I am not new to Kolkata. I lived there for two years at the start of my career, made the occasional trip in between and have done the usual touristy activities—from wandering around the Victoria Memorial to eating egg rolls on Park Street. I have been on a boat ride on the Hooghly, never realising that there were akharas or wrestling schools there.
A few months ago, when Kaushik Chatterjee, our guide for the Kolkata morning walk suggested that my husband and I visit an akhara, we were intrigued. The school is situated by the Mallik Ghats on the Hooghly, near the flower market. A yellow board declares it to be the Siyaram Akhara Bayam Samity under the aegis of National wrestler Guru Jwala Tiwari. Behind the akhara is a decrepit old building with peeling walls and stained windows. Beside the akhara are steps leading to the ghats, a small makeshift temple with a clutch of idols where devotees place offerings of milk, oil and flowers. The rest of the ghats seem caught up in the early morning bustle, but the akhara is calm.
Read the rest of the article here in the National Geographic Traveller.