Chandgi Ram: The Real Father of Women Wrestling

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Monika Kaliraman, youngest daughter of Chandgi Ram, said that she still remembers when the sisters were some 10 to 12 years old, once their father had taken them to a village for a bout but people there stoned them and they had a narrow escape.

Sat Singh (satsingh@haryanafirst.com)

The Great Chandgi Ram: Courtesy: Om Kaliraman.

Today, women wrestlers proudly represent Haryana state at national and international level with their power-packed performance on the mat.

Vinesh Phogat from Charkhi Dadri was chosen for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.

It was Sakshi Malik from Rohtak who saved the glory of India by fetching a medal in wrestling in 2016 Rio-Olympics.

The subject of women wrestling was chosen by Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan who portrayed the role of wrestler Mahabir Phogat on the silver screen and narrated the tale of rise of popular Phogat sisters.

Babita Phogat, younger daughter of Mahabir Phogat was fielded by national party-BJP for ticket from rural constituency-Charkhi Dadri as their candidate.

All this is happening in the name of women empowerment may seem it is occurring on its own.

The fact on the ground tells a different story.

Chandgi Ram with former Prime Minister late Smt Indira Gandhi.

The popular perception is that Mahabir Phogat whose story was essayed by Aamir Khan in Dangal Movie was the force behind the rise of women wrestling in Haryana.

Indeed, the contribution of Mahabir Phogat is immense in popularizing the women sport especially after the achievements of his daughters.

But the man who can be really credited as the father of women sports in hinterland is Master Chandgi Ram.

Chandgi Ram

Chandgi Ram.

The Arjuna Award recipient in 1969 after titles of Hind Kesari, Bharat Kesari, Bharat Bhima and Rustom-e-Hind won Gold Medal for India in 1970 Asian Games.

He defeated world champion Amwani Abufazi of Iran in Bangkok.

Born in 1937 in Hisar’s Sisai village of Haryana, Chandgi Ram was not lucky to be born with great muscles and good health. In fact, due to his poor health, he could join wrestling at the age of 21.

The well-known wrestler severely suffered from cough, cold and fever up to the age of 21 and thus had a frail body. He even used to suffer from frequent fits of fainting.

The Great Chandgi Ram.

But he focused on strengthening his body and started doing hard exercises regularly, his body was totally transformed. The blend of profound desire, concentration, and acute eagerness got him a highly respectable position in society, mentioned Pt. Shriram Sharma Acharya in Akhand Jyoti Magazine. He was called Master Chandgi Ram because he taught in school during his early days.

The Transformer

Sonika Kaliraman, the daughter of Chandgi Ram.

Wrestling has been a popular sport in rural areas since a long time and it used to be played in certain ways with a set decorum.

It was Chandgi Ram who first raised his voice asking the wrestlers to not hold their opponents underpants.

His logic was that in the Olympics, there is a ban on holding underpants and this tradition prevalent in local bout centers should be stopped as well.

However, there was an opposition to the new suggestion but given his stature and respect, his words were respected.

Old time wrestlers believe that the vision of Chandgi Ram towards wrestling was far-reaching and because of his consistent and continuous support to wrestling-the players like Sushil Kumar could win medal in 2012 Olympics.

Stoned for promoting Women Wrestling

Kripa Shankar, wrestler and coach with reel and real Phogat sisters.

Wrestler and Coach Kripa Shankhar, who gave training to the star cast of Dangal film, said that till Master Chandgi Ram lived he fought like a tiger with the social taboos and in real sense he was the man who started promoting women wrestling.

Around 1996, Chandgi Ram introduced women wrestling in India before that it was there in one or two countries also. Chandgi Ram’s effort to promote women wrestling was opposed and it was criticised severely.

“People used to say that wrestling is a pious sport and it is the sport of Lord Hanuman, who is a celebate. The entry of women into this game would spoil the purity of the game”, reminds Kripa Shankar who was also a disciple of Chandgi Ram.

He said that fearless and determined Chandgi Ram called as Guruji by his disciples cared little for the society and fought tooth and nail.

Sonika training at a wrestling center.

“People used to call names on the women who entered the arena. To stop the people judging the girls, he introduced his three daughters-Deepika, Sonika and Monika into wrestling and put a condition on whoever sends him an invitation for chief guest at wrestling bouts to allow his daughters to wrestle in an open arena”, he added.

Who could have dared to say ill words about Chandgi Ram’s daughters and he proved that he meant his words about the glorious future of women wrestling. People stopped opposing him. His daughter Sonika also became the first woman Bharat Kesari.

Old age fans of wrestling say that people from far-off areas who used to come watch Chandgi Ram wrestling then started coming to watch his daughters wrestling. In place of opposition and criticism, people started offering respect and admiration to women players.

Infact, Mahabir Phogat, father of popular Phogat sisters, was also the disciple of ‘Guruji’ in Delhi akhara, and all of them were instructed to go back to their original places and promote women wrestling.

“On the inspiration of Guruji, Mahabir Phogat and others including me started promoting women wrestling in our respective areas and the result is before all of us today”, he added.

On the Dangal film, he said that he also could not understand after watching the film why no credit of promoting women sports to ‘Guruji’ was given in the film.

Monika Kaliraman, youngest daughter of Chandgi Ram, said that she still remembers when the sisters were some 10 to 12 years old, once their father had taken them to a village for a bout but people there stoned them and they had a narrow escape.

She said that the broken collar bone on her body is proof that his father did more to promote women wrestling than anyone else winning the limelight today.

Recalling old memories, she said that since mud wrestling was not allowed for girls, her father would take clothes sheet to the arena and by placing it over mud, they used to wrestle.

“I have no grudges against anyone today but it is also a fact that the story shown in Dangal movie was in fact the real story of my father Chandgi Ram and his daughters”, she summed up.

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