Kusti is a Marathi word derived from the Parsi word ‘Kushti’ which essentially means either combat wrestling, body wrestling or grappling. In ancient Iran, wrestlers engaging in a duel against each other wore a band around their waist and called it ‘Kushti’. The matches that were played while wearing that band came to be called ‘Kushti’ later on. In Parsi language, the meaning of ‘Kusht’ is to murder or take someone’s life. The purpose of Kusti is for one of the wrestlers to completely knock the opponent out in a series of point- based matches.

There have been multiple instances in mythology where wrestling holds an important role like in Ramayana, Mahabharata and more. In Ramayana, for example, when Ram, Laxman and Sita go into exile, they visit a place called Kishkindha. On Ram’s encouragement, Vaali and Sugreev wrestle against each other and Sugreev emerges victorious. Even in Mahabharata, Krishna, Baliram and Bheem were all proficient wrestlers and that is evident through their great acts in the war they eventually face. Krishna defeats Mushtik and Chanur who were the strongest wrestlers in the kingdom of Kansa by killing them. Kansa also meets the same grisly fate. When the Pandavas go into hiding, Bhima kills a great wrestler called Jeemut by combating with him in wrestling. He also defeats and kills Kichak and Jarasandh in the same manner.

Combat wrestling has one purpose; and that is to defeat the opponent. In order to do that, one must make the body fit for such battles through exercise and use various strategies to win. In order to become a good combat wrestler, the prerequisites are to make the body strong, agile and intimidating using various techniques and exercises. This increases the wrestler’s self-confidence which is one of the most important qualities in a wrestler. In order to maintain this consistency, a wrestler must also practice abstinence from bad habits and religiously follow exercise, balanced diet and celibacy.

Kushti (Indian Wrestling) is a popular sport in Kolhapur. In this south-eastern Indian city, Kushti goes a long way in their tradition. It was supported by local maharajas and some of the Kings were good wrestlers themselves. This game flourished here during the reign of Shri Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj, the King of Kolhapur, who ascended the throne in 1894.

During this golden age, the monarch built hundreds of Akhadas all over the city and held tournaments, inviting best wrestlers from all over India and beyond.

Wrestlers wake up at 3:30 AM in the morning. They practice six times a week more than 6 hours every day. They live together in one small room above the arena and their only belongings are a blanket, few items of clothes and some books about the art of Kushti.