LUCKNOW: Sarees tied tight around their waists and jewellery kept aside, women fought fiercely at the annual all-women kushti [wrestling] competition in Ahimamau village of Gosainganj on Saturday, reported Times of India. The event was witnessed by hundreds of women, including teenage girls from over 15 villages, who assemble on the day next to Nag...
LUCKNOW: Sarees tied tight around their waists and jewellery kept aside, women fought fiercely at the annual all-women kushti [wrestling] competition in Ahimamau village of Gosainganj on Saturday, reported Times of India.
The event was witnessed by hundreds of women, including teenage girls from over 15 villages, who assemble on the day next to Nag Panchami every year to keep this centuries’ old tradition alive. The fights are performed to the tune of folk songs loaded with expletives and sexual overtones, dholak and local instruments playing along. Before the fight, the women sing and gyrate together in celebration.
“The songs are gross but it’s all for some good fun and part of the ritual, with even the oldest of women singing to motivate the wrestlers,” said 80-year-old Ram Kali, who has been part of the tradition for five decades.
Shanti Rawat, leader of the wrestling group from Arjungarh, flaunted her group members and boasted that nobody in the gathering could beat her best player, Radha. “She has won four matches today,” she declared. But Ram Dulari, a 75-year-old player, took the challenge and entered the ring and within a few seconds Radha was beneath her as the entire arena filled with cheer and applause.
Every bout ended with winners shouting in their local dialect. The supporters sang to encourage the wrestlers and teased their opponents with satires. “Nobody is professional here and we have all learnt just by watching our mothers and grandmother do it,” said Malti Devi, a participant.
The younger generation is involved actively in carrying forward the tradition and besides taking part in the bouts, they organise everything for the event. Girls as young as 16-year-old take part in the fighting, because since birth they have been part of the event every year. From managing the visitors to looking after the arrangements related to puja and requirements of the participants was Shivani, a lawyer by profession and youngest daughter of village sarpanch Vinay Kumari.
“I don’t take part in the fight because for the past four years I have been busy organising the event but I have seen it since childhood and love being a part of it to keep the tradition going,” said Shivani.
According to locals, the tradition of women’s wrestling in the village was started several centuries back by emperor Jehangir’s wife Noor Jahan. “The queen initiated the custom for royal ladies of the court and they all used to come to watch it. She used to give gold ornaments as prize to winners and silver jewellery as consolation prize to the runners up and local women have been taking the tradition forward,” said Vinay Kumari.
Another interesting fact about the event is that men are strictly not allowed anywhere near the compound. Police make sure no man even peeps inside. Even little boys accompanying their mothers are forced out as soon as the fighting begins.