An ancient form of wrestling is dying out in India because it requires men to become celibate and avoid alcohol and tobacco.

Kushti wrestlers train for twelve hours a day and the sport recruits boys as young as six years old, but it has lost popularity among younger generations.

Photographer, Mitchell Kanashkevich, 39, from Sydney, Australia, took pictures of traditional kushti wrestlers in Kolhapur, India.

In one image, a man tackled a young boy to the ground pinning him upside down during an intense training session.

In another picture, several thousand spectators watched on as teenage fighters competed for the title of champion.

A man tackles a young boy to the ground and pins him upside down during an intense Kushti training session in Kolhapur, India

A man tackles a young boy to the ground and pins him upside down during an intense Kushti training session in Kolhapur, India

A wrestler pins down his opponent in an arm lock painfully as they fight in the soil. Photographer, Mitchell Kanashkevich, 39, from Sydney, Australia, took pictures of the traditional kushti wrestlers taken on a Canon 5D MKII camera

A wrestler pins down his opponent in an arm lock painfully as they fight in the soil. Photographer, Mitchell Kanashkevich, 39, from Sydney, Australia, took pictures of the traditional kushti wrestlers taken on a Canon 5D MKII camera

Kushti wrestlers perform barbell curls as part of their strict weight-training regime. The wrestlers preach a life of total discipline, practicing celibacy as well as alcohol and tobacco abstinence

Kushti wrestlers perform barbell curls as part of their strict weight-training regime. The wrestlers preach a life of total discipline, practicing celibacy as well as alcohol and tobacco abstinence

A young boy is taught a wrestling move by one of the adult men at a gym in Kolhapur. Some young boys are sent to learn discipline by their wealthy fathers

A young boy is taught a wrestling move by one of the adult men at a gym in Kolhapur. Some young boys are sent to learn discipline by their wealthy fathers

An elder watches over the young trainees. Some of the younger boys at the gym are better off financially and had been sent by their fathers for disciplinary purposes

An elder watches over the young trainees. Some of the younger boys at the gym are better off financially and had been sent by their fathers for disciplinary purposes

Kushti wrestling, also known as pehlwani, is practiced on soil, with the word kushti translating as ‘wrestling ground with hallowed earth’.

Wrestlers practice weight lifting and preach a life of total discipline, practicing celibacy as well as alcohol and tobacco abstinence. 

Due to the strict training, diet and celibacy requirements, it is becoming increasingly unpopular among younger generations.

The gyms the wrestlers used to train in, known as akhara, are one of the few places in India where Hindu men who come from different castes are considered equals. 

Light pours into the akhara after a wrestler is defeated in a heavy training session. The victor crouches over the fallen loser in the match

Light pours into the akhara after a wrestler is defeated in a heavy training session. The victor crouches over the fallen loser in the match

Kushti students perch with legs crossed watching more experienced wrestlers fight in the soil in front of them. A large wrestler pins his opponent to ground, kneeling on his back

Kushti students perch with legs crossed watching more experienced wrestlers fight in the soil in front of them. A large wrestler pins his opponent to ground, kneeling on his back

Several thousand spectators watch in the stands as teenage fighters competed for the title of kushti champion in Kolhapur, India

Several thousand spectators watch in the stands as teenage fighters competed for the title of kushti champion in Kolhapur, India

An experienced wrestlers pulls a wooden pallet sat on by one of the younger trainers in order to flatten the soil before a day's training

An experienced wrestlers pulls a wooden pallet sat on by one of the younger trainers in order to flatten the soil before a day’s training

A fighter winces in pain as he is pinned to the ground. Kushti wrestling schools train wrestlers with a strict 12 hours-a-day training regimen

A fighter winces in pain as he is pinned to the ground. Kushti wrestling schools train wrestlers with a strict 12 hours-a-day training regimen

They are trained by a local guru called a palawan with the assistance of older trainers. Their only training attire is the kowpeenam or loincloth.

Mitchell said: ‘These were very tough looking men engaging in what some might deem to be a very primeval activity – trying to hurt each other – but they were warm and friendly.

‘Some trainers would whip the wrestlers and of course, they’re actively wrestling each other but outside of the pit, they were very brotherly – joking, chatting, and taking care of each other.

‘They’d all come from such different backgrounds. Some of the younger boys were better off financially and had been sent by their fathers for disciplinary purposes.

The origins of this form of wrestling date back to the 5th millennium BC when its precursor, Malla-yuddha was practiced

The origins of this form of wrestling date back to the 5th millennium BC when its precursor, Malla-yuddha was practiced

Kushti wrestling schools train wrestlers with a strict 12 hours-a-day training regimen. The youngest trainees are just six years old

Kushti wrestling schools train wrestlers with a strict 12 hours-a-day training regimen. The youngest trainees are just six years old

Kushti wrestlers covered in scars and soil from training pose for portraits

Wrestlers are trained by a local guru called a palawan with the assistance of older trainers

Kushti wrestlers covered in scars and soil from training pose for portraits. Wrestlers are trained by a local guru called a palawan with the assistance of older trainers

The gyms the wrestlers used to train in, known as akhara, are one of the few places in India where Hindu men who come from different castes are considered equals

The gyms the wrestlers used to train in, known as akhara, are one of the few places in India where Hindu men who come from different castes are considered equals

‘Being so close to the action, I was at risk of finding a body being slammed down on top of me, but thankfully that didn’t happen. You could feel the power ricochet though each time there was a “crash”.

‘To an outsider, these men seem brutal but the concept of “don’t judge a book by its cover” is very appropriate here.’

The origins of this form of wrestling date back to the 5th millennium BC when its precursor, Malla-yuddha was practiced. Becoming a Kushti champion earns respect and glory in the community.

Still in existence today, Kushti wrestling schools train wrestlers with a strict 12 hours-a-day training regimen. The youngest trainees are just six years old.

source: dailymail.co.uk

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