Kushti Wrestler portrait covered in sacred mud from the Gym, Cotton Street, Kolkata, India
The ancient Indian form of wrestling has been practiced for centuries. Local men arrive around dawn to train before work or study. The Ankara gym is sacred ground for them and nobody but wrestlers are allowed inside. The soil is sourced from the banks of the Ganges and then very carefully treated to sift out stones and pebbles. Ayurvedic oils, turmeric, Multani mitti clay from Multan salt, and neem are then added. The soil from the Ankara is turned over daily before their daily rituals with a Hanuman Bajrang Bali prayer followed by a series of physical exercises - the mace, gada weights, ropes, bars and aerobics. They will then take turns wrestling and then wind down with massage and a full wash before they leave for work.
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