Tree








At Ravana's face the vanar sprang,



Snatched from his head the kingly crown



And dashed it in his fury down



Straight at his foe the giant flew, 



His mighty arms around him threw,



With strength restless swung him round



And dashed him panting to the ground,



Unharmed amid the storm of blows,



Swift to his feet Sugriva arose.



Again in furious fight they met,



With streams of blood their arms were wet,



Each grasping his opponent's waist.



Thus with their branches interlaced,



Which, crimson with the flowers of spring,



From side to side the breezes swing,



In furious wrestle you may see,



The Kinsuk and the Seemal tree.



--The Ramayana, trans. R.T.H. Griffith
Kushti
, or Indian pit wrestling, derives from Persian rules of wrestling.  In Hindu culture, wrestling has evolved into a spiritual path.  Competitions are organized around the akhara, a combination of dormitory and gym, enforcing sexual abstinence and a diet of unleavened flat bread, eggs, milk, butter, and almonds, along with special exercises (vyiyam) to improve strength, agility, and tactical command of the body.  The wrestlers adhere to strict rules of hygiene, including set rules on when and how to defecate, and take precautions against seeing, even by accident, animals having sex.  The wrestlers live and train together, seeking strength and purity through the practice of wrestling.  Hanuman, the Hindu monkey deity, is thought to preside over every akhara.


Matches occur on mounds of sand moistened with ghi (clarified butter).  There are eleven categories, based on each wrestler's weight.  Before wrestling, the men aggressively beat their hands against their muscles to put their opponents on notice.  A wrestler wins when he pins his opponent's back to the ground.  The prizes, such as a mace and a shield, symbolize the ancient tradition of warrior heroism.

A dangal (or meet) draws wrestlers from various akharas to contend for honors and may last three or four days.  Because of cultural changes in India and Pakistan and the strict regimen demanded at akharas, the sport and subculture of kushti are in decline in twenty-first century South Asia.  


(Like the information, the photos are taken from a variety of sites.  I could not find specific attributions.  Those who are interested can find more detailed information on this subject in this pdf file.)

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