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The mud fighters of Mumbai

Kutshi is the name given to the traditional Indian wrestling, nowadays going in Pakistan and in Dubai. The photographer Bertrand Desprez went at the heart of the most ancient Akhara of Bombay dated of 1930 in order to meet the players of a threatened sport.

Despite the religious aspect, the practice of kutshi implies a peculiar way of life. The wrestlers have, among other things, to respect the Samkya rule. This rule forbids having intercourse, alcohol consumption and Tabaco consumption and obliged the wrestlers to a lacto ovo vegetarian diet.

The very strict aspect of this rule is one of the reasons why kutshi has a declining practice. Indeed, this type of alimentation has a cost while most of the people practicing kutshi are poor workers, sometimes job seekers coming from the countryside.

The asceticism of this kind of life also conveys in the everyday life of the wrestlers.
Most of them sleep directly on the floor of the Akhara and get up at 5 A.M., then get out for a daily jog in the streets of the Chinchpokly neighborhood.

Back in the Akhara, the sportsmen train is the bodybuilding room with a pretty antiquated equipment.
Under the watch of the protective god Hanuman, the fights begin at the trainer’s signal. The wrestlers get down is the pit where the ground to not stick to the skin, is mixed with spices, honey and butter.

Once the training of the adults over, the children who are just getting out of school get down the pit. As for adults, the practice is mostly masculine. Though kutshi allows women, discipline is mainly transmitted from father to son.

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