India was known to be the birth place of wrestling. As martial art, wrestling goes back to thousands of years in India, it is more like Jousting in Europe in middle ages or duels fought in other parts of the world. In Hindu mythology, wrestling was mentioned as noble sport with high stakes like winning or losing kingdom or a wife or both. In the epic story of Mahabharata, the righteous prince Bhima and his wicked cousin Dhuryodhan learned wrestling together from the same master and yet went to kill each other at the end of a glorious wrestling match. Similarly in the epic story of Ramayana, vanara or monkey kings Vali and Sugriva wrestled for days with none giving up, Lord Rama intervened to end the match by shooting Vali to death with an arrow. The Indian epics created villain and hero wrestlers and made the first playbook in sports.
In modern times, Gama nickname for Ghulam Muhammad was undefeated in his long career and became a folk hero as father of wrestling for the entire Indian subcontinent. He was the gold standard in wrestling. An expression like “there is nobody like Gama,” became a standard phrase in Indian lexicon. In 50s to and 60’s, King Kong and Dara Singh became famous wrestling duo in India. Born in Hungary, Emile Czaja came to India to learn wrestling and assumed the name King Kong after a role he played in an Indian movie. King Kong and Dara Singh wrestled each other often attracting big crowds all over the country. Posters of mean looking King Kong and serene looking Dara Singh in various wrestling poses were posted all over the city few weeks before the bout. Colorful murals depicting the humongous body of King Kong in many wrestling poses were painted on abandoned building walls to advertise his wrestling events with Dara Singh. The promoters psyched up the crowds as a fight between the evil King Kong and righteous Dara Singh.
In the school, students argued on how much food King Kong and Dara Singh had for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If a student said King Kong had one dozen eggs for breakfast, others countered by saying Dara Singh ate two dozen; If King Kong were to eat half of a goat in one sitting, Dara Singh ate the entire lamb for dinner. It was mind boggling for Juggernaut born into vegetarian family even to visualize how much a person can eat that too animal flesh. It was all pure imagination and total exaggeration, none of the students ever saw a match between King Kong and Dara Singh, it was all verbal duel flared up between the rival students that led to gross exaggerated figures attributed to the wrestlers.
King Kong’s wrestling career came to a sudden ending not in the ring but from a car accident. With no flamboyant villain to fight to draw crowds, Dara Singh created not one but several villains to fight in the movies and became a popular movie star in dozens of movies. Later he became a respected statesman politician.
Growing up, Juggernaut always wanted to watch a wrestling match particularly between King Kong and Dara Singh but Juggernaut’s over protected parents never allowed him saying it was socially unacceptable. Watching wrestling then was considered as ghastly entertainment left for social under class.
While attending graduate school in Trinidad, Juggernaut came across a flyer on the campus on an upcoming wrestling match between the great black Trinidad wrestling champ Ray Apollan and Singh, a wrestler from India. For Juggernaut it was a great opportunity to see a wrestling match for real. An Indian name like Singh in wrestling stands for guaranteed good performance. On the night of wrestling match, Juggernaut went out searching for the venue in Tunapuna not too far from the university campus only to find a small ring erected in the middle of a side street in a residential area. The crowd was small with more blacks than Indians. Singh, the Indian wrestler with a turban and short and sturdy Ray Apollan appeared comical.
At the ring of the bell, Singh ploughed into Apollan like a boar, but Apollan caught Singh in a head lock and spun him around dislodging his turban exposing his long hair. In the next move, Apollan started jumping up and down screaming with pain when Singh pinched a muscle on Apollan’s abdomen. Indians clapped with excitement. When Singh slaked off, Apollan got hold of Singh’s long hair and spun him around the ring while Singh was squealing loudly like a hog. The blacks were cheering while the Indians in the crowd were subdued. The referee should have stopped Apollan for the foul but he didn’t and declared Apollan as the winner in the end. Juggernaut read in the news papers that Singh won the next match in the South, a predominantly Indian area and lost to Apollan in the capital city full of blacks.
On a visit to the United States in 1974, his brother in law took Juggernaut to a wrestling match in Jacksonville, Florida. Hundreds of thousands came to the arena to watch several wrestling matches. A match between Andre the Giant and Lumber Jack was the top attraction of the day, the spectators were shouting and screaming for blood. Wrestling is a multimillion dollar entertainment show made for TV than real sports in America. The American wrestling industry seems to have borrowed a page from the playbook of Hindu mythologies in creating a wicked villain and a virtuoso hero among the wrestlers in each bout to engage the spectators and thus create a fan club. Now Juggernaut was not sure whether wrestler Singh back in Trinidad was really crying or faking it when he was pulled by his hair around the ring by Apollan to the delight of the crowd. Perhaps It was all drama, most likely Singh went into serious acting business after his wrestling career was ended just like the legendary Indian wrestler Dara Singh. Wrestling is all about acting whether it is in the ring or on the movie sets. Wrestler King Kong in India became famous in the monkey business of wrestling well before Hollywood made movies on King Kong, the great ape.
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