Bholu Brothers of Wrestling by Farid Azam

Sunday 17 January 10 04:27
During those earlier days when the sport of wrestling prevailed in Pakistan. When the passion for wrestling was such that the wrestling fans jam-packed the stadiums in almost every of Pakistan.  When the People used to gather on the streets just to catch a glimpse of a wrestler. The women and children crowded the rooftops of their dwellings just to watch the wrestlers go passing by on streets in their horse driven carriages. Those were the days when the  Bholu Brothers were very popular in Pakistan. They were renowned wrestlers of the East with outstanding skills. The Bholu's never needed an introduction in Asian community. People had a high regard for them and honored them as sporting heroes. They were like super humans during the days of the Gama in Pakistan. Believed to be the most superior on the Planet.  The Bholu's were wrestlers that belonged to a wrestling family of Kashmiri origin that lasted for centuries before Indian Partition. This group comprised of resident champions like Bholu, Azam, Aslam, Akram and Goga. These were the sons of Imam Bakhsh Pahalwan (Rustam-e-Hind). And nephews of Gama, the Greatest wrestler that India has ever produced. Wrestling was a way of life for them. Some of the main wrestling gyms were owned and operated by the Bholu Pahalwan family (formerly known as Gama Wrestling Family). Bholu and Aslam were considered equivalent to the world champions of the West.  The Great Bholu's Gym known as Dar-ul-Sehat was located in a building in the City of Karachi. It was a muddy wrestling arena within a vast courtyard that was surrounded by wooden benches. Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan allotted this building to this Pahalwan Family to be used for wrestling purpose. It used to be a sort of traditional wrestling Gym known as "Akhara", and the Ancient wrestling style they used, was called Desi Kushti. And this form of wrestling remained popular in India and Pakistan for a long time. The wresting matches were called Dangals, and were fought on a mud pit. The Government of Pakistan, till Ayub Khan’s regime, regularly provided a special grant to Bholu Pahalwan family as recognition for their services to the sport. Earlier, every city, town and village of the country had its own Earthen pit or wrestling gym called "Akhara" in the native language. The continuous flow of talent kept the game alive. And the Bholu's legacy rose to the highest ranks in the world of wrestling . The Bholu Brothers were trained by the world champion'. Gama' . They  were outstanding wrestlers. There was a time, when these Pehalwan brothers never needed an introduction.  At one point in history they were major players of the game in the region and one of the strongest force in wrestling after the Indian-partition. And Soon After the formation of Pakistan, their leading wrestler, Manzoor Ahmad alias Bholu Pehlwan acquired the Rustam-e-Pakistan title in 1949. the younger Brother Aslam sucessfully conquered the Rustam-e-Punjab title in 1951. Azam was considered Rustam-e-Hind in 1953 when he defeated the 480 pounds Gora Singh. And Akram gained fame for his victories in the dark continent. While Moazzam alias Goga was awarded the Star of Pakistan.   They came to Pakistan from India after the partition. Today when the Bholu Brothers have long since departed from this world, we cannot speak about the Pakistani wrestling without recalling them. Since they were the last remains of the Pakistani wrestling and have become a symbol of it.       The Indian Subcontinent has a long and enduring past in wrestling. The Gama Wrestling Family or Bholu Pehalwan Family is a heir of the Kashmiri  wrestling family of the Indian Subcontinent. Their ancestors evolved in traditional wrestling known as Kushti for many decades.   In the pre-partition days, wrestling was  a part of the Indian culture. And the sport of Ancient Indian wrestling called Kushti prevailed in the region. It was normal for the  native wrestlers or Pehalwans to receive warm welcomes anywhere they went. They showed up and demonstrated their skills at the traditional festivals or exhibition called Mela in Punjab. The wrestlers or Pehalwans frequently appeared at the Public gatherings and concerts. These were the days when Punjab was dominated by the wrestling lifestyle. “People used to gather around in hordes merely to watch the famous wrestlers train. Different wrestling groups used to house wrestling shows in Punjab. On Saturdays was the grand procession. The trumpet blasts and drums could be heard on the streets of wrestling oriented cities of Punjab. The competing wrestlers wore a loose-fitted dresses. A wrestler, heavily garlanded, wearing a huge turban on his head and carrying a shiny mace would lead the parade while sitting on the front of a brand new horse driven wagon. An experienced senior wrestler would ring a large bell and make announcements of the location of arena and names of wrestlers. The main wrestling bouts commenced on Sundays. The details of wrestlers and their teachers (Khalifa) and the group (daf) to which each wrestler belonged to was also announced. All announcements were followed by loud music and fireworks. Wrestlers in those days usually changed their names and those of their mentors in such a way that their identity became obscure. The processions usually progressed with musical band playing popular tunes.  People gathered on rooftops and streets to watch the wrestlers go as they moved on the streets of the cities of Punjab. These type of parades went on for hours in the evenings. Posters and pics of wrestlers were circulated and suspended over most of the shops and restaurants. This was the era when most of the local entrepreneurs and traders were associated with one or another wrestling group.  Minto Park was the strong point of wrestling.  Lahore used to have three rival groups or dafs before the Indian partition. And familiar wrestlers, some of them employed on the payments of the sovereign states, were connected with them. There were basically three Wrestling Dafs or wrestling groups in Lahore.  Among them were Kaloowala Daf, founded by Master Kaloo, a gigantic grappler that lived just before the end of the 19th century.  The Noorawala Daf (Noorwala wrestling school) was introduced by Master Noora. And the Kotwala Daf or group was founded by Master Elahi Bakhsh. In Punjab, Kotwale means rampart. This wrestling school was so named because its arena was situated adjacent to the wall of the Lahore Fort. The KalooWala and KotWala had an understanding that their wrestlers would never fight with each other. As such, these two wrestling schools or dafs were always at war with the Noorawala daf. But by the 1940's, they also started fighting each other. The famous Imam Bakhs-Goonga bout was the first between the two previous associates. Goonga Baliwala belonged to Kaloowala and Bholu brothers father, Mr.Imam Bakhsh was a member of Kotwala Daf. All the wrestling arenas in Lahore at the time of the partition, were run and managed by these three wrestling Dafs. These three wrestling Dafs or groups had hundreds of wrestlers (Pahalwans) as their members. The Kotwala training school or Daf has produced the most prominent of the wrestlers in the Indian sub-continent. The Rustam-e-Zaman or world champion, Gama, his brother Imam Bakhsh, Rustam-i-Hind and the four sons of Imam Bakhsh, including the Rustam-e-Pakistan, Manzoor Hussain alias Bholu Pehalwan are only a few.   The Gama wrestling family or Bholu Pehalwan family, dominated the Kotwala Daf because they introduced the bodybuilding equipments at their Wiyam Shala wrestling Gym (Akhara), for the first time in Lahore, Pakistan.  And they started training the Pakistani wrestlers in weight training and bodybuilding methods with the help of professionals. The gym of Wiyam Shala previously belonged to the Hindus who left for India after the Indian partition. Gama had an undisputed record of being the best wrestler in India. He never lost a bout. In other words none of the wrestlers had been able to pin him down. After partition, Gama moved to Lahore and started training youngsters at  the Wiyam Shala Gym (Akhrara). He died in 1960. Imam Bakhsh, the younger brother of Gama, was given the title of Rustam-I-Hind after he had won several bouts across India and England. His sons Bholu, Azam and Aslam became famous wrestlers. the eldest son Manzoor Hussain  alias Bholu Pehalwan acquired  the title of Rustam-e-Pakistan. Hassu (Hussain), Azam (Raja), Achha (Aslam), Akki (Akram), and  Goga (Moazzam) were his younger brothers and all of them were excellent wrestlers. Aslam trained in freestyle wrestling and participated in shoot bouts. He fought the legendary Bert Assirati  in Bombay and knocked him out.  Bholu and Aslam despite being gentle and aware of their strengths their grips were like steel.  Freestyle wrestling, perhaps “the greatest forms of sports known to mankind” was properly introduced in Pakistan during the era of the Bholu Brothers. From the wrestling viewpoint, the pre-partition India was a tough neighborhood and the wrestlers were most skillful. The Indian wrestlers had a big reputation. If any foreign wrestler traveled to India, had to watch out. He could get hurt or  end up in hospital. This family whose members ruled the sport for several decades in the 20th century has a glorious past. 
The Bholu Pahalwan was a famous Pakistani champion wrestler. The Indian and Pakistan have produced many fabulous wrestlers over a period of many years. Some of the greatest whose names become known throughout the world, never left their native land. Yet tales of their amazing feats of strength and endurance, of their spectacular battles have spread everywhere. In the past, Nowhere else in the world did there existed a virtual wrestling dynasty such as that found in the Eastern lands. Most of the big name wrestlers were related. The wrestling sons of one champion invariable married the daughters of another champion to produce more great wrestlers. For a number of years Ghulam Pahalwan of Amritsar ruled the roost. When he died his younger brother Kaloo Pahalwan reigned supreme as champion. Kaloo had a large family and one of his daughters married Imam Baksh, brother of the GREAT GAMA. Imam's wife bore him six stalwart sons, all of whom became outstanding wrestlers. The eldest of these was Bholu of Pakistan, who was most popular and rated as the greatest wrestler in the East during the 50's. His name has been recorded in the annals of wrestling. His real name was Manzoor Hussain. He was born in 1922 in Amritsar, India. Bholu originates from a family of renowned wrestlers of Kashmiri origin from the Punjab in Northwestern India. An illustrious wrestler and the very first champion of the newly born Pakistan. He was the successor of the Great Gama of India. The initial part of his wrestling career was spent in the British India. Later in Pakistan he was generally known as the elder brother of a wrestling group called The Bholu Brothers comprising of himself and his four younger brothers, Azam, Aslam, Akram and Goga. One of his younger brother Hassu retired from wrestling earlier and is not a famous wrestler. But Azam, Aslam, Akram and Goga have ruled the wrestling rings of Pakistan. All were big men, but Bholu was the biggest—he stood only 5' 7" in height but weighed 385 pounds with a chest of 56" and thighs which measure 36". Along with the massiveness his physique supported tremendous strength, skill and endurance. Bholu joined the Akhara in his childhood, and was coached by three greats, —Gama. IMAM baksh and Hamida Pahalwan, Bholu's maternal uncle who was his chief teacher. They showed Bholu all they knew about wrestling. He lived in Amritsar till age 9. Then during one of his school holidays Bholu moved to Patiala to visit his father who was a serious wrestler. During the same year Bholu started his wrestling career in Radhanpur under the guidance of Hamida Pahalwan Rehmaniwala, real name Abdul Hamid Rehmani, who was an official wrestler for the state of Radhanpur. In 1934 at the age of 12, he already tipped the scales at 200 lbs and could defeat most of the men on his own. In 1935, at age 13,  Bholu made his first appearance in a wrestling contest in Lahore. He competed with wrestler known as Ahmad Baksh to a draw for a duration of twelve minutes. On Monday 27th March 1939 Bholu wrestled Ahmad Baksh for the 2nd time at in Lahore. The Judges of this match were Sardar Abdus Samad, City Magistrate and Inspector Gayani of Naulakha Police Station. At the age of 16, he was defeating the leading wrestlers in India. During his teen years he defeated mature wrestlers like Emile Koroschenko and Jeji Goldstein. Till 1940,  Bholu succeeded against some of competent Indian wrestlers like Mangal Singh, Kharak Singh, Bora Singh, and Aleem Pahalwan of Baroda. These victories increased his popularity. Later he defeated the Maharashtrian panther, Yankapa Bulhar ,  in a fierce struggle. The later had wrestled such famous men as Young Gama, Hamida Pahalwan, Goonga and the likes.  During 1940, Bholu also competed in the War Fund wrestling staged by the Indian government in every part of India to boost up war funds. Bholu Pahalwan defeated a number of wrestlers including a local champion Ghousia Pahalwan twice in Lahore and for the 3rd time in Bahawalnagar.

In 1944 Bholu defeated Puran Singh Amritsari in Ajain in a recorded time of 6 minutes. Later the same year he defeated another wrestler with the similar name known as Puran Singh Patialawala, in Ludhiana in 3 minutes. In 1945 Bholu beats a Sikh wrestler known as Darbar Singh in Kasur in shortest duration of 1-minute.

In 1946 Bholu was scheduled to fight Jeuti Pahalwan in Kolhapur but on the day of the match Jeuti refused to fight and slipped away. Public turned furious and burnt the wrestling arena. The police resorted to firing in order to control the enraged spectators and the alleged wrestling contractor was jailed. But Hamida Pahalwan soon arranged a rematch between both wrestlers to compensate the public money. Bholu agreed to wrestle without payment and defeated Jeuti in this second event in Kolhapur on a final decision. Later in another contest in Kolhapur he defeated the top contender Shiv Govinda within 2 minutes. During the same year Bholu fought a series of wrestling bouts against the Champion of Kolhapur, Mulla Taraka of Nipani who had the reputation of previously beating highly talented men like Nizam, Ghulam Mohiuddin, Hussain Baksh Lahori and Allah baksh Pahalwan. Bholu surprisingly overpowered Mulla Taraka in a wrestling event arranged by the Maharaja in front of a huge crowd. This contest was also witnessed by the Emperors of the neighboring states. Anyhow Taraka refused to accept his defeat and demanded a rematch with Bholu in his hometown of Nipani. As a result of that a few days later Bholu fought Taraka in Nipani and defeated him for the second time on a unanimous decision.
After the Partition of India , the Bholu family (Gama wrestling family) became part of Pakistan. Here the famous trio of Bholu, Azam and Aslam put Pakistan on the wrestling map. Here they met such opposition as Younus, Sharif, Kala, Ghaus and Manda. Within a few months of the creation of Pakistan Bholu defeated Hussain Daftari and Ghulam Ghaus. He formed the 'new age' Gama-Imam Tandem with his brother Aslam.  He had two main Wrestling’s Gyms called Akhara's within the country. The Bilal Gunj Akhara was located in Lahore. In the year 1948, Bholu formed another Akhara known as Dar-ul-Sehat at in Karachi. The Dar-ul-Sehat also known as Bholu-ka-Akhara, trained wrestlers  under the supervision of professional trainers. It also provided the weight training and bodybuilding facilities to its members. The Bholu’s Gym trained around 55,000 members till the 60’s. Bholu gave special attention to this institution. He personally trained all the members including 60 to 70 serious wrestlers. Bholu himself trained  from 2 AM till 10 AM and then from 2 PM till 7 PM. His training routine consisted of around 5000 squats and 3500 pushup stretches including Santola and Zor on daily basis. For his conventional wrestling workouts Bholu also used the traditional exercises such as the Chakki, Lizam and Mugdar twice a week. During those days, another wrestler in the person of Younus Pahalwan of Gujranwala was trouncing all opposition and came face to face with the Great Gama's successor — The Bholu Pahalwan. This match created tremendous interest because the winner would be recognized as the first official champion of the new area. It could have been anyone's match as younus matched Bholu in all departments except speed. Bholu fought Younus at the Minto Park in Lahore. After a terrific struggle that lasted 47 minutes, Bholu managed to pin the shoulders of his highly skilled adversary.  He won the match but later the Pakistani authorities organized a nation wide tournament to determine  the official champion. More then 50 wrestlers from all parts of the country participated. After a few months time Bholu and Younus were the only two to survive and once again faced each other. These two closely matched wrestling giants clashed in Karachi, Pakistan in a rematch in April 1949 for the first legitimate championship. A crowd of more then 100,000/- spectators came from all parts of Pakistan to witness this grand finale for the Pakistan championship. Many of them arrived a week or two ahead in order to get good seats. Interest such as this was not rarely seen before in any other part fo the world. The Governor General of Pakistan Khawaja Nazimuddin was the Chief Guest of this wrestling event. He was present to award the championship Mace to the winner of this historic bout. The two mighty men of ring circled each other warily for a moment or two and then locked in battle. Neither intended to waste any time or strength on the other Each was out to flatten the other as quickly and efficiently as possible. the most important title in the country was at stake—a truly historic title because it was the first time it had ever been contested. Bholu was magnificient and took the offensive from the very start, forcing the pace. Younus countered but was so busy protecting himself that he couldn't launch an offensive of his own.  Bholu pinned younus in the 15th minute and thus won the coveted title of Rustam-e-Pakistan. The actual time of this bout was 8 minutes with 7 minutes time out given in between.   This was the most significant event in the Pakistan’s wrestling history. Bholu Pahalwan was declared the first legitimate Wrestling Champion of Pakistan. The receipts of this Dangul or tournament came to the amazing sum of 24,00,000.

After this match, Bholu seldom wrestled within the country. He competed with foreign wrestlers who were active in India during the early 1950’s. In Jalandhar and Bombay Bholu Pahalwan dominated some of the finest men in wrestling Including George Pencheff, George Zbisko, Zybisko-2 and Harbans Singh etc. Bholu Pahalwan more then once issued challenges to the American champions like the Great Lou Thesz, but they persistently turned deaf ear toward him. In 1953 he even asked the Pakistani Prime Minister, Muhammad Ali Bogra to arrange a match between him and the reigning world champion Lou Thesz. Bholu even offered a sum of 0.1 Million to the world champion for a match. But the match never took place for some many reasons. According to Lou Thesz, the Bholu's management was so disorganized that nothing could be agreed upon. During the early 1960’s Bholu challenge the wrestlers worldwide through publications in different newspapers. He even challenged Indian wrestlers like Dara Singh. But he remained matchless because wrestlers seemed reluctant to compete against him. Perhaps if Bholu would have met any of those world champions, the title was sure to change hands. Bholu received the 1962 Pride of Performance Award from the President of Pakistan. Muhammad Ayoub Khan granted a 20-kanal land to Bholu in honour of services rendered to the sport of wrestling in Pakistan. Bholu performed Hajj in 1963. Finally in 1964 the Pakistan Wrestling Association declared him Rustam-e-Zaman, The Pakistani World Champion. They imposed a condition on him that Bholu should wrestle abroad and must win a foreign world title in order to sustain his Pakistani World Title of Rustam-e-Zaman. Since many wrestlers were reluctant to fight him due to his renowned reputation. therefore in 1967 Bholu offered a sum of 5000 pounds through Promoter Orig Williams of England to anyone who could beat him. And Finally in May 1967, Bholu Pahalwan competed in a world championship event sponsored by the Eastern Promotions Limited in UK and defeated the Anglo-French Champion, Henry Pierlot (Les Thornton) for the World Heavyweight Title in Empire Pool, Wembley Stadium, London, England. Later after winning the world championships from abroad, his status as Rustam-e-Zaman, The Pakistani World Champion, was officially confirmed by the Pakistan Wrestling Association in a ceremony held in Karachi and presided by Home Minister, Kazi Fazlullah in September 1967. Haji Manzoor Hussain a.k.a Bholu Pahalwan died on 6th March 1985, in Pakistan. Bholu was without a doubt the best wrestler in the East and in the opinion of top experts, the greatest in the entire world. His son Nasir Bholu was also a wrestler.  
Aslam Pahalwan (1927-1989) , The former heavyweight wrestling champion, The untamed lion of the wrestling world. He was an outstanding wrestler, ranked No.2 in the Indo-Pakistani wrestling. And he could compete in every wrestling system.  He was the adopted son of Gama, "the greatest wrestler India has ever produced. He grew up in extreme wrestling environments of the Punjab region .
In actual fact, Aslam was the nephew of Gama , but the Great Indian fighter took the youngster into his care and treated him like his own son. Aslam also learned the tricks of the trade from his famous uncle, the Superman of Indian wrestling known as Hamida Pahalwan. He trained in the art of Earthen Pit Wrestling and Indian martial art. He was skilled in catch wrestling as well as the freestyle combat. Aslam won the Rustam-e-Punjab title in 1951. He won the Commonwealth championship in 1953.  In Europe and America he wrestled as the All Indian Champion. Packing 300 lbs on a 6 feet 4 inch frame, he competed in shoot bouts and could destroy his European and North American opposition in a matter of minutes. He defeated big names in wrestling like Bert Assirati, George Gordianko, Roy Heffernon and others. 
During the earlier days the sport of wrestling was popular in Pakistan and the City of Lahore was one of the wrestling strongholds in the world. Aslam's father, Imam Bux was the former Indian champion, called Rustam-e-Hind, who used to work as a wrestler in the State of Patiala for the Indian ruler, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, during the British rule. He used to have a home in Lahore in 1927. Born in the house of ultimate wrestler, Aslam  remained the pupil of Abdul Hamid Rehmaniwala alias Hamida Pahalwan for several years. He was by nature a comical figure but once he got into the ring he became furious.  He was a human powerhouse that mostly wrestled in the sand pits. His training involved very much of the basic exercises. He can easily  handle weights upto 136 Kg. His diet consisted of six pounds of curd and two pounds of almonds for breakfast, and eight pounds of chicken mixed with a couple of loaves of bread for lunch and a supper that included Indian foods like Yakhni (Mutton soup), a whole lamb or Goat and almond Thandai. He also took normal foods such as Nihari. But did not  have milk products because he was lactose intolerant.
Aslam previously known as Acha Pahalwan commenced his wrestling career  in Punjab. During the per-partition India, In his teen years  he fought Jiro Tandooria of Lahore in a match which resulted a draw after 30 minutes of friction. In Amritsar Ram Talai suburban, Aslam alias Acha Pahalwan wrestled Talla Jalandhary for 35 minutes to a draw. Talla Jalandhary belonged to Jalandhar, an ancient city of Punjab in India. Then he had his first career match in Amritsar-Punjab with the local Bala Pahalwan, and won that one.  Then in Patiala he defeated Niranjan Singh son of Dattu Pahalwan in his second match after wearing down his opponent. Wrestler Niranjan Singh was from Ambala district located on the borders of Haryana state and Punjab state in India. Later on, in a wrestling tournament sponsored by Maharaja Bhopindar Singh of Patiala, Aslam defeated Puran Singh. Aslam also wrestled in Bombay and Uttar Pradesh but he gained popularity by beating Kala Pahalwan , The Lion of Punjab.   On 3rd Feb 1946, Aslam defeated Aslam Mohni Wala son of Mohni Chaudhry in a Dig Deh type of (deciding type of ) match in Lahore. Wrestler Mohni Wala was the brother of famous Punjabi wrestler, Haji Afzal of Lahore. Khalifa, Noor Muhammad and Chaudhry Muhammad Ameen were the referees of this competition. In 1946 The Marhatta wrestler, Vishnu Sawra defeated Aslam Pahalwan in Kolhapur. Aslam lost this match due to negligence.  But he never had a rematch with this young and promising wrestler because Vishnu Sawra died young in an accident. On Sunday, 1st September 1946, Aslam Pahalwan wrestled the much superior Younus Gujranwalia, a student of Rahim Sultaniwala in Amritsar and lost the match. The 27 year old Younus was proclaimed victorious over Aslam Pahalwan by the referees - Ahmad Baksh Bhakki Wala of Amritsar and Bassa Pahalwan of Lahore.  This match drew a large crowd therefore  DSP Amritsar, Mr. Lutfullah Khan was also in attendance to keep the crowd  under control.
Soon after that Aslam tangled with the Lahore wrestling idol, Ghousia Pahalwan and defeated him in a brief encounter. Ghousia was well past his prime at the time of this defeat so he became an easy opponent for Aslam.  Aslam also wrestled European Heavyweight Champion, Karl Pojello of Lithuania. Karl Pojello had previously confronted men like the Hamida Pahalwan,  Imam Bakhsh and Judo Expert Masato Tamura.
In August 1947, soon after the Indian partition, the Gama Wrestling family (presently known as the Bholu Pahalwan family) settled down in Lahore in the newly born Pakistan.  These were the days when this was believed to be the greatest wrestling family in the world. And Pakistan was considered one of the wrestling strongholds. This was the golden era of wrestling in Pakistan and wrestling was a part of the culture. It was a way of life for the people of Punjab. The same year Aslam and his elder brother Bholu Pahelwan (Manzoor Hussain) formed the new age Gama-Imam Tandem. Aslam came to Karachi because in 1948 his elder brother Bholu Pahalwan inaugurated a wrestling establishment known as Dar ul Sehat Gym in the heart of the city of Karachi.  Aslam competed in a number of local Wrestling tournaments in Pakistan. In 1951, a few years after the independence he won the Rustam-e-Punjab title by beating his former rival Younus Gujranwalia at the Minto Park in Lahore. This  match lasted for 9 minutes. Younus had previously beaten Aslam in 1946, but this time he lost. 
The Bholu Brothers mostly trained at the Lahore based Bilal Ganj Wrestling Gym.  Aslam was to defend his Rustam-e- Punjab title against different opponents including  Umar Hayat of Toba Tek Singh in 1952.  But these matches never took place for  some anonymous reason. In fact the conventional Indian wrestling used to be a wonderful activity in the earlier days in Pakistan. But as the time progressed, the traditional wrestling system became hoary with the advent of modern styles. The old wrestling system needed modification according to the modern requirement. But its customs were so powerful that its officials and participants both found it difficult to modify its style. Thus the sport of conventional wrestling called Kushti lost its significance and failed to keep pace with the emerging styles in the world. In 1952, the freestyle wrestling champion, Syed Saif Shah and Sardar Khan came from England and introduced freestyle wrestling in Pakistan. They contested with the Indian wrestlers in freestyle bouts. The wrestling fans lost their interest in the local wrestling and the Pakistani Public demanded the Bholu Brothers to show up in the ring. Every wrestler had to compete in order to survive.  But in Pakistan there wasn't any financial or moral support for them. Gone were the days of pre partition India when the local rulers or Maharajas supported the game.  The Pakistani government didn't respond to the needs of their wrestlers and neither had any budget to spend on them. There wasn't  any highly organized sports body  devoted to the needs of Pakistani Pahalwans.  Every  wrestler was for himself.  IT WAS THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.   Therefore Aslam Pahalwan switched to freestyle professional wrestling.  
After this tenure many foreign wrestlers showed up in Pakistan. The director of Western Athletic Club of America, Mr. Ted Thai also came to Pakistan. A series of freestyle wrestling bouts sparked up in Pakistan.  As a freestyle fighter, Aslam managed to gain impressive reputation by beating some big names in the west. He was very powerful  and Commenced his bouts with a fierce yell and a dynamic charge towards the ring. He used the head butts, flying Kicks and a combination of submission holds like the Boston Crab and bear hug to subdue his opponent. He was a part of the Bholu Brothers professional wrestling team. Very few western wrestlers would fight him in shoot bouts.  No one could last for more then a few minutes with him.  Aslam loved to take on challenges and refused to lose for money.  In 1953, Aslam challenged wrestlers all over the world and put 100,000/- Rupees as a reward for the lucky winner.  It is a Known fact, that Aslam Pahalwan, “the indomitable lion of Pakistan” in a shocking competition obtained victory over on the popular Tiger Sucha Singh of India in the National Stadium of Karachi.  Then came the excellent Tarlok Singh of India in a freestyle-fight against  Aslam Pahalwan.  The indomitable lion flattened the challenger in the second round.  He  also won the Commonwealth Championship in 1953.  In March 1953, the wrestling promoters flew him to East Africa. In April 1953, he fought in Nairobi, Kenya and defeated their champion Mahindar Singh.  In 1954, The former world champion Bert Assirati flew from South Africa and challenged the Great Gama to a wrestling match. But Gama had retired, therefore in his place, Aslam Pahalwan was sent to Bombay to fight Assirati.  This was to be the most important match of Aslam's wrestling career because Assirati was a highly regarded westerner. He was ranked No.2 in the world ratings by the ring magazine.  On 3rd June 1954, Aslam caused a large revolt in the wrestling world by defeating the Empire Champion in Bombay.  He received a reward of Rs. 10,000/- by an Indian entrepreneur for this victor. In Bombay and Jalandhar, he also wrestled  foreign some other foreign professionals that operated in India . The same year he defeated Zebra Kid and Ron Harrison in Pakistan.  In January 1955 Aslam Pahalwan defeated Bill Verna , Kid Zemboa and Ron Harrison in Karachi. 
In 1957 Aslam Pahalwan  announced one hundred thousand dollar ($100,000/-) reward to anyone who could beat him in wrestling. The Wrestling promoter G.S. Dharan arranged his  fights in Singapore and Malaysia. An International wrestling tournament was organized in which thirty famous grapplers including , King Kong, Basco Bo,  Roy Heffernan,  Charles Henry,  Tiger Ray Holden, , Bloorma, Sky Hi Lee , George Pencheff , George Zbisko, Zbisko-2, Shaikh Wadi Ayoub, Ricky Waldo and Baron von Heczey  met in the ring. Aslam Pahalwan went roaring like a lion throughout these matches turning his adversaries into bloody mess while he himself remained unhurt. On 29 November 1957, the top ranking Arabian wrestler, Sheikh Ali ben Yousseff  a.k.a Shaikh Wadi Ayoub fought  Aslam Pahalwan at the Happy World Stadium in Singapore. Aslam proved the toughest opponent in Ali's career.  The Arabian wrestler lost this match after a fierce combat.  In March 1958, Aslam defeated the man mountain " King Kong" (Emil Czaja) and Basco Bo in Singapore. King Kong was one of the world's top ranking wrestlers at that time. He had beaten many well known wrestlers including Dara Singh, Syed Saif Shah  and Shaikh Wadi Ayoub in International fights.  Aslam also indulged in bouts with  Ricky Waldo.  The black wrestler held Aslam other then that no one could last for more then a few minutes with him. Because of these victories Aslam became known as Rustam-e-Asia.
On 20, September 1958, Aslam teamed up with his younger brother Akram in a tag team match against King Kong and his partner Shaikh Wadi Ayoub. This was an hour long non stop fight held for the second time at the Happy World Stadium after more then a year. Extra police had to be summoned to keep the excited crowed under control. After this triumphant tour he returned to Pakistan where in a match in Karachi in December 1958 he defeated the famed Indian wrestler, Arjun Singh. Arjun  had offered a $1000 reward to anyone who could beat him. 
In 1962, he defeated Tiger Joginder and the British veteran " Sitting Bull ". Tiger Joginder was  Dara Singh's brother. Aslam then tackle the All Asian Champion,   Sheik Wadi Ayoub in Karachi.  In Karachi, he also defeated  Lofty Binnie of New Zealand and the man mountain" King Kong"  in front of  60,000/- fans in May 1962.  In 1963, he defeated the Canadian wrestler , Paul "Butcher" Vachon in Karachi after Paul had beaten his younger brother Azam..According to pro-wrestler Paul Vachon, all the matches that he had with the Bholu Brothers were SHOOTS. He has written three books about his life as a Professional Wrestler titled....When Wrestling Was Real. He says that there were 6 brothers. He wrestled Aslam, Akram, Goga, Azam, and there was another brother, Hussain alias Hassu. Thats more then 50 years.  The stories in the trilogy of books are real and full of history. In 1967 promoter Christopher Whelan and Faheemuddin Fehmi arranged a tour of United Kingdom. In Glasgow his first bout was against the Olympic Medalist Jim Armstrong.  Jim  wasn't prepared for the opening onslaught and lasted only a minute.  Aslam later reappeared and defeated the American Champion Ron Reed in the first round. He also defeated Buddy Colt,  Eric Taylor, Guy Mitchell, Mighty Chang ,  Steve Rickard and the Jamaican dropkick expert Jim Moser. He defeated one of the world's leading wrestler, the Canadian Champion; George Gordianko on 24th May 1967. Gordienko’s name was established as a dangerous wrestler during the 60's. Numerous world's champions have been side-stepping him for years.   Aslam later received the presidential award from the President of Pakistan, General Muhammad Ayoub Khan on his victories.   In 1971 wrestling promoter Orig Williams sponsored his matches in UK. Aslam defeated  various wrestlers including Wild Man of Borneo, Goonga Singh and Wild Angus Campbell. The tour was cut short due to the 1971 India-Pakistan War.  Aslam also wrestled in the Middle East before his retirement from pro wrestling. He died on 7th January 1989. His son Zubair Jhara was a well known wrestler.    
The Azam Pehalwan Rustam-e-Hind was the Champion of Lahore and the Far East.  He was a conventional wrestler, a Pahalwan who later adopted the freestyle professional wrestling. Azam alias Raja was born in 1925,  in Amritsar, India. He was an introvert and religious type of person. He faced many grapplers in Pakistan,  India, Kuwait, Muscat, Behrain, Qatar, Kenya, Uganda and South America.  Azam was strong and flexible as a cat. Whenever thrown on the mat, he always landed on his feet's. With a bodyweight of only 180 lbs he could tackle the super heavyweights like the Gora Singh and Baron Von Heckzey. In United Kingdom he defeated the American Champion, Ron Reed. In Surinam, South America, he defeated the 3 time world Judo Champion, Anton Geesink.. He also vanquished well known wrestlers like Jeji Goldstein, George Penchef, Big Bill Verna, Zebra Kid, Ron Harrison, Bloorma, Tiger Joginder and Arjun Singh.
The Akram Pehlwan alias Akki excelled in Earthen Pit wrestling and boxing type wrestling. Born around 1930, in Amritsar, Punjab, India, he weighed close to 250 lbs. and stood 6 feet tall in his prime. In 1953, he was given the name “double Tiger" in East Africa after his victories over the wrestlers of the Dark Continent. He also defeated Ugandan boxing champion, Idi Amin in Kampala. He trounced all opposition in Kenya including their champion, Mahinder Singh. He also competed in the Tag Team events along with brother Aslam and Goga.  Amongst the six wrestler sons of Imam Bakhsh Pahalwan,  Akki was perhaps the most graceful and fastest. He started his career in teen years and soon hit into prominence.  Initially he was a student of Gama, and started competing from Lahore. During his early days he met the much superior Kala Pahalwan, "the Lion of Punjab" and lost the match. But the later did not give Akram the return bout and pitted his numerous pupils to halt the victory march of this No.3 wrestler of the Indo-Pakistan. In 1954, Akram went to Bombay and there he had a series of matches without a loss. After his return to Pakistan Akram challenged all opposition at home. The champion of Multan, the powerful, Zamman khan disputed his claim and tangled with him. But the latter proved better then the khan of Multan and defeated him. Later Akram and his brothers toured Malaya in 1958. There he beats their Idol, Hari Ram in a challenge bout. Then in a match in Chittagong against Big Bill Verna of Australia, he dislocated his left shoulder and was hospitalized. But even then he evaded defeat and the match ended in a draw. When his shoulder healed, Akram was back in action and agreed to tangle with the giant King Kong of Hungary. In this bout Akram defeated King Kong (Emile Czaja) in the 3rd round. And when the new threat to the Bholu Brothers in person of Bhola Gadi, the champion of Lahore defeated Azam Pehalwan in May 1962, in the historical cities championship tournament. Akram then  wrestled Bhola Gadi at Iqbal Park, Lahore in a challenge match. On this occasion, after a furious struggle between the pair Akram lifted Bhola Gadi sky-high and slammed him on the mat for the initial three counts. Hence the next opponent for Akram was the highly reputed, Haji Afzal, a very clever but lighter wrestler. But this proved Afzal's turning point and Afzal was pinned in 15 minutes. In Nepal, Akram defeated the Kabul champion, Sardar Khan. Then in a challenge fight he trounced Pyara Singh of Indian, Punjab. Some of his memorable victories are over Haji Afzal, King Kong, Aussie, Clyde Kennedy, Hardam Singh, Gurnam Singh, Hari Ram,  Emile Koroshenko, Tony Kontellis, Con Papalazarou,  Baron Von Heczey, Bloorma, Sam Betts, George Gordianko, Dusty Rhodes and Dick Murdock. He drew matches against Shaikh Wadi Ayoub, Bert Assirati and Big Bill Verna. Akram has lost some of the fights but his overall performance was good.  He has only lost a few matches during his lifetime. The wrestlers who have been able to defeat him are Kala Pahalwan " the Lion of Punjab" in 1950's,  Big Bill Verna of Australia in Dhaka, Bangladesh (East Pakistan), The 3 times world Judo Champion, Anton Geesink in South America in 1968. And the world matial arts champion and former WWE world champion Antonio Inoki in 1976. However, the Akram Pehalwan remained active in professional wrestling until his match with Antonio Inoki in 1976.
The fearless and daring, (Moazzam) Goga Pahalwan (1937-1981) comes from the household brimming with wrestling victories. A part of the Bholu Brothers wrestling team, the 1937, Amritsar born Pakistani Champion, Goga Pahalwan was trained by the Great Gama for15 years. Goga whose real name was Moazzam, was lightly built. He displayed a blazing fighting style with quick reflexes. Some of his Favorite maneuvers were Reverse flying kick and leg breaker. Goga feuded with manyf famous wrestlers including Tiger Jogindar, Gunpat Andolkar, Eric Taylor, Earl Maynard, Killer Karl Kox, Zebra Kid, Wanik Buckley, Louis Kovacs, Kid Zemboa, Billy Robinson, Klondyke Bill, Sam Betts, Dusty Rhodes, Dick Murdock, Haruka Eigen, Tarlok Singh and Harbans Singh. His local opponents included Haji Afzal, Boonta Singh, Siddique Nukehwala,  Sohni and Garnam Singh. However Goga lost a few matches to wrestlers like Sam Betts. In professional Tag team wrestling he teamed with Akram Pehalwan and Majid Ackra. Goga died in Gujranwala City on 6th Feb 1981 during an exhibition bout against his nephew Nasir Bholu.  Hassu was the 2nd eldest son of Imam Bux and perhaps the earlier member of Bholu brothers. His real name was Hussain Bakhsh. He was a part of the Bholu Brothers team of wrestling but his name was never heard publicly because he gave up wrestling earlier, so he is not well-known among the wrestling fans like his brothers.  Jhara  ( 1960-1991 ) was the frontline Pakistani wrestler of the 1980's. He was the son of Bholu's younger brother, Aslam Pahalwan.  He joined the Bholu Brothers later when they have almost retired from active professional wrestling. He was a sort of replacement for them but that didn't work well. Probably, he was the best in Pakistan and was trained by five top Pakistani trainers (Khalifa;s) of Indian wrestling, including Arshad Bijli. Zubair Jhara defeated a number of international wrestlers including  Robert Saito, Jules Strongbow-2 and S D Jones etc. He also accomplished victory over local Pakistani champions like Zawar Multani , Goga Gujranwalia, Abbas Multani and champion of Bahawalpur, Ghulam Qadir .  Jhara also scored a controversial victory over the World martial Art Champion, Antonio Inoki of Japan in 1979. He was billed from Lahore. Nasir Bholu b. 1960 is the last familiar name of the Gama Wrestling Family, which has ruled the Indian wrestling for the past three centuries. Nasir lives in Lahore and is known as the son of  the celebrated Bholu Pahalwan. Nasir Bholu Jr. debuted in wrestling on 26th May 1978, by beating Big Bill Clark, while he was studying at the D.J.Science college in Karachi. He defeated Yasir Ali of U.A.E in 1979. In 1982 he won a local wrestling championship tournament in Bangladesh by beating David Stallford and was labeled, the Asian Champion by the Pakistani wrestling promoters. Nasir also defeated professional wrestlers of class such as the The Assassin, 1968 Olympic medalist- Hurricane Mike  Hanessee and Indian wrestler, Kanwar Jeet Singh. His career was short lived due to lack of training facilities in Pakistan. Nasir was also a film actor but he was more successful as a businessman. He run gyms in Karachi and Lahore and does business with China. However, speak on their abilities, no matter how good were the Bholu Brothers. But they were a step below the Great Gama and Imam Bakhsh . According to pro-wrestler Paul Vachon the Bholu brothers were all great wrestlers but not as good as their father Iman Bux or his brother the Great Gama.  He says that he also had the pleasure and the honor of having his picture taken with the Bholu Brothers father , Iman Bux in 1963.  Gama came out of the subcontinent and fought world renowned wrestlers. Maybe the original Ghulam who died young may have been the master of them all, but it's all frozen in history now. further once those old-timers are gone, their personal stories disappear with them into the past. First Gama vanishes into history, then Bholu and then Aslam. Now there are many stories that live on. But of course like many things else that is also lost to the sands of time.
0 Hype


Login to post a comment