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the great gama

Written by Rabia Rasool 8:25 pm Pakistan Unveiled

The Great Gama: The Greatest Wrestler of His Time

With an undefeated track record over the course of his five-decade-long career, Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt from the Indian subcontinent was one of the greatest wrestlers of the early 20th century. He’s more commonly known and recognized by the name he earned from his winning streak, the Great Gama. Even Bruce Lee was inspired by the champion’s diet and exercise regime. Following the partition, he moved to Pakistan and lived there till his death in 1960.
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About the Author(s)
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Rabia Rasool is pursuing her bachelor's in economics and social sciences from the Lahore School of Economics.

A Talented Boy

The Great Gama was born to a Kashmiri family in Amritsar on 22nd May 1878 as Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt. Gama came to the limelight when he entered a strongman competition at the age of fifteen. It was attended by around 400 wrestlers who were much older than Gama, yet he was able to be among the top fifteen. The Maharaja of Jodhpur named him the winner due to his young age.

He gained a lot of fame throughout the royal states of the subcontinent and was eventually taken into training. Another great feat of strength shown by the Great Gama was when in his 20s, he lifted a stone that weighed around 2645 pounds. Later, when it was lifted to be placed in a museum, it took nearly 25 men to do what Gama did singlehandedly.

Routine

Gama’s exercise routine consisted of around 5000 squats (100-200 per minute) and 3000 pushups (50-100 pushups per minute) every day. His diet included 2 gallons of milk per day mixed with crushed almonds along with fruit juice, six desi chickens, a half-liter of ghee, six pounds of butter, three buckets of seasonal fruits, two desi muttons, and other ingredients.

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Matches

His first major bout came in 1895 when he challenged the great Rahim Buksh Sultaniwala. Rahim, seven feet tall, was already an established and experienced champion with an impressive career, whereas Gama was only 5 feet seven inches and just a beginner who was trying to make his mark in the wrestling world.

He kept on challenging and defeating the most renowned wrestlers which eventually made him the center of attention in the wrestling world. In 1910, Gama travelled to London to challenge the Western wrestlers. During his stay in London, he made an open challenge that he could easily defeat three wrestlers in under 30 minutes regardless of their weight division, but nobody dared to stand before him.

Later, an American champion Benjamin Roller took the challenge of standing before Gama, but he was defeated in just 1 minute and 40 seconds. He also challenged and won against the renowned two-time world heavyweight champion Stanislaus Zbyszko and world heavyweight freestyle champion Frank Gotch.

Life After Partition

Following the partition, he went to settle in Lahore, Pakistan. The Great Gama was also considered a savior, who was responsible for saving the lives of many Hindus during the partition of India in 1947. Gama even began campaigning for things like free rail travel for poor Indians and challenged them to stop the moving train with his bare hands if the government didn’t listen to his demand.

During his visit to India, the Prince of Wales awarded him with a silver mace. Bruce Lee was a keen follower of Gama, religiously following his exercise routine to enhance wrestling strength. Today, a 100kg doughnut-shaped exercise disc called Hasli, which Gama used for exercises such as squats and push-ups, is kept at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) museum in Patiala. Google celebrated his 144th birthday six decades later with a doodle on 22nd May 2022.

Despite being a champion in his field, he suffered a great deal during his last days. He was diagnosed with asthma and heart-related issues. A famous industrialist G.D. Birla tried helping him financially once he came to know about his achievements. The government of Pakistan also tried helping him by increasing his pension and also lent their help by providing medical help till his last days. The Great Gama was laid to rest on 23rd May 1960, at the age of 82.


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