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Losing heritage? How modern gymnasiums are killing the Akharas of Banaras

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By Rituparna Chakraborty

The traditional akharas (traditional Indian gyms) in Varanasi in India are fading into oblivion. Earlier the city which had one or two hundred akharas has lost its ground to the modern gymnasiums and the situation is so bad that now only 15-16 akharas are in working condition.

The akharas which once were a pride of Varanasi’s tradition and heritage, are losing to gyms because the modern training routines are less rigorous and consume little time.

Gyassuddin who works as a physical trainer at a local gym says that working out in an akhara is very time consuming and requires a disciplined routine, which the youth find a little out dated.

The Akhara Culture

In the earlier days people joined akharas to practice wrestling activities which was then a source entertainment.

The central feature of every akhara is a twelve-to-fifteen meter square earthen pit which is usually covered with a cement pavilion. The pit is surrounded by an expanse of packed earth which consists of turmeric (haldi), alkali (phitkari) and many other ayurvedic herbs.

The equipments like gada, dumble etc used in akaharas are much heavier than the machines available at the gyms.

The akharas provide natural environment to the wrestlers and the workouts are carried out under the open sky and in fresh air. Before starting the daily exercise they offer prayer to lord Hanuman. The akhara is an aesthetic cum moral space.

Why akharas are losing to gyms?

The gyms have proper trainers who are qualified and have proper knowledge of diet and exercises. Also, they have well trained staff who customize work-out routines for the clients.

According to health expert Dr. Ravindu, who practises in  Varanasi, the exercises carried out at gyms are safer as there is proper guidance by the trainers, whereas the akharas lag in this. He also stated that the pahalwans are more prone to injuries due to this reason.

 

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Banaras: The Ancient City With A Twist

A sense of historic relevance floats around Banaras and you will found it everywhere you go

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Banaras has a heritage which is more than 3000 years old. Wikimedia Commons
Banaras has a heritage which is more than 3000 years old. Wikimedia Commons

By Ruchika Verma 

  • Banaras is one of the oldest cities in the world
  • It is a historic, cultural and religious hub
  • The ancient city is full of fascinating places and stories

Banaras or Varanasi is considered one of the oldest cities in the world. It is situated in Uttar Pradesh, India. It is a city on the banks of the river Ganga and is one of the seven sacred cities of India.

Banaras is undoubtedly one of the most interesting cities in India. It is a historical, religious and political hub. The city combines all the major aspects of India beautifully in one place. One side, where there are religious ghats, on the other, there are streets full of political discussions. It is one colourful city, in all aspects possible.

Banaras – A city with a rich culture and history 

In Banaras, there are stories everywhere you look. Stories and myths about gods, royalties, politicians, there is nothing which you won’t hear here.

There is also a story behind the city’s famous other name, Varanasi. It starts with the two rivers, Varuna and Assi, which meet in this city, hence the name, ‘Varanasi’. During the Mughal rule, they changed the name to ‘Banaras’.

Banaras has a rich historic and religious heritage. Wikimedia Commons
Banaras has a rich historic and religious heritage. Wikimedia Commons

A sense of historic relevance floats around the city and you will found it everywhere you go. Whether it is, you’ll find traces of history and culture in every nook of Banaras.

 Famous Places in Banaras 

Banaras is full of places which will interest not only a travel enthusiast but also, any normal person. Whereas, Sarnath will acquaint you with the birthplace of Buddha. Ramnagar Fort will acquaint yo with a impressive vintage cars, clocks, and pictures. And who can miss the famous ‘Aarti’ on the banks of river Ganga, it is one of the most enchanting experiences one could have.

Also Read: The land that has conserved the essence Hinduism for over 3000 years 

And also, the famous hindu temple, Kashi Vishwanath. It is one of the greatest Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Also, the Banaras Hindu University or BHU, which is a dream college for many and the political hub for its students. The markets are also very colourful and full of great deals.

the famous Banaras Hindu University is one of the most premium institutes in India, Wikimedia Commons
the famous Banaras Hindu University is one of the most premium institutes in India, Wikimedia Commons

The city of Varanasi has you covered for food too. The ‘Chaats’ are a must try. And the ‘Kulhaad Chai’ is another quintessential  delicacy you can find in the ancient city.

Banaras is undoubtedly is a small but a great city which is ancient, but with a twist of modernity.