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Meet Jeetu Pehalwan: The 24-year-old ‘Sultan’ from Delhi

  • An akhara is full of mud where people practice kushti. One of such akhara is situated on the edge of South Delhi, Guru Shyam Lal Akhara.
  • Some of the wrestlers of this akhara will be featured in movie Sultan.
  • The akhara is also famous for Jeetu Pehalwan. He is the grandchild of Guru Shyam Lal after whose name the Akhara has been named.

Kushti is an ancient Indian form of wrestling and flourished during the Mughal reign. The earliest form of wrestling is called Malla-Yuddha and is also known as the the predecessor of kushti. The people following the tradition are known as pehalwan (wrestlers) and the place where it is practiced is known as an akhara.

India boasts of some very well-known pehalwans like Dara Singh, Narsinh Yadav and Shamsher Singh among others. An akhara  is a plain ground full of mud where pehalwans practice kushti. One such akhara is located on the edge of South Delhi called ‘Guru Shyam Lal Akhara’. It is situated alongside the yellow metro line and the nearest station to it is  Arjan Garh.

Dara Singh. Image Source: The Hindu
Dara Singh. Image Source: The Hindu

This akhara has been in news for quite some time now. Reportedly, some of the wrestlers from the akhara have featured in Salman Khan starer Sultan.

Apart from it, the akhara is also famous for its stellar wrestler Jeetu Pehalwan. Although Jeetu will not appear in Sultan, he enjoys the celebrity status in the neighbourhood and among the fellow wrestlers. He is the 24-year-old grandson of late Guru Shyam Lal, after whom the akhara has been named.

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The respect accorded to Jeetu springs from the fact that he has not lost any kushti competition to any pehalwan in Delhi and adjoining areas till date. Jeetu usually practices two times a day- morning and evening. Early mornings are reserved to practice ‘Jor’ and the evenings are dedicated to polishing techniques, ‘daav’.

He is not a stereotypical wrestler who believes that the pehelwans need to follow celibacy and must think about starting a family only post retirement. Jeetu is a father to a six-month-old daughter, Kanvi, with whom he likes to spend as much time as possible.

Jeetu Pehalwan won Bronze at National Wrestling Championship. Image Source: kushtiwrestling.blogspot.com
Jeetu Pehalwan won Bronze at National Wrestling Championship. Image Source: kushtiwrestling.blogspot.com

While he has been practicing only one time these days, he reiterates that the dangal season is synchronized with the farming cycle of the villages. Jeetu explains,”The kushti season in Punjab and Haryana ends by April and begins after August. The wrestling season starts a bit earlier in Jammu and Himachal Pradesh because it is a lot cooler there. The crops would have been harvested by now and people have time to go to dangals.”

He has also won a Bronze medal at National Wrestling Championship (U-17) held at Kanyakumari in 2011. While he was selected to the national camp, Jeetu couldn’t continue owing to a “lot of politics” involved in the selection, he added.

After being rejected during the selection process, Jeetu returned to the mitti. Contented with the decision he told The Indian Express, “I haven’t lost to any wrestler from the other big akharas of Delhi. Money is not bad either. Big wrestlers can make close to a crore every year. At the Nandurbar dangal in Maharashtra this year, I won Rs 1 lakh and a silver mace. It has been my biggest prize so far.”

 

Guru Shyam Lal Akhara. Image Source: YouTube
Guru Shyam Lal Akhara. Image Source: YouTube

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Talking about the perks of being in the profession, Jeetu explains that wrestling makes him feel venerated along with securing his future financially.

But there are setbacks too, he adds. Jeetu has undergone ligament surgeries in the past. Talking about the surgery he said, “The joke goes that my knees are made of plastic now.”

Jeetu also puts forth his discontent with the lack of government support to the sport. He complains, “Kushti is only seen as a popular village sport. The government doesn’t assist us in any way and the wrestling federation too doesn’t back mitti kushti.”

Irrespective of the demotivating attitude of the government bodies, he is positive about continuing pehalwani. “I am still referred to as Guru Shyam Lal ka pota (grandson of Guru Shyam Lal). I haven’t achieved anything close to what my grandfather did, but I have to take his legacy forward,” he added.

-prepared by Aparna Gupta, an intern with NewsGram. Twitter @writetoaparna99

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