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Gama Pahelvan

The "Great" Gama (ca.1880 - May 22, 1963) [1][2] also known as "Gama Pahelvan" (Punjabi: گاما پھلوان (Shahmukhi), गामा पहलवान (Devanagari)), and "Lion of the Punjab", born Ghulam Muhammad (Urdu: غلام محمد‎), in Amritsar, Punjab, British India, was a renowned wrestler, warrior and a practitioner of Pehlwani wrestling. He was awarded the Indian version of the World Heavyweight Championship on October 15, 1910. To this date he is the only wrestler in history who remained undefeated his whole life which was substantial, as his career had spanned more than 50 years. He has been billed as the greatest Pehlwani wrestler in history[citation needed]. After India's independence in 1947, Gama moved to Pakistan. Kulsoom Nawaz, the wife of Nawaz Sharif is the grand-daughter of Gama. Gama was a Kashmiri in origin.

Early life

Ghulam Muhammad, whose Punjabi nickname was "Gama", was born to the renowned wrestler Muhammad Aziz in Punjab. Maharaja Bhawani Singh, the ruler of the princely state of Datia, patronized the young wrestler and his brother Imam Bukhsh. Gama was first noticed at the age of ten when he entered a strongman competition held in Jodhpur, which included many grueling exercises such as squats. The contest was attended by more than four hundred wrestlers and young Gama was among the last remaining fifteen wrestlers. At that point the Maharaja of Jodhpur announced Gama as the victor due to his remarkable show of enormous stamina and dedication among the many older wrestlers.


  First encounter with Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala

Fame came to Gama at the age of 19 when he challenged the then Indian Wrestling Champion, middle aged Raheem Bakhsh Sultaniwala, who was also a Punjabi wrestler from Gujranwala, now in Punjab, Pakistan. At about 7 feet tall and with a very impressive record, Raheem was thought to easily defeat the 5' 7" Gama. Raheem's only drawback was his age as he was much older than Gama and near the end of his career. The bout continued for hours and eventually ended in a draw. The contest with Raheem was the turning point in Gama's career. After that, he was looked upon as the next contender for the Indian Wrestling Championship. In the first bout Gama remained defensive, but in the second bout, Gama went on the offensive. Despite severe bleeding from his nose and ears, he managed to deal out a great deal of damage to Raheem Bakhsh.

  Winning the John Bull Belt

By 1910, Gama had defeated all the prominent Indian wrestlers who faced him except the Champion Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala. At this time, he focused his attention on the rest of the world. Accompanied by his younger brother Imam Bukhsh, Gama sailed to England to compete with the Western Wrestlers. In London, Gama issued a challenge that he could throw any three wrestlers in thirty minutes of any weight class. This announcement however was seen as a bluff by the wrestlers and their promoter R.B. Benjamin. For a long time no one came forward to accept the challenge. In order to break the ice, Gama presented another challenge to specific heavy weight wrestlers. He challenged Stanislaus Zbyszko and Frank Gotch, either he would beat them or pay them the prize money and go home. The first professional wrestler to take his challenge was the American Benjamin Roller. In the bout, Gama pinned Roller in 1 minute 40 seconds the first time, and in 9 minutes 10 seconds the other.

The next to accept Gama's challenge was Stanislaus Zbyszko, and the date of bout was set as 10 September 1910. The match was in prize money and the John Bull Belt. Within a minute, Zbyszko was taken down and remained in that position for the remaining 2 hours and 35 minutes of the match. There were a few brief moments when Zbyszko would get up, but he just ended back down in his previous position. Crafting a defensive strategy of hugging the mat in order to nullify Gama’s greatest strengths, Zbyszko wrestled the Indian legend to a draw after nearly three hours of grappling, though Zbyszko’s lack of tenacity angered many of the fans in attendance. The two men were set to face each other again on 17 September 1910. On that date, Zbyszko failed to show up and Gama was announced the winner by default. He was awarded the prize and the John Bull Belt. Receiving this belt entitled Gama to be called Rustam-e-Zamana or World Champion.
During this tour Gama defeated some of the most respected grapplers in the world, "Doc" Benjamin Roller of the United States, Maurice Deriaz of France, Johann Lemm (the European Champion) of Switzerland, and Jesse Peterson (World Champion) from Sweden. In the match against Roller, Gama threw "Doc" 13 times in the 15 minute match. Gama now issued a challenge to the rest of those who laid claim to the World Champion's Title, including Japanese Judo champion Taro Miyake, Georges Hackenschmidt of Russia and Frank Gotch of the United States - each declined his invitation to enter the ring to face him. At one point, in order to face some type of competition, Gama offered to fight twenty English wrestlers, one after another. He announced that he would defeat all of them or pay out prize money - still no one would take up his challenge.

  Final encounter with Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala

Shortly after his return from England, Gama faced Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala in Allahabad. This bout eventually ended the long struggle between the two pillars of Indian wrestling of that time in favor of Gama and he won the title of Rustam-e-Hind or Champion of India. Later in his life when asked about who was his strongest opponent, Gama replied, "Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala".

  Rematch with Zbyszko

After beating Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala, Gama beat Pandit Biddu[citation needed], who was one of the best wrestlers in India of that time (1916).
In 1922, during a visit to India, the Prince of Wales presented Gama with a silver mace.
Gama did not have any opponents until 1927, when it was announced that Gama and Zbyszko would face each other again. The day finally came in 1928 when both wrestlers met again in Patiala. The result of the bout was quick when Gama threw Zbyszko in only 42 seconds. He was now known as the "Great wrestler" of South Asia.[citation needed]

  Fight with Balram Heeraman Singh Yadav

After defeating Zbyszko, Gama beat Jesse Petersen in February 1929. The bout lasted only one and a half minutes. This was the last bout that Gama fought during his career.[citation needed] In the 1940s he was invited by the Nizam of Hyderabad and defeated all his fighters. The Nizam then sent him to face the wrestler Balram Heeraman Singh Yadav(THE LION FROM HYDERABAD), who was never defeated in his life.The fight was very long, Gama was unable to defeat Heeraman and eventually neither wrestler won.Gama's only drawback was his age as he was much older than heeraman. After the independence and partitioning of India in 1947, Gama moved to Pakistan. Although Gama did not retire until 1952, he failed to find any other opponents. After his retirement he trained his nephew Bholu Pahalwan, who held the Pakistani wrestling championship for almost 20 years.


The Great Gama died in Lahore, Pakistan on 21 May 1963.
Today, a doughnut shaped exercise disc weighing 95 kg, used by him for squats, is housed at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) Museum at Patiala [3]

  In popular culture

The Great Gama inspired the design and concept for the character Darun Mister, appearing in the Street Fighter EX videogame series. The character bears a strong physical resemblance to that of Gama.
The Great Gama appears as a character in the video game Shadow Hearts: Covenant.


Bruce Lee was an avid follower of Gama's training routine. Lee read articles about Gama and how he employed his exercises to build his legendary strength for wrestling, and Lee quickly incorporated them into his own routine. Some of the training routines he got was: "The Cat Stretch" - an Indian version of the well known "Push up, "The Squat" - which is called "baithak" in India, its simply known as "deep-knee bend".[4]
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