‘Gama Pahelwan’ or Ghulam Mohammad or ‘ The Great Gama ‘ (22nd May 1878 – 23rd May 1960), was born in Amritsar into an ethnic Kashmiri family, was awarded the World Heavyweight Championship on 15th October 1910.
He was undefeated in a career spanning more than 52 years, considered to be one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. Gama’s daily training consisted of grappling with forty of his fellow wrestlers in court.
He used to do five thousand ‘baithak’ (squats) and three thousand ‘dands’ (push-ups), displaying an enormous combination of strength and stamina.
Well, to go with this kind of grueling practice, a heavy diet was needed. Gama’s diet included six chickens or an extract of eleven pounds of mutton mixed with a quarter pound of clarified butter, ten litres of milk, half a litre of clarified butter, a pound and a half of crushed almond paste made into a tonic drink, along with fruit juice and other ingredients to promote good digestion.
Also ‘yakhi’ a boiled down glutinous extract of bones, joints and tendons which was a great source of strength and was good for the development of knees, ankles and other joints.
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 quickly incorporated them into his own routine.
The training routines Lee used included the “cat stretch”, the “squat” (known as “baithak”). Fame came to Gama at the age of 17 when he challenged the then-Indian Wrestling Champion, middle-aged Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala, another wrestler from Gujranwala, now in Punjab, Pakistan.
At about 7 feet tall, with a very impressive win-loss record, Raheem was expected 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.
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.
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 wrestling promoter R.B Benjamin. For a long time no one came forward to accept the challenge.
To break the ice, Gama presented another challenge to specific heavy weight wrestlers.
He challenged Stanislaus Zabszko 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. On the second day, he defeated 12 wrestlers and thus gained entry to official tournament.
Thus ‘Gama-The Great’ had many fights all throughout his career and remained undefeated.
His story is inspiring not only to sportsmen but all the younger generation of our Nation. We all need to learn from Gama’s determination, passion and hard work that had no bounds, which made him “Gama the Great”.