Who is the all time best wrestler in India? We have many options to pick from! Generations of wrestlers in India made their bodies strong without any resources. And yet the soil of the country has given many such wrestlers, who, on the basis of their skills, illuminated the name of India all over the world and earned themselves a name. While nutrition was eating tons of ghee and good facilities to improve their body were lacking, the wrestlers of India pushed through. Today, we know the value of protein, the value of fitness and after reading our list of some of the best wrestlers in India you too can get inspired by them and start your fitness journey.
Therefore we wrote a list of wrestlers in India from both the past and the present. Wrestling in India started with the ancient tradition of Malla-yuddha. The famous Malla-warfare in ancient times gradually evolved into different styles such as Pahlawani and Wrestling. As modern times steeped into India, people started calling it bodybuilding.
Today, bodybuilders, wrestlers, and athletes have first-class protein shakes, equipment, and access to physiotherapy. When wrestling was dominant in the country, during that time even the best wrestler in India who made millions lacked facilities like today. The wrestlers of that time made his body steel by exercising and practicing in the arena. He also made his mark as a wrestler using pure word of mouth, and that’s why even today people take the name of these wrestlers with great respect – both nationally and globally.
The Best Wrestler In India: We Compare 7 Greatest Indian Wrestlers!
Sushil Kumar Solanki is a name that is known to many youngsters – and even to fellow greats in his field such as Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist wrestler Bajrang Punia who has said that he still considers Sushil Kumar, lodged in Tihar Jail in the Sagar Rana murder case, as India’s best wrestler. “Sushil brought wrestling to life after winning an Olympic medal in 2008 and it came after 56 years,” Punia said. Sushil won a bronze medal in Beijing and then a silver medal at the London Olympics.
At the age of 15, Sushil Kumar won gold for the first time in the World Cadet Games. He was born on May 26, 1983 in a village in Najafgarh, Delhi. He was one of the most popular athletes in the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in Delhi. Coming from a rural background, Sushil learned the tricks of wrestling in the Traditional Wrestling Grounds or ‘Akhada’ itself.
At the age of 29, he received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award and in 2010, Sushil Kumar brought home the gold in the World Wrestling Championship.
During an interview, he said that he does 2-3 Km running for exercise and endurance 3 days a week. Apart from this, he also does situps and squats. For activities, he also plays volleyball, basketball, and football.
According to his mentor, Sushil has made himself capable of this through diet and hard work. He used to consume around 3700 calories in which, egg white, 400-450 grams of almonds, 3-4 liters of milk, green salad, sprouts, nuts, and fruits were included.
Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist wrestler Bajrang Punia started wrestling at the age of seven and his father encouraged him to learn wrestling. The Olympian has a brother named Harender Singh Punnia. In 2015, his family moved to Sonipat to join the Sports Authority of India Regional Center in India. He works as a Traveling Ticket Examiner (TTE) in Indian Railways and his family has applied to Haryana Police for the post of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
Today Bajrang Punia is considered the best wrestler in India by some as he won a gold medal in the 65kg freestyle category at the 2016 Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast.
Punia once admitted during an interview that he was not in his best form during the famous Tokyo Olympics bout as he suffered an injury. However, the best wrestler in India managed to clinch the bronze.
“I gave my best (in the Tokyo Olympics) and got done. You need to work hard,” Punia said.
The wrestler was asked what could be done to improve India’s chances in the global sporting event.
“It all starts with the parents… they have to encourage their children. He is the first mentor and coach. It cannot be done if they do not encourage their children to play sports (to perform better in sports and athletics and win medals),” he said.
Punia aptly concluded his talk by discussing what more can be done to improve sports in the country, saying Indians should ensure that “good facilities and good diet” are provided to the players.
It’s funny to think that Bajrang who is at his peak does not consider himself one of the best.
When Bajrang was speaking at a program organized by the Delhi Metro Security Unit, he said, “I don’t consider anyone in India a better wrestler than Sushil Kumar. SK brought wrestling to life by winning an Olympic medal in 2008 and that medal came after 56 years”.
The Great Khali
Most well known in the ring as The Great Khali of WWE, Dalip Singh Rana is a fitness promoter, powerlifter and professional wrestler.
He was in Punjab Police before starting his career in wrestling. He has also acted in 4 Hollywood and 2 Bollywood movies.
In 2014 he was featured as the eighth greatest professional wrestler of all time. He also became the World Heavyweight Champion of WWE. At present, along with teaching wrestling in the country, he also promotes it.
During an interview given to the media, Khali had said that he eats 10 eggs, 1 liter of milk, and bread for breakfast along with 2 kg of chicken for lunch and dinner. Apart from this, pulses, rice, and roti are also included in his diet.
Tiger Jeet Singh
Tiger Jeet Singh’s real name was Jagjit Singh Hans. He is the first wrestler who made a name for himself by going to other countries. He was born on 3 April 1948 in Punjab.
He moved to Canada at the age of 17 with $6 (6 dollars) and a desire to become a wrestler. Seeing his wrestling technique and method, he got the nickname “Tiger”.
He came into the limelight after defeating Johnny Valentine in the US Championship. The weight of Tiger Jeet Singh, who is 6 feet 3 inches tall, is around 120 kg. WWE stars Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan are his fans.
Dara Singh’s name comes first when it comes to Indian wrestlers. Yes, Dara Singh whom you saw in the role of “Hanuman ji” in Ramayana.
Dara Singh took part in more than 500 wrestling in his life. He was given the title of Rustam-e-Hind when he won the World Championship in 1968.
The weight of Dara Singh was 115 kg. His diet used to be heavy during his wrestling days. According to the Times of India website, he used to eat 4-5 liters of milk, 250 grams of ghee, 250 grams of nuts, and half a kilo of chicken, Rotis, and fruits in a day.
The name of Ghulam Mohammad Baksh i.e. Gama Pehelwan is written in golden letters in the history of Indian wrestling. He is one of the famous desi wrestlers. People have different beliefs about his place of birth. Some people say that he was born in Datia (Holipura) of Madhya Pradesh. It is also said that he was born in Punjab and moved to Lahore after the partition of India.
Ghulam Muhammad Baksh was born on 22 May 1878 in a Kashmiri Gurjar family in Jabbowal village of Amritsar. In his family, there were world-famous wrestlers themselves. When Gama was six years old, his father, Mohammad Aziz Baksh, died. He was then followed by his maternal grandfather Nun Pehalwan. Later, after his death, he was followed by his maternal uncle Ida Pehalwan and under his supervision, Gama started the education of wrestling.
He started wrestling at the age of 10. He built his body with stone dumbbells.
It is claimed in many media reports that he used to do 5 thousand penalty meetings and 1 thousand pushups in a day. On 23 December 1902, he surprised the people by lifting a 1200 kg stone. This stone is still kept in the Baroda Museum.
According to online sources, he used to eat a strictly keto diet consisting of:
- 6 country chickens,
- 1 pound almond mixture (almond paste)
- 3 baskets of seasonal fruits
- 10 liters of milk,
- 500 grams of ghee
- 6 pounds of butter
- Fruit juice
- 2 Indian muttons
Could this diet be the reason that he never had to face defeat in the arena? Well, it is also said that the expenses of his diet used to be borne by the then Raja of Datia, Bhavani Singh.
As he got older, His final days were spent in a lot of trouble as many diseases surrounded him. He also had to sell his gold and silver medals for treatment. Gama Pehalwan died on 23 May 1960 in Lahore, Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan borne all the expenses of his illness and also gave him some land.
Renowned karate warrior and actor Bruce Lee was a big fan of the wrestler. He would often read articles written on him in the newspaper about how Gama Pehalwan expanded his power, strengthened his body, and how he increased his power. Bruce Lee also adopted all these in his life and he also used to do penal sitting during the workout. Gama Pehalwan’s 100 kg husli is still kept safely in Patiala’s National Institute of Sports.
Rahim Baksh Sultani Wala
Rahim Baksh (1883-1977) was born into a Gamma family known for their wrestling skills. His father, Muhammad Aziz, was also a well-known wrestler at the time. Rahim Baksh also competed with his brother Ghulam Mohammed aka Gama in the 1910 World Wrestling Championships in London. Rahim Baksh also encountered John Lemin of Switzerland.
The real beginning of Gama’s career dates back to 1895 when he encountered his relative and famous wrestler Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala of Gujranwala who was a wrestler originally from Kashmir. By the year 1910, Gama Pehalwan (who we discussed above) had defeated almost all the wrestlers of India except one Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala.
The biggest feature of this conflict was that on one side Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala was a middle-aged wrestler whose length was about 7 feet. And on the other hand, Gama Pehelwan whose age was 17 years old and height was 5 feet 7 inches. On one hand, there is a very experienced wrestler Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala who was almost in the last stage of his career, and on the other hand a very young passionate Gama Pahlwan who had just started wrestling. This duality has been discussed a lot. This conflict was often discussed at that time. Big people had come to see this duality. This conflict went on for a long time. In the beginning, Gama Pahlwan kept fighting for protection, But in the second shift became competitors.
There was a fierce duel between the two wrestlers. Meanwhile, Gama Pehalwan’s nose, mouth, and head started bleeding. Still, Gama did not give up and kept fighting. In the end, the match was stopped in a draw. But due to this duality, the name of Gama Pehalwan became famous in the whole country for going head to head with THE Rahim Baksh Sultani Wala.
Rahim Baksh Sultani Wala achieved the title of Rustam-e-Hind. He then set his sights on the World Championships and headed to London with his brother. He beat famous wrestlers like Kalia Pehlwan in Lahore and Hussain Bakhsh Multani in Allahabad and won many historical wrestling matches across the subcontinent. His sons: Bhulu Pehlwan, Aslam Akram, and Goga Pehlwan are the custodians of their family tradition and in addition to indigenous wrestling, they have degraded the wrestlers of India and other countries in freestyle wrestling.