Indian women wrestlers over the years have greatly contributed towards popularizing the mud-sport of India at international level. With their skills and talents women wrestlers like Sakshi Malik, Geeta and Babita Phogat have won medals at Olympics and Commonwealth games. However, the gender bias in our country still continued, but not now!
For the first time in the history of Varanasi, women wrestlers’ participated wrestling competition held on the Ganga river banks of Assi Ghat. The Sankat Mochan Foundation, which holds the wrestling competition every year included women category for the first time in the century. This is a win for all those women wrestlers who have faced hardships from many years to participate in the event.
The Ghats of Varanasi open their Akhadas for Women Wrestlers
While girls were once prohibited from sports such as wrestling, times have changed and women are excelling in every field now. Many women have now made the country proud by proving their mettle at both national and international levels. The movie Dangal, based on two exemplary women wrestlers—Geeta and Babita Phogat has given women wrestlers a much needed further boost. Taking inspiration from the Aamir Khan Starrer film, the Swaminath Akhada at Tulsi Ghat in Varanasi has opened its doors to female wrestlers.
Customarily, ‘Nagpanchami ‘is the day when Dangals are organised in akhadas in many parts of the country. One such event is also organized at the famous akhada of Swaminath, at Tulsi Ghat.
Recently, large crowds had swelled towards Tulsi Ghat to watch wrestlers pin each other down in the desi ‘dav-pench’ grips on the turf made of soil.
However, this time in the gathering saw more females than male spectators. Such fan frenzy was a never before seen event, on the Ghats of Varanasi for a wrestling contest.
What propelled the organizers to allow Women Wrestlers?
We know some of you won’t believe this fact, but it was for the first time in 478 years that the ancient soil turf at Tulsi Ghat had allowed access to women wrestlers. According to the organiser, Sankatmochan Foundation, the credit of this change goes to Aamir Khan and his movie Dangal.
A dozen girls from the neighbouring districts of Uttar Pradesh participated in the contest, making history in Varanasi, regarded as the world’s oldest inhabited city.
Tulsi Ghat is named after the great Hindu poet of the 16th century, Tulsidas, who composed the great Indian epic, Ramcharitmanas, at Varanasi. He was the one, who started the tradition of Dangals at this bank. This famous Akhada is credited with producing several award-winning wrestlers, including Kallu Pehlwan.
How did the Women Wrestlers fare out!
The competition turned out to be a great one according to organizers. Three rounds of matches were held, with half the girls being eliminated in each round. In the end, four girls were declared as the winners by Sankatmochan Foundation.
One of the women wrestlers, who was just 10 years of age, said that, “it was amazing to wrestle at the place where my grandpa Kallu Pahlwan and his pupils practiced for years.” Apparently, she is one of the winners, who is among many girls in UP who took up wrestling after watching the movie.
The credit for breaking the gender bias and the age-old tradition is being given to Dr Vishambhar Nath Mishra. He is a professor and the ‘Mahant’ of the Sankatmochan temple in Varanasi.
“Our home in Varanasi is the place where Rani Laxmibai was born. By opening the ancient Akhada for women wrestlers, we wish to encourage girls to take forward the Laxmibai’s valour and courage,” says Dr Vijaya Nath Mishtra, the mahant’s brother and a neurologist.