Years later, Pavan K J set off with his camera to recapture those stories he heard as a child, to discover and decode the sacred and sustaining zen of wrestling, kusti, its practitioners, the pehalwan, and it’s traditional sporting spaces, the garadimane or akhada.
Crisscrossing Mysore, his home, Pavan finds garadis ravaged by time and dwindling patronage. His lens captures a few feisty survivors: Kullappa, the guru or Ustad of Mithaaigar garadimane (akhada) in Mandi Mohalla; his students, Santosh, Keshava, Athtar, Seshan and Saba: veteran pehalwan, Ahmed and
Kusti is at one level about strength and stamina. As Pavan watches in awe, the pehalwan train for hours, despite their daily toil in the ‘outside’ world.
For these fighters, the physical self is no less than a temple – so kusti is also about sustaining the sacred deep within. They shrug off their earthly selves, embrace the kemmannu and by some curious transformation, become embodiments of the divine.
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