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Pehlwani (Urdu ???????, Hindi: ???????), or Kushti (Urdu ????, Hindi: ??????), which comes from the Persian word of Pahlavani (???????) and Koshti (????), is a South Asian form of wrestling that is played predominantly in Pakistan and India as well as in Iran and Bangladesh. It is a synthesis of an indigenous form of wrestling that dates back at least to the 5th century BC [1] and a Persian form of wrestling brought into South Asia by the Mughals.[2]

A practitioner of this sport is referred to as a Pehlwan (also spelled Pahlavân in Persian, Champion, literally “a Parthian [disambiguation needed]”). Generally speaking, Muslim teachers of wrestling are known as Ustaad, whilst Hindu teachers are known as Guru.[2]

Pehlwani has undergone several changes in both the nomenclature and training methodologies through the ages. The more prominent influences include the introduction of Persian nomenclature and western training methods.

Wrestling competitions, known as Dangals, held at village levels, have their own rules which vary from place to place. Usually, a win is awarded by decision from the panel of judges, knockout, stoppage or submission.

In Indian wrestling, vyayam, or physical training, is meant to build strength and develop muscle bulk and flexibility. Exercises that employ the wrestler’s own bodyweight include the sun salutation, shirshasan, and the dand, which are also found in hatha yoga, as well as the bethak. Sawari (from Persian Savâri, meaning “the passenger”) is the practice of using another person’s bodyweight to add resistance to such exercises.[2]

Exercise regimens may also employ the following weight training devices:

Exercise regimens may also include dhakulis, which involve twisting rotations; rope climbing; log pulling; and running. Massage is regarded an integral part of a pahalwan’s exercise regimen.

According to the Samkhya school of philosophy, everything in the universe—including people, activities, and foods—can be sorted into three gunas: sattva (calm/good), rajas (passionate/active), and tamas (dull/lethargic).

As a vigorous activity, wrestling has an inherently rajasic nature, which pahalwan counteract through the consumption of sattvic foods. Milk and ghee are regarded as the most sattvic of foods and, along with almonds, comprise the holy trinity of the pahalwani khurak (from Persian ????? ???????, khorâk-e Pahlavâni), or diet. A common snack of pahalwans is chickpeas that have been sprouted overnight in water and seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon; the water in which the chickpeas were sprouted is also regarded as nutritious. Various articles in the Indian wrestling monthly Bharatiya Kushti have recommended the consumption of the following fruits: apples, wood-apples, bananas, figs, pomegranates, gooseberries, lemons, and watermelons. Orange juice and green vegetables are also recommended for their sattvic nature. Some pahalwans eat meat in spite of its rajasic nature.[2]

Ideally, wrestlers are supposed to avoid sour and excessively spiced foods such as chutneys and achars, as well as chaats. Mild seasoning with garlic, cumin, coriander, and turmeric is acceptable. The consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and paan is strongly discouraged.[2]