Photographs By: Azad Shrivastav
'Sultans' of Mumbai
The Salman Khan starrer romantic-sports-drama 'Sultan' released this year and went on to become a huge blockbuster, apart from garnering critical acclaim focusing on Sultan Ali Khan, a wrestling champion from Haryana.
Founded 60 years ago to mobilise Indian youth and encourage them in the sport of wrestling, the 'akhara' at Mahatma Phule Vyayam Mandir located in NM Joshi Marg in Chinchpokli is now home to more than 45 men who learn the craft of Kushti here. Since time immemorial, India has been the breeding ground for martial artists of various classifications. These art forms thrived in country's traditional sports and gave birth to many sporting legends. Modern combat sports, armed, as well as bare-handed, find their roots in ancient India. One such combat sport is wrestling. Counted among the most prestigious and oldest sports in the Olympic games (included in 708 BC), wrestling is India's gift to the world.
At this Akhara in Chinchpokli, the schedule is as rigorously observed as an ancient temple rite. After an exacting warm-up, the men start entering the pit. First, they all bend and offer obeisance to the mud. The altar to Lord Hanuman is positioned with an aerial view of the pit. They pair up in twos and lock each other in a slow embrace, as their coach looks on.
Azad Shrivastav captures of the moments of these mud warriors during their practice.