Google Doodle today celebrates the birth anniversary of Gama Pehlwan, one of the most renowned wrestlers of pre-independent India. An undefeated wrestling world champion, he was also known as Rustam-e-Hind besides his ring name The Great Gama.
Ghulam Mohammad Baksh — later known as Gama Pehlwan or “The Great Gama” — was born on May 22, 1878 in Jabbowal Village in the Punjab Province of what was then known as British India. Gama had a tumultuous childhood, moving after death of his father and again when his grandfather passed, ultimately living with his uncle, a wrestler.
Gaining an interest in intense exercise and wrestling from a very young age, Gama Pehlwan entered a strongman competition at the age of 10, claiming the top spot among over 400 competitors. From there, his training and interest in wrestling only increased. By some accounts, Gama’s training at one point consisted of as many as 5000 squats and 3000 pushups per day.
From the 1890s through 1910, Gama Pehlwan went on a streak of undefeated matches against India’s greatest wrestlers, with only his match against the national champion ending in a draw. Gama then grew his career internationally by challenging and defeating the greatest wrestlers in Britain, resulting in a match against world champion Stanislaus Zbyszko, which also ended in a draw.
Was Gama Pehlwan Indian?
Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt, also known as Rustam-e-Hind, and by his ring name ‘The Great Gama,’ was an Indian pehlwan (strongman) and wrestler in the early 20th century.
Continuing his training, Gama Pehlwan ultimately defeated both of these opponents in rematches, earning himself the titles of Champion of India and World Champion. His career spanned multiple decades and more than five thousand matches, ending undefeated.
But Gama Pehlwan was also a champion of the people outside of the ring. In 1947, British India became independent from Britain and split to become separate dominions of India and Pakistan, a period that saw a great deal of civil unrest.
One of his most formidable rivals was Raheem Bakhsh Sultaniwala, the then-World Champion who stood nearly seven feet in front of a 5 feet 8 inches Gama. The two clashed four times, ending in a draw in the first three and Gama winning the last one.
The Prince of Wales, during his visit to India, presented Gama a silver mace to honour his strength.
Gama spent his last days in Lahore and died in 1960.
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