Tradition, craze keeps wrestling alive and kicking

Vajramushti kalaga, naada kusti and maarpeet kusti crowdpullers

 Wrestling has been an integral part of Dasara ever since the days when Vijayanagar empire had reached its zenith. The tradition of encouraging wrestling continued with the Wadiyar rulers in Mysore.

One of the Wadiyar kings, Kanteerava Narasaraja Wadiyar, was himself an accomplished wrestler. He acquired the title ‘Ranadheera Kanteerava’ due to his valour. Apart from the bouts organised by the Dasara wrestling sub-committee, ‘Vajramushti kalaga’  (Wrestlers holding sharp edged weapon made of ivory) is privately organised by the scion of the royal family Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar in continuation of the tradition. One who inflicts wound on the forehead of the opponent causing blood to ooze out, is declared the winner.

If wrestling has retained its charm despite losing royal patronage post Independence, it is because of the love of the people for the sport. It has been a commoners’ sport and has attracted huge audience at all times in and around Mysore. Even though people here are not mad about the sport like in north Karnataka, popular encouragement is always there.

The sub-committee organises state level wrestling championships for four titles — Dasara Kishore (58 kg), Dasara Kumara (60 kg), Dasara Kesari (74 kg) and Dasara Kanteerava (74+ kg) — and all India invitation tournament under seven weight categories. Only the final match for Kishore has been held and all other final matches will be held on October 21. Women’s tournament was held on Friday. However, what draws the crowd is ‘nada kusti’ (country wrestling) and ‘maarpeet kusti’ (until one is defeated).

 Nataraj, who had come from Vajamangala near Varuna, said unfortunately only two maarpeet bouts are held — one inaugural match and one valedictory match. Kiran, a wrestler from Hunsur, said once the tourney bouts wind up — by 4 pm — nada kusti starts and that is when the D Devaraj Urs Multi-Purpose Stadium, gets packed with audience.Puttaiah, from Siddanahundi in T Narsipur taluk, said Dasara wrestling is gradually losing its sheen as youngsters do not know about it and even the organisers are not taking the pains to make it attractive.

B Shankar Chakravarthy, the local hero, who fought at ‘maarpeet kusti’ with Salauddin from Belgaum, said he still cherishes the match that lasted for about 2 hours 30 minutes ending in a tie. Chakravarthy is with the City Armed Reserve police.

A bonus for wrestling enthusiasts was a show by rural adventure sportsman from north Karnataka — Athani taluk in Belgaum and Bilagi in Bijapur. Working president of Dasara adventure sports sub-committee M N Nataraj said the venue for the show was changed at the last moment as the scheduled venue was found not suitable.

While Gangadhar Hanumanth Shirur lifted a sand bag weighing 320 kg on his back 12 times from ground level to standing position, Vittal came almost near him but could not make a record. Ramesh Dhanappa Patil from Mulu Savalagi lifted 92 kg with his teeth and threw it behind him five times. He also lifted 142 kg with hands stretched horizontally. Digambar, an elderly person, lifted a 78 kg bar suspended from his moustache. Boulder lifting and other sports enthralled the audience.

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