Kushti is a style of mud-clay wrestling practiced since the Mughal Empire in western India. A 100-year old traditional gym in Kolhapur has been offering a ground for kushti training for boys and men who have left behind their families in pursuit of learning this sport. The gym’s clay floor has a mixture of dirt, clarified butter, yogurt and turmeric powder turned chunky-soft and red with a shovel. The kusthi wrestlers dressed with loincloth smear handful of clay across their chest and then wrestle each other.
This sport represents family pride, individual power and regional identity even in fast-changing India. Most Kusthi men are unmarried, and have been practicing this sport for generations. This sport calls for single-minded devotion from the wrestlers and their family as they invest a lot of money to provide for their athlete’s rich food and travel expenses.
The Indian government in an endeavor to enhance the country’s futility at the Olympics has tried to de-emphasis this sport over mat-wrestling. But men here prefer kushti and feel it prestigious. All they aim is to earn a government job in the railway or police department, and to secure a better livelihood.