While more people outside of India are becoming familiar with the akharas of Varanasi, the garadi mane of Bangalore are less well known.
Bangalore is one of the fastest growing cities in India, The technological revolution has taken it from a series of villages to an urban hub. Hidden among the sprawl are a series of old temples of strength and wrestling: the garadi mane.
While there are several garadi in Karnataka state, the densest cluster of them are in the major city. Over the past few years, a number of them have met the fate of many other traditional exercise venues at the hands of developers. These tiny wrestling schools take up valuable real estate.
Fortunately, there are is a small, but dedicated band of wrestlers who keep the flame lit and the doors open. They are all young, but determined to maintain the tradition and allow the garadi mane to survive in this era that holds no value for old things.
The surviving and thriving places are Kunjanna Garadi Mane, Ganapatimaruthi Vyayam Shale, Kondandarama Garadi and Kempegowdanagar Garadi Mane. They all have a similar set up, with the mitti (earth) wrestling pit piled high on one side of the space. The stone floor of the other side has exercise tools like the sambrani kallu (gar nāl), raggi kallu (nāl), gadda (mugdar), mallakhamb, dambals and kallu gundu (stone balls).
One of the unique things about the southern style, is that the digging of the mitti is focussed on. Before wrestling it has to be levelled as usual, but then after, it must be piled up again in digging motion that throws the mitti behind the wrestler. The pharsa (hoes) are particularly heavy and this exercise is certainly the hardest part of the routine.
The fate of these ancient places of strength is in the hands of the young men who remain dedicated to the garadi mane.