August 16th, 2015
A stupendous unblemished wrestling career spanning over 50 years, the Indian equivalent of the World Heavyweight Championship title, the bearer of the famous John Bull Belt; that is the legend that was the Great Gama.
Born as Ghulam Muhammed in Amritsar in the year 1878, it took years of incessant practice, sweat and toil for the transformation into Gama Pahalwan to occur. Making his way steadily through the wrestling ranks, by 1910, the only Indian undefeated against Gama was the then champion, Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala. Having made his mark all over the nation, Gama took the challenge up further, focussing on wrestlers in the West. He was, however, denied entry owing to his short stature. Not one to be held back, he soon issued a public challenge in London, asserting he was capable of throwing any three wrestlers within a period of thirty minutes, regardless of their weight or height.
Such a bold statement was perceived by many as a hoax. Seeing no one coming forth, Gama, determined to prove his worth, issued yet another challenge, this time specifically to heavy weight wrestlers. He challenged Stanislaus Zbyszko and Frank Gotch, stating he would either beat them or pay them the prize money and leave. American wrestler Benjamin Roller was the first to accept his challenge. In the bout, Gama had Roller pinned in 1 minute 40 seconds the first time, and 9 minutes 10 seconds the next. In a brilliant display of skills and prowess, he defeated 12 wrestlers the following day, winning himself an official entry into the tournament.
As the finale for the John Bull Belt, he was pitted against world champion Stanislaus Zbyszko. Gama successfully pinned Zbyszko within a minute and kept him so for the rest of the match. Although by adopting a defensive strategy Zbyszko managed to wrestle to a draw after nearly three hours, Gama was the winner in the opinion of most present in attendance. On the date of the tie breaker match, Zbyszko failed to show up and Gama was announced the winner by default. He was awarded with the prize money and the belt, which raised him to the title Rustam-e-Zamana or the World Champion.
Called one of the greatest wrestlers of all times, he serves as a reminder that with the spirit to fight and the determination to work, no goal is unattainable.