Indian Kushti Wrestling

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Using the soil to reduce impact and improve movement, wrestlers intertwine their bodies in complex techniques. Behind them, a shrine for the Hindu warrior god Hanuman, which they pray to before stepping onto the sacred arena. The ancient tradition of Indian wrestling, known as  kushti, thrives in Varanasi, one of the world's oldest cities. Wrestling gyms, or akhara, scattered around the city are of the few places where Hindu men from different casts are considered equals. Aside from bodybuilding, practiioners emphasize a life of discipline and celibacy. But as modernity sweeps India and Western sports like cricket become more popular, some akhara are being abandoned. While some prominent, government-run gyms switched to mats for Olympic-style wrestling, akhara in villages and towns maintain the old ways.