Gama Pehlwan: The Story of 'The Great Gama,' India's Undefeated Wrestling Champion



Gama Pehlwan,

On 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.

In his teens, he rose to prominence by taking on Indian champion Sultaniwala

Gama, born 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.

In 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.

He defeated 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.

During his overseas tour, he defeated well-known players such as Switzerland's Maurice Deriaz, Johann Lemm (the European Champion), and Jesse Peterson (World Champion).

Before retiring in 1952, he finished his career undefeated

Gama was 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.

Sultaniwala, who 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.

However, upon his return from England, Gama defeated his opponent after a long battle during a tournament in Allahabad to win the Rustam-e-Hind title.

During the 1947 partition rights, he saved the lives of Hindus in Lahore

Gama earned 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 subsequent partition.

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.

Gama's granddaughter married former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Kulsoom Nawaz (daughter of Hafiz Butt) was Pakistan's first lady three times when she married the country's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1971.

Bruce 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.

He 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.

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