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Photos: Swarathma’s Pavan KJ Documents Kusti Fighters in Mysore

The folk percussionist’s photo series ‘Kusti’ is on display at the Kala Ghoda Art Festival in Mumbai

Radhapriya Gupta Feb 12, 2015
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Wooden dumbbells in the akhada in Mysore/Credits: Pavan Kumar KJ


Pavan KJ, percussionist and vocalist with Bengaluru-based folk-fusion band Swarathma, began his career as a freelance photographer in 2005, three years after he joined the band. In 2013, his photo series titled Kusti, showcasing the dying art of wrestling in Mysore, was first published in the online photography magazine, Tasveer Journal. Says the photographer, whose work is now showing in Mumbai, “These wrestlers have grown up watching their fathers and grandfathers wrestle. It’s a practice that has been passed down generations.” From taxi drivers to butchers, all the wrestlers hold full-time jobs, but return to the akhada [wrestling ground] day after day to pursue their life’s passion, adds the photographer.

Shot over a span of 3 years at Mithaai Gaar Garadi, a pre-Independence era akhada in Mysore, Kusti captures the spirit and strength of the wrestlers. Says Pavan KJ, “This akhada is over a 100 years old. Earlier, there were around 120 akhadas here. Now, the number has come down to 15 or 16. This is mostly because the money from local municipal corporation doesn’t reach them [trainers], all thanks to corruption. Many of the trainers have moved on to coach Olympic aspirants in other towns and cities.”

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Pavan KJ also has plans to make a documentary on kusti fighting in Mysore.

Check out some images from Kusti below:

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