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The Undefeated Gamma- The Lion of Punjab

The Undefeated Gamma

Gama was born in the city of Amritsar into an ethnic Kashmiri Muslim family, in present day Punjab, India. He hailed from a prominent wrestling family which was known to produce world-class wrestlers. His granddaughter Kalsoom Nawaz is a three time First Lady of Pakistan.

 After the death of his father Wrestler Muhammad Aziz Baksh, Gama was taken into training by the Maharaja of Datia. Gama was first noticed at the age of ten when he entered a strongman competition held in Jodhpur, which included many gruelling exercises such as squats. The contest was attended by more than four hundred wrestlers and young Gama was among the last fifteen. At that point the Maharajah of Jodhpur announced Gama as the victor due to his remarkable show of enormous stamina and dedication.

Gama’s daily training consisted of grappling with forty of his fellow wrestlers in the court. He used to do five thousand Baithaks (squats) and three thousand Dands (pushups). Gama’s daily diet was 4 gallons (15 litres) of milk, 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. This high protein and high energy diet helped him accumulate muscle mass.

While he was destroying all the wrestlers coming his way, it was in 1895 that he faced the feared Rustam-e-Hind, Raheem Baksh Sultaniwala. While Raheem stood a monstrous 6 feet 9 inches tall, Gama at 5 feet 7 inches held him down real well and the bout ended in a draw. This boosted Gama’s reputation of being a fierce pehelwan all over the country

The following years saw Gama rise to the status of an invincible wrestler by winning back-to-back bouts against the giants of Pehlwani in Subcontinent. In 1910, Gama again faced Raheem Baksh Sultaniwala, his long-time rival and strength equivalent but again, the clash of the titans ended in a draw. Gama remained the only wrestler in India who was still undefeated.

Undefeated in India, Gama sailed to England to fight great western wrestlers. Surprisingly, he was not easily granted permission to fight because of his short height. To this Gama threw an open challenge claiming to defeat any wrestler of any weight class in under 30 minutes. But wrestlers thought this to be a hoax by  promoter R. B. Benjamin and nobody stepped up to fight him. Unfazed, Gama challenged the feared legendary English wrestlers Stanislaus Zbyszko and Frank Gotch.

Finally in 1911, Gama faced Raheem Baksh Sultaniwala for the final time and won the title of Rustam-e-hind. In 1922, during a visit to India, the Prince of Wales presented Gama with a silver mace.

With a lack of worthy challengers, Gama unofficially retired in 1918, transferring his title to his brother, Imam Baksh. But he made a celebrated return in 1928 to face Stanislaus Zbyszco in a rematch of their famous bout some eighteen years earlier. Despite both men now being well into their forties, the return match drew 60,000 fans to a specially-built stadium constructed by the Maharajah of Patiala. The Great Gama would embarrass the Polish legend, throwing him in just 42 seconds with his famous ‘dhobi-pat’ shoulder throw. His last bout was in 1929 against Swedish wrestler Jesse Peterson, and after winning this, he unofficially retired from the sport undefeated throughout his 50-year career.

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.

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