Kusti

Harnessing techniques that have been used to train warriors for thousands of years, kusti is a form of traditional Indian wrestling that dates back to the 16th century. It was once considered to be the pursuit of heroes, and at the peak of its popularity at the beginning of last century, successful fighters were hailed as living legends. Now kusti is only practised in a handful of remote towns and villages across the country, and its future is uncertain.

Kolhapur, a city in the southwest corner of Maharashtra, is one place where the sport continues to thrive.

Wrestling bouts take place in a sunken square, known as "Akhada" which is filled with enriched, dark red clay. Many wrestlers start as young boys and spend their lives living in an ashram environment focused on Kusti. The wrestlers train twice a day: in the early morning (4am-6.30am) and in the afternoon (4pm-6pm) six days a week. They live, eat and sleep together in a small room near to the Akhada. They stick to a strict, high-protein diet and train diligently.