All photo: Jiyalal Sah
Only after Dangal became the biggest Bollywood blockbuster ever in 2016, did its transnational audiences, including Nepalis, become familiar with women’s wrestling in India.
But Mahavir Singh Phogat, whose obsession with winning international gold medals inspired the film, had begun training his daughters way back in the ’90s.
Locally known as kusti, wrestling has always been a favourite sport in Nepal’s southern plains, but not among women. Better late than never, some young girls from the Tarai are taking up wrestling to prove that it is not only a male sport.
This week, Dhan Manti Yadav of Banke travelled half a day by public bus to compete in a wrestling competition organised by a local politician in Pokhariya municipality of Parsa district, near Birganj.
Dhan Manti could not defeat her opponent Shivani Kumari, an Indian wrestler from Gaya, Bihar. But she was not defeated, either. They eventually shared the prize money.
Only seven of the 37 participants were female, and only two of them were from Nepal. The other Nepali wrestler pulled out due to sudden abdominal pain.
In 2015, some Nepali women wrestlers participated in a competition organised by Maoist leader Prabhu Sah in Rautahat. But none of them continued as there were no events for women in the central Tarai for the next two years.
“There is not much encouragement,” says Man Dev Hajara, president of the Mid-West Region Sports Development Committee. “But, despite all the odds, some Nepali women are taking up wrestling.”
Given the opportunity, Nepali women too can achieve what the Phogat daughters accomplished in India, adds Hajara.
Sur Das, 82 after wining a bout in his age category.
By Jiyalal Sah in Parsa