his 144th birthday, Google paid tribute to India’s former star wrestler Gama
Pehlwan, aka ‘The Great Gama,’ with a doodle
On his 144th
birthday, Google paid tribute to India’s former star wrestler Ghulam Mohammad
Baksh Butt, also known as Gama Pehlwan or ‘The Great Gama’ in the western
world. Gama Pehlwan, born in Amritsar in 1878, was the most revered name among
Indian wrestlers during his era because he not only achieved international
success but also earned the respect of the masses through his actions off the
mat before his death in 1960.
We look back at
the decorated wrestler’s glittering career and the accomplishments he
accomplished both on and off the wrestling mat.
his teens, he rose to prominence by taking on Indian champion Sultaniwala
Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt, became an overnight sensation in the country when
he held Rustam-e-Hind (Indian champion) Raheem Baksh Sultaniwala to a draw.
Despite the odds being stacked against him, Gama fought an even battle with the
experienced wrestler. After all, a wrestler only 5’7″ tall wasn’t
considered a contender against a seven-foot-tall Sultaniwala. Sultaniwala, on
the other hand, was nearing the end of his career and needed to find a way to
deal with a much more agile Gama for a draw after a fierce battle. Gama’s
toughness during the fight earned him recognition, and he was soon touted as
the successor to Sultaniwala’s Rustam-e-Hind title.
1910, he was crowned World Champion
Gama was known
to be undefeated throughout his 52-year-long wrestling career, with opponents
barely lasting more than a minute in front of him. His reputation soon drew
invitations to international events as well. And the 110kg wrestler reigned
supreme on London’s grandest stage.
world champion Stanislaus Zbyszko, Frank Gotch, and Benjamin Roller on his way
to the World Championship (Rustam-e-Zamana) title in 1910, with none of the
bouts lasting more than a few minutes.
overseas tour, he defeated well-known players such as Switzerland’s Maurice
Deriaz, Johann Lemm (the European Champion), and Jesse Peterson (World
retiring in 1952, he finished his career undefeated
undefeated throughout his career, which lasted over a half-decade and ended
with his retirement at the age of 74. Despite multiple challenges from the same
opponents, he won the majority of his bout with familiar dominance.
pushed Gama for two hours during their first meeting, was one of the few
wrestlers the World Champion couldn’t beat for a long time and later admitted
that the former Indian champion was the toughest competitor he had ever faced.
his return from England, Gama defeated his opponent after a long battle during
a tournament in Allahabad to win the Rustam-e-Hind title.
the 1947 partition rights, he saved the lives of Hindus in Lahore
respect outside the ring when he saved the lives of Hindus living on Mohni Road
in Lahore, where he relocated in early 1947, prior to Indian independence and
Gama, who had a
strong bond with the Hindu majority locality of Mohni Road, promised to save
the lives of the community with his life amid the rising tensions of riots and
kept his word by preventing rioters from harming the colony’s residents.
He then escorted
them all to safety at the border as riots erupted, bearing the cost of their
rations for a week.
granddaughter married former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
(daughter of Hafiz Butt) was Pakistan’s first lady three times when she married
the country’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1971.
Lee and the Prince of Wales both admired him
Gama was known
for his tough and muscular physique, as well as his strict diet and training
regimens. He was said to do five thousand squats and three thousand pushups per
day. His training routine struck a chord with Bruce Lee, the legendary martial
artist and movie star who drew inspiration for some of his moves from Gama.
During his visit
to India, the Prince of Wales also recognised Gama for his bravery.
lifted a 1200 kg stone
Gama, who was in
his 20s and weighed around 100kgs at the time, also performed the flawless feat
of lifting a 1200kg rock at the Baroda Museum in Sayajibaug ahead of a city
competition in 1902.