Monday, 30 January 2012

My Work: Kushti In Kolkata

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
During my Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo Expedition/Workshop, I chanced upon a group of traditional wrestlers near the Armenian Ghat on the Hooghly river. These were Kushti wrestlers, about to practice their sport in a small area, which was being carefully prepared for their bouts.

While I had known of Kushti being practiced in Delhi and Varanasi, I hadn't heard of it in Kolkata and after watching these wrestlers for a while, I concluded that it was different here. In contrast with the ground being moist (as in Delhi), the wrestling area (known as an akhara) here was dry, was swept with young tree branches then covered with bits of leaves, which I believe were from neighboring neem trees (which have medicinal properties).

Kushti is India's traditional wrestling, and is an ancient form of wrestling. It was held in great importance in Indian societies, but its popularity has dwindled over the years, although there are concerted efforts to revive it. Kushti practitioners face grueling daily training, a strict diet and celibacy.

The Armenian Ghat is probably the most interesting of all of Kolkata's ghats. It was built by a merchant of Armenian origin in 1724. Armenians dominated has spice in gem traders in ancient Kolkata. The Kolkata station and Ticket Reservation Room of Eastern Railways was situated in the Armenian Ghat from 1854-1874.

For those who're interested in tech stuff, I used a Leica M9 with an Elmarit 28mm 2.8.