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Divya breaks tradition in an all-male domain, the “akhara”, wins gold for India

Think Change India
12th Feb 2016
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Teen Divya Kakran knows how difficult it is to earn a living. Hailing from a lower-middle class family, the young Delhi-based wrestler regularly takes part in dangals (bout) against men to make ends meet. Divya’s first visit to a dangal was at the age of seven, and for the last nine years, she has been regularly competing in these events just to eke out a little money. Her father Surajveer supplies wrestling costumes at various akharas, and earns barely a few thousand rupees. But that’s insufficient to sustain the family. “I know it’s not safe to send a young girl to dangals, but what to do, we need money. There are no other options,” says Surajveer.

Image: India Times
Image: India Times

“In the dangals, I mainly compete with older men. At times, it becomes difficult, but those fights help me earn money and that’s really important for me,” she confides in a report in The New Indian Express.

She wasn’t accepted at the akhara, and barely acknowledged after her first win against a male competitor. Divya bagged the only gold medal out of the four medals India earned on the final day of the Asian Cadet Wrestling Championship 2015, at the KD Jadhav Wrestling Stadium in the Indira Gandhi Indoor Sports Complex in New Delhi. She defeated Mongolian Byambadorj Tsetsegbayar 3-2 to win the gold medal in the women’s 70 Kg competition.

The ‘dangal’ is the heartland of Indian wrestling. The open air arena is traditionally an all-male domain and matches are viewed by tens of thousands. Now, Divya has smashed through the perception that the dangal belongs to men alone. She is beating them on their own turf. For a dangal in the patriarchal Uttar Pradesh’s Salawa village, spectators who visit from 24 villages regularly have their minds blown when Divya enters the arena, reports India Times.

Image: India Times
Image: India Times

“Many girls have taken part in dangals. I have seen a few challenge men. But those were one-off cases. None of them have fought in as many dangals as Divya. Fighting boys isn’t just a gimmick for her. She beats them all,” accountant Deepak Anusiya Prasad is quoted in a report in The Indian Express.

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