Monday, 4 May 2015

THE HERCULUES OF SUBCONTINENT - #KIKKAR SINGH OF CHANTEKE

Before independence of 1947, in small village of Lahore district named Chanteke (now locals named it Ghanenki), famous wrestler of sub-continent Kikkar Singh born. Ghanenki located very near to Indo-Pak border hardly 3.5 kilometer from borderline. In order to reach there one has to travel on Burki road and first reach Hadyara village, further to that you have to follow Hadyara to Ghanenki road which is seven kilometer in distance. There is also one other approach route i.e., Manhalla to Ghanenki road. We follow the second route because we have to see some other historical sites in Manhalla and surroundings (There details of them will be published separately). We started 5:30 am in morning and reach Ghanenki around 10 am.

Pehelvan Kikkar Singh Sandhu Kikkar Singh Sandhu 'Pehelvan' was a wrestler of legendary fame. He was born on 13 January 1857 to Javala Singh Sandhu and Sahib Kaur, a farming couple of moderate means living in the village ot Chanteke, in Lahore district. Javtla Singh, himself a wrestler, wished his only son to train as one. Young Kikkar Singh began his apprenticeship in his mother's native village, Nurpur, under Gulam, the potter. As he returned to his own village, he started practising with an elderly wrestler, Vasava Singh, who taught him many fine points of the sport. He had already made a name as a wrestler by the time he put himself under the tutelage of Buta Pahilvan, Rustam-i-Hind, of Lahore.


When Boota Pahelwan retired from the sport in the late 19th century, his gigantic Sikh pupil was acknowledged as champion. Kikkar Singh’s prodigious frame and Herculean strength soon became hallmarks sought after by the rulers of the princely states of Jodhpur, Indore, Datia, Tonk, and Jammu and Kashmir. His physique and strength were of such proportions that the Maharaja of Kashmir regarded him as an incarnation of Bhairav, the fierce form of Shiva. But with all his size, he wrestled with the nimbleness of a lion. Few competitors could match the strength and skill of this ‘Dev-i-Hind’ (demi-god of India).



Kikkar Singh’s greatest rival was Ghulam Pahelwan of Amritsar. They fought on several occasions, drawing huge crowds from all over Punjab to their epic bouts. After Ghulam’s death in 1900, his brother Kalloo, laid claim to his title, but Kikkar Singh stood in his way. Of the seven times they grappled, Kikkar Singh won four matches, lost two and drew their last, which took place during the Delhi Durbar celebrations held in December 1911 to commemorate King George V’s coronation. Kikkar Singh was challenged by his old rival, Kalloo. Although the Sikh was way past his prime (he had grown enormous: according to the referee, Brigadier General Charles Granville Bruce, his weight had ballooned from his prime weight of 19 stones or 266 pounds to 26 stones or 364 pounds) and had become a patient of asthma, he would not let a challenge go unanswered. When the match began, the two pahelwans were said to have circled the arena like two hungry lions. Kalloo brought Kikkar Singh to the ground but was fouled by the giant. On resuming the match Kalloo gave Kikkar Singh a thorough beating until the referee intervened and declared the match a draw.


Kikkar Singh died in 1914 at his native village where a ‘samadhi’ or memorial shrine was raised in his memory.

What appears to be a small structure now, spread over a few hundred square feet, could have been a much larger complex at the time of its zenith. It is a double storey structure with a splendid dome. 

Despite its horrible state, the structure still commands a lot of respect, because of its sheer aesthetic. This smadhi is a fine blend of two great cultures, Hindu and Muslim, which culminated in the Sikh culture of Punjab. So to a curious student of history all this talk about 'us' and 'them' seems superficial. 

The original structure was completed in white limestone, which has now given away to a black corrosive powder, as a result of decades of ignorance. A brick wall surrounds the structure from the three sides, however originally it must have covered the complete structure, and the entrance would have been from the eastern side, as is auspicious in the Hindu tradition. The door leading inside the smadhi is locked; however we managed to peek inside from a small crack in the door. The building is elaborately decorated in the interior, with floral and geometric motifs adorning the dome and other niches. They are still fresh, and can be easily revived with just a little effort. The walls inside are also covered with limestone. The aura of the smadhi in the environs of the village leads one to the conclusion that this belongs to perhaps, the most important person of the village. 

This is the final resting place of the great Indian Pehalwan Kikkar Singh. A detailed story of his life can be found in the Encyclopedia of Sikh literature. The fact that the smadh belongs to this Pehalwan and nobody else is also established by the Land Revenue Records of the village of Ghania Keh, noted down during the British era. He was born here on October 13, 1857. During his lifetime, he became renowned all over the country -- which brought him much fame and wealth. Among the famous wrestlers that he has defeated are Goonga Pehalwan, Ghulam Muhammad aka Gama Pehalwan, Kalu Pehalwan, etc. His father Jawala Singh was also a wrestler; however, he couldn't attain the heights that his son did. Kikkar Singh got his initial training from his father but was subsequently trained by a local Pehalwan Ghulami. According to the encyclopedia of Sikh literature, Kikkar received two important titles, Pehalwan-e-Hind and Dev-e-Hind. 

The stories and legends of Kikkar Singh have inspired Punjabi poets and writers over decades. One such poet, who wrote an entire piece on him, was Maula Bakhsh Khusta, a book shop owner in Amritsar. He lived before the Partition of British India. Kikkar Singh's real name was Prem Singh. It is said that once he returned from a wrestling match at Jammu, and told his mother that he was starving. She told him that there was no wood to cook food, so Kikkar went outside and uprooted an entire Kikkar tree and brought it back to his mother. This is how he became famous as Kikkar Singh. Even today, people recall this story. 

It is however a pity that even though he lived, died and was interred on this side of the border; we have not given this legend his due status. In India, however Kikkar Singh is still remembered and celebrated as a hero. In 1995, Ajit Jalandar Akhbar published a story on this hero, which came in three parts. The following incident is taken from that story: It is said that his father was a huge man and was popular in the region. Once a government bank was looted and his father was arrested on suspicion. He was imprisoned without any proof for three years but was later released with the help of a British policeman whose family he had rescued from fire at one time. Once a wrestler by the name of Chanan came to Kikkar and pleaded in front of him that he was a poor man and couldn't defeat him. So when both of them fight in front of the Nawab of Bahawalpur, Kikkar Singh should not defeat him, neither will he. Kikkar agreed. However, when the fight began Chanan tried to defeat Kikkar. This inflamed Prem Singh who told the Nawab everything. The Nawab retorted that since both of them had cheated him, both of them should be put behind bars. Eventually, he decided for a rematch, in which Kikkar defeated Chanan and got big reward. However, Prem could not completely recover from the humiliation of going to jail. The embarrassment of both father and son having been incarcerated on a false pretext was too much for him to take, and he soon passed away in depression. 

We forget our great heritage and heroes of sub-continent. At present, the Samadhi is in very bad condition and already converted into ruins and in few years these ruin will also vanished forever.( For further detail please contact at (aliusman739@gmail.com))

Gurdwara Sacha Sauda