Varanasi, August 7 : Youngsters in Varanasi have always been keen to exercise in Akharas, the traditional centres for wrestling and exercising, despite the emergence of modern-day gyms and health centres.
The joy of developing a healthy body with the help of traditional exercises and wrestling in the dig pits is something the youth of Varanasi appear to prefer.
The fact that there are 41 Akharas and only 17 modern gyms in Varanasi, speaks for the former's popularity.
Men, regardless of age, arrive at these Akharas at dusk and can stay there till seven or eight o'clock. These Akharas are also visited by persons from various walks of life.
The entry of women is strictly prohibited.
These Akharas have served as centers for wrestlers' preparations for generations and a key rule for them is to remain celibate.
The fact that no fees is charged to join these Akharas make them all the more attractive in comparison to modern gyms or health centers which charge large sums of money and prove costly to the middle class families.
"I like this soil surface. I don't like the gym. When we go for gym we only develop a single part of our body, but here I get to exercise the complete body. I also advice our youth that they must come here instead of going to gyms. Great wrestlers like Gama, Dara Singh and Khali have been products of these Akharas," said Shivnath Prasad, a regular at a local Akhara.
Those visiting the Akharas have to work out rigorously, using traditional exercising methods. It is only after the warm up exercises that most of them take to the wrestling pits.
According to Ravi Shankar, a wrestler, gym-made bodies offer an appealing look quickly, but for a temporary time.
"It doesn't last for long. In a competition of strength, it is almost impossible that a person trained in an Akhara would lose out to anyone trained in a gym," he says.
Gayasuddin, a gym instructor, however, challenges this view, saying: "People come here because they get more results in less time. No one wants bodies like Pehalwans (wrestlers) these days." By Girish Kumar Dubey