Kushti is a traditional form of Indian mud wrestling, an ancient culture where wrestlers live and train together and follow strict rules on living a pure life. Drinking, smoking and even sex are off limits.
For more pictures check out the gallery "Kushti in India".
The wrestlers live, practice and sleep together in an akhara (or akhada). In Maharashtra the akharas are called talim. The akhara is a place to practice Kushti with facilities for sleeping, cooking and training. Smaller ahkaras host around 20 or 30 wrestlers, whereas big akharas form a community of up to hundred wrestlers. The age of the mud wrestlers range from seven or eight to mid-twenties. The wrestlers come from across all India. Many of them have been away from their families virtually all their life. They consider the community in the akhara as their family. Many of the boys come from poor families and Kushti is a chance to break out of the cycle of poverty.
Traditional mud wrestlers are referred as pehlwans, the teachers in an akhara are called ustad. The athletes are not required to be vegetarians and they are allowed to eat chicken and eggs. The diet is also heavily based on crushed almonds, milk and ghee, which is referred as "khurak", the holy trinity of the wrestler's diet. In addition to it the pehlwans also eat vegetables, rice, lentils and fruit.
Kerala in South India has many popular traditional dance forms like Kathakali, Kutiyattam or Theyyam. Kathakali is an impressive form of classical dance and a wonderful combination of dance, drama, music and religious theme. The presentation is usually based on the Ramayana, the ancient Hindu poem about the divine prince Rama and his wife Sita. Kutiyattam (or Koodiyattam) is a form of Sanskrit theatre and one of India’s oldest living theatrical traditions. It represents a synthesis of Sanskrit classicism and reflects the local traditions of Kerala. Both art forms, Kathakali and Kutiyattam, are performed all over Kerala, but mostly in and around Kochi.
Theyyam on the other hand is only found in the northern part of Kerala. The performers of Theyyam always belong to the lower caste. Like Kathakali and Kutiyattam, Theyyam is also a traditional ritual dance form. However, in Theyyam the dancers and performers not only play the deities, during the performance they lose their physical identity and finally impersonate the god and receive magical power. Therefore the blessing of the devotees is an important part at the end of a Theyyam ceremony.
The region of Changtang is a high altitude plateau (average elevation 4500 meters) mainly located in western and northern Tibet, but a small part of Changtang crosses also the border into Ladakh. Changtang in Ladakh is the home of the Changpa nomads, a semi-nomadic Tibetan ethnic group. The Changpa speak a dialect of Tibetan and practice Tibetan Buddhism. There are also more than 7000 Tibetan refugees residing in the region whose settlements are scattered across the plateau.
The vast majority of Changtang is uninhabited and inhospitable for farming. The nomads are pastoralists and raising mainly yaks and goats. Pashmina goats grow a thick, warm fleece and they are able to survive the harsh winter in the region, where the temperatures plunge to as low as -35 °C. These goats provide the wool for Kashmir's famous Pashmina shawls. The nomads sell the Pashmina wool to buy rice and grain.