There were times when Nada Kusti (traditional wrestling) was a major entertainment here. The wrestling tradition was diligently patronised by the royal family and was always a crowd-pulling sport.
Besides Nada Kusti, people had a chance to witness another form of wrestling, Vajramusthi Kalaga (fist fighting), on the palace premises.
However, today the Nada Kusti is confined to the Dasara festivities.
The wrestlers here argue that there is good scope to revive the wrestling tradition if measures were taken on priority. Dasara wrestling bouts still attract huge crowds, indicating its popularity.
Speaking to The Hindu, veteran wrestler Mahadev said they had appealed to the authorities here on many occasions to revive the sport. “But the response from them has not been so overwhelming. The tradition could be kept intact for future generations if the authorities, mainly the police, allow us to hold bouts at least once a month,” he said and added that the upcoming wrestlers were in need of financial help to continue with the tradition.
Mahadev, general secretary of Jayachamaraja Wadiyar Garadi Sangha, said Mysore district once boasted of 244 ‘garadis’ (traditional wrestling gymnasiums). In Mysore city alone, there were 72 garadis. Today, the number has come down to around 150 in the district and 40 in Mysore city. At least 34 ‘garadis’ were in need of immediate restoration here, he said.
As many as 10 garadis had been recently restored, including the Srinivasannana Garadi on Benki Nawab Street, which is said to be 175 years old, and the Hattujanara Garadi at Ittigegud, which is around 150 years old.
The Mysore City Corporation had restored the Basavaiyyanavara Garadi at K.G. Koppal and the Hattujanara Garadi at Kyathamaranhalli. Another garadi at K.G. Koppal and one at Tilaknagar were being revived with funds from the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports.
The rusticity of Nada Kusti had inspired youngsters of the old Mysore region to embrace the tradition with keen interest. But in the absence of patronage in the form of infrastructure (coaches for freestyle wrestling and necessary facilities) and financial backing, the tradition is on the wane.
Recalling the days when bouts were common here, Mr. Mahadev, who belongs to a family of wrestlers, said regular bouts at Doddakere Maidan were discontinued two decades ago. “We want permission to organise bouts at Sahukar Channaiah Akhada at least once a month,” he demanded.
In the past, the local police used to give ‘permit’ for holding bouts for one year. “Each bout needs permission from the police. Sometimes, we wait for months to get permission; we need commitment from the authorities,” he said.
Mysore city alone has about 200 wrestlers, who are trained by veteran wrestlers at garadis. Some of them are also trained at modern-day gyms, but the gear at garadis is ideal for Nada Kusti training.
The local wrestlers also take part in freestyle wrestling competitions in State and national events. But paucity of funds had deprived them from participation on many occasions.
Therefore, funds to garadis and wrestlers from either the local authorities or the Sports Ministry were essential, Mr. Mahadev added.