Kushti, India's indigenous form of wrestling, has in the past century turned into a dying art from a once royal national sport. Those who still practice it meet the lengthy hours of its daily regimen with unrelenting devotion — rope, aerobic and weight exercises; culturing the soil on which they wrestle; a diet comprised of non-spicy, self-made food; and celibacy. And so, in traditional earthen pits wrestlers still wield the physical and mental intensity that has driven their ancestors for three thousand years. A 2004 decision by the Indian Fighters Federation from the capital of New Delhi, prohibiting fighting on red soil and ordering fight clubs to use mattresses instead, may have further diminished Kushti's shrinking role in Indian tradition. The order, however, was in part an effort to grow the number of Olympic medals for the country -- the first by Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav, a bronze in 1952, and another bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, by Sushil Kumar.
Photographed as personal work syndicated by Redux Pictures