Google celebrates Gama Pehlwan, India’s greatest wrestler, with birth anniversary doodle


Sunday’s Google doodle showcased a brawny mustachioed gentleman with a mace slung over his broad shoulders. It was a tribute to one of India’s greatest wrestlers, Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt, popularly known as Gama Pehlwan or ‘The Great Gama’, on his 144th birth anniversary.

Gama Pehlwan was the definition of a strongman – he did not lose a single bout in 50 years, did many thousands of squats and pushups every single day and legend has it that he once fought off an entire mob. He was so threatening that the mob fled when they saw who they were going up against.

Here are 10 things you need to know about the iconic Pehlwan Range:

Disclaimer: This list is gleaned from various sources as officially documented information about Gama Pehlwan is rare.

one. He stood 5 feet and seven inches tall…considerably short for a pehelwan but his strength was unparalleled. He supposedly did 5,000 squats and 3,000 push-ups every single day.

two. His diet included 10 liters of milk, six chickens and over a pound of crushed almond paste. There you have it, the secret to his superhuman strength of him.

3. He remained undefeated throughout his career which lasted over five decades. It’s believed that none of his bouts of him lasted more than a few minutes, not even the then world champion could pose a threat. More on that later…

Four. The strongman rose to fame when he was still in his teens. He was hailed as a legend when he took on the Rustam-e-Hind (Indian champion) Raheem Baksh Sultaniwala. Gama was seen as no match for Sultaniwala, who was over seven feet tall. Gama managed to hold him for a draw and that was the beginning of his spellbinding career.

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5. Gama Pehelawan lifted a stone that weighed 1,200 kgs in 1902 when he was in his 20s. The stone is now on display at the Baroda museum and it took 25 people and a machine to move it.

6. He had little to no competition in India. The wrestlers who took him on were swatted away in quick time and he flew abroad in search of some real competition. He would face the likes of Stanislaus Zbyszko, Frank Gotch and Benjamin Roller….who he defeated without a sweat. They tried repeatedly, with Zbyszko asking for a re-match, but the outcome did not change. The result was inevitable – Gama would always win.

7. Such was his dominance that he eventually struggled to find opponents willing to fight him. He then came up with a novel idea where he enticed opponents by saying he’d give them the full prize and head back to India if they could beat him. He did return to India eventually…still undefeated.

8. He was so notoriously popular that the Prince of Wales insisted on meeting him when he came to India in 1922. He would then present him with a silver mace. Such was Gama’s popularity that even Bruce Lee was reportedly inspired by him.

9. He drew curtains on his career in 1952 at the age of 74. He was forced to hang up his gloves only because he wasn’t getting any younger, not that he was any weaker. He remained unbeatable across a staggering 5000+ bouts.

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10. Such was his legacy that a doughnut-shaped exercise disc called Hasli weighing 100 kg, which he used while doing squats and pushups, is on display at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) Museum in Patiala.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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