22 January, 2021

Moses Of The Mats

Wedded to his craft, Guru Hanuman played father to both students and Indian wrestling

Moses Of The Mats
In the demise of legendary wrestling coach Guru Hanuman, Indian sport has lost one of its most colourful personalities. Born in anonymity, he died a hero, a year short of a century. Vijay Pal was born in Chirawa, a remote Rajasthan village, and migrated to Delhi as a young, unknown wrestler. He soon came into contact with industrialist K.K. Birla, a great patron of wrestling. The latter gave him land in his Birla Mills complex, and thus was born Birla Vyayamshala in 1920. Today, the Vyayamshala is stuff that legends are made of, having produced two Padma Shris - Satpal Singh and Kartar Singh - besides eight Arjuna Award winners.

A bachelor, the Guru christened himself 'Hanuman' after the celibate Hindu deity. He once said he would marry when he turned 100, but that was all in jest to keep nosy mediapersons at bay. My first meeting with Guru Hanuman goes back to 1970. As a young long-distance runner, I along with some fellow athletes was at the National Stadium just before the departure of the Indian contingent for the Asian Games in Bangkok. While almost all the other officials...



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