Gama Pehlwan

Gama Pehlwan

April 22, 2023

Gama Pehlwan was an Indian wrestler and strongman who achieved great success in the early 20th century. Known for being undefeated in international matches throughout his career, he earned himself the title of ‘The Great Gama’.

Gama was raised among wrestlers, so he naturally developed his wrestling talent. By the age of ten, he had already completed 500 lunges and 500 pushups as part of a rigorous workout regimen.


Gama Pehlwan was born in 1878 to a Kashmiri Muslim family living in Jabbowal, colonial Punjab. He is remembered for his undefeated career which earned him the title “The Great Gama” and an induction into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame class of 2015.

Google’s Doodle blog depicts Gama Pehlwan as a mustachioed gentleman with a mace slung over his broad shoulders. A legend of Indian wrestling, Pehlwan lived a life filled with strength. He earned himself the title of national hero and global champion by standing up to Hindu neighbors during 1947 partition of India – which saw some of the worst religious violence since independence.

He was an intense wrestler who trained six days a week and spent most of his spare time in the gym. Every day he would do over 500 lunges (bethaks) and 500 pushups, plus he perfected squatting techniques.

At the tender age of 10, he entered a contest organized by Raja of Jodhpur for “bethaks”, testing wrestlers’ endurance and strength by allowing them to perform as many ‘bethaks’ as they could. The goal was to test each wrestler’s stamina and strength during this grueling test.

Gama won the Bethaks competition and was invited to the court of Raja. There, he trained under his mentor to stay healthy through a strict diet and rigorous workout regime.

By 1910, he had defeated all the notable Indian wrestlers who stood against him. One of his most renowned matches was against John Lemm, the world-renowned Swiss wrestler on September 5, 1910.

Gama was able to defeat his opponent with a powerful drop kick, making this the only match in which he could overcome an opponent who stood significantly taller and boasted more experience.

Gama was an accomplished wrestler, but his real strength and impact lay outside the ring. An enigmatic figure revered for his discipline and strength, Gama became a hero to India until 1960 when he tragically passed away at age 60. During partition of India, he protected Hindu neighbours from communal riots by fighting off armed mobs with nothing more than his bare hands. Throughout these difficult times, he became known as “Sir Gama” among Indians for his bravery during these difficult times.

Personal life

Gama Pehlwan, better known as ‘The Great Gama’ was one of wrestling’s greatest champions. Throughout his career he won several world titles, including the Indian version of the World Heavyweight Championship.

Born into an ethnic Kashmiri family of wrestlers, he began training at a young age and went undefeated in international matches. Additionally, his off-the-mat career earned him respect from people in both his community and beyond before his passing away in 1960.

He was born on May 22, 1878 in Jabbowal, Punjab (now Amritsar district of India under British rule). As a boy he spent his early days living with his family home and playing around the traditional wrestling rings (akhadas), as they were then known.

At the tender age of ten, he began seriously engaging in strength training and wrestling. He would often complete 5,000 squats and 1000 pushups simultaneously – an accomplishment unparalleled by any other wrestler of his era.

He was an avid fan of Stanley Zbyszko, a professional wrestler from Poland who won both Alhambra and Hengler’s tournaments and was ranked fifth worldwide. Additionally, Hackenschmidt, a German wrestler, became his close friend.

In 1910, he relocated to London and soon found himself competing for the World Wrestling Championships. His initial opponent was Swiss-born John Lemm, a regular at Alhambra and Hengler’s competitions who was considered a formidable professional wrestler.

Two men met in White City, London and engaged in an epic two-hour wrestling match that ended with a draw. Afterwards, the two became friends and have remained close throughout their lives.

Gama was married twice and fathered five sons and four daughters. His daughter Kalsoom Nawaz married Nawaz Sharif, a former Pakistani prime minister and politician; Saira Bano married Jhara Pehalwan – an ex-professional wrestler from Pakistan.


Gama Pehlwan, real name Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt, achieved unparalleled success in international matches throughout his career and won the World Wrestling Championship in 1927. He was also honored with the title of “Tiger” and presented a silver mace by Prince Charles of Wales as recognition.

On May 22nd 1878 he was born into a Kashmiri family in Jabbowal, Lahore, British Indian Empire to Muhammad Aziz Baksh and Wazeer Begum. He became an iconic figure in Indian wrestling; his accomplishments were unmatch at that time.

At the age of 10, Gama began practicing wrestling competitively. He trained for six hours daily and during that time consumed six indigenous chickens, 10 litres of milk, half a kilo of ghee and almond syrup as nourishment.

In his career, he defeated several wrestlers including “Doc” Benjamin Roller from the United States, Maurice Deriaz of Switzerland, Johann Lemm (European champion) and Jesse Peterson from Sweden. Additionally, he defeated Stanislaus Zbyszko in a match that only took one minute to decide.

In 1902, during his visit to Baroda in India, Gama lifted a 1200 kg stone by himself without assistance. This stone is now keep in the Baroda Museum as a tribute to his strength and agility.

He is widely credit with pioneering the pehlwani style of wrestling in India. Which evolved from a mix of western and Indian techniques in the 1890s. Unlike American heavyweight styles, pehlwani was lighter weight-wise and allowed for quicker movements than heavier styles allowed.

Gama Pehlwan served the Punjabi wrestling federation until 1952. That was an active fighter during India’s partition in 1947, helping to stop bloodthirsty Hindu mobs.

After partition, Gama relocated to Pakistan and began training his nephew Bholu Pahalwan. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1960.

Gama Pehlwan achieved legendary status during his lifetime, defeating more than 100 wrestlers. He is remember as an icon of Indian sports and the country’s fight against colonialism. Often refer to as the “Lion of Punjab”.


Gama Pehlwan, also known as Ghulam Muhammad Baksh Butt, was an renowned wrestler from Punjab, India (now part of Pakistan). He is considere one of the greatest wrestlers ever and remember for his incredible strength, skill, and endurance. He served as a role model to many aspiring wrestlers while also being well know for his philanthropic activities.

Gama Pehlwan’s legacy as a great wrestler and national hero is still celebrate today in India and beyond. His incredible strength, skill, and perseverance made him an iconic figure within the sport of wrestling as well as an icon for Indian pride and resilience.

His impact was feel around the world as he promoted and champion wrestling. Additionally, he helped establish the Wrestling Academy in Lahore, Pakistan. That was renown for his philanthropic activities and support of various social causes. Most notably, however, was his humility and gracious personality which earned him popularity within both Indian and wrestling communities alike.

After retiring from wrestling in 1954. Gama Pehlwan continued to promote the sport of wrestling and encourage new generations of wrestlers to join it. He founded a wrestling academy in Lahore, Pakistan, where he trained and mentored countless aspiring wrestlers. Additionally, he was active within political and social circles advocating for physical fitness and healthy living.

He achieved unbeaten status throughout his wrestling career and won more than 5000 matches. To earn himself the title of Rustam-e-Hind (Champion of India). Additionally, he was a member of the World Wrestling Federation and competed in numerous tournaments around the world.

In 1928, Gama Pehlwan faced off against Stanislaus Zbyszko. A Polish wrestler considered one of the best wrestlers in history – and managed to defeat him. Throughout their match, Pehlwan displayed incredible stamina, technique, skill, and strength.

Gama Pehlwan’s remarkable skill and strength allowed him to defeat Zbyszko and retain his World Heavyweight Champion title. Cementing him as one of the greatest wrestlers in history. This achievement cemented Pehlwan’s place as one of wrestling’s most renowned and esteemed figures.

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