India is a country of various games and sports which attract a large number of spectators from across the world. Among the various traditional games and sports, perhaps no game commands so much popularity in the rural masses and arouses so much enthusiasm and energy in the spectators as Dangal or traditional Indian style wrestling matches, known as ‘Chinjj’ in the local parlance. As in the rest of India, this age old game has been played in every nook and corner of our State, especially villages. There used to be a time when Chinjj used to be the only major source of entertainment in villages with people waiting for months together for Chinjj to be organised in their village. They did not mind leaving their work and thronging to the site of Chinjj as and when this event was held. Even now this game or sport is organised throughout the year in Jammu province and sometimes associated with various fairs such as Baisakhi fair, Moungri Mela, Sankri Mela, Jhiri Mela etc. Some Dangals in our State have the distinction of having been organised for centuries together. Preparations for the organisation of Chinjj are made many days before the event.
A village or Panchayat level committee of local prominent people comprising senior wrestlers and elders is constitutued and entrusted with the task of making donations from every house for buying the Maalis or prizes for Chinjj. After a handsome amount is collected, announcement of the final date is made and the famous wrestlers are invited to participate in the event. The amount of first Maali or Bri Maali is prominently announced and displayed on the paphlets/ invitation letters sent to the famous wrestlers. Famous Dangals such as Katra Kesri attract wrestlers not only from India but also from abroad. As the Day of Chinjj draws near, there is enthusiasm in the village with the young children and budding wrestlers fighting bouts to test their prowess and skill. An arena is made by ploughing a field, picking out small pebbles and levelling the crumbs to avoid any chance of injury to the wrestlers. The Maalis, especially pieces of cloth are bought and arranged attractively at one side of the arena. Some shopkeepers set up their stalls of sweets, bangles and other items at some distance from the arena and reap rich dividends. Vendors also make their appearances to sell various items. People, especially in villages and hilly areas come from long distances and throng the venue of Chinjj, singing folk songs, dancing to the drumbeats and playing melodious and captivating music on their flutes and other instruments. It is a festive atmosphere all around with everybody enjoying the event happily. It is a sort of Mela with people standing on the rooftops, some perched on the tree tops watching the dangal and some others squatting on the ground.
As the Dangal begins, the drum beaters dressed in traditional attire, walk around the arena beating drums filling the people and wrestlers with energy, vigour and valour.The referee or Laakri, usually a senior wrestler of yesteryears, or a trained sportsperson, announces the names of the contesting players for every bout, tells them the rules of the Chinjj and wishes them all the best.The supporters of both the players cheer up their players and the match picks up momentum. As one player defeats the other one, the match ends and one of the wrestlers is declared the winner.He is given the winner’s prize or Maali in the form of cloth, cash or a costly gadget depending upon the available resources.Similar exercise is repeated for other bouts.As the time for second and maali comes, the suspense surges and heart starts throbbing violently.The names of the wrestlers, who are usually famous ones,are announced and the match starts.Besides the prize money, the winning wrestler is conferred with the local title or Kesri.In some cases, the match ends in a draw and both the players share the maali or the prize money.Some winning wrestlers also move among the spectators who applaud them for their feats and prowess and offer them cash as prize.Sometimes, old and illustrious local wrestlers are offered Maali as an honour to their prowess in the years gone by. As the Dangal comes to an end, it is usually dusk and people and wrestlers go to their homes in high spirits narrating tales of great wrestlers. Local people keep on discussing various bouts of Chinjj for many days.
Duggar region is famous for organising Dangals or Chinjj for centuries together. Chinjj at Chiryai is believed to have started by Late Kunj Lal about 200 yrs ago. Similarly, Chinjj at Udhampur, Akhnoor, Panthal, Ramkot etc have been organised for more than 100 yrs. In terms of spectators and prize money, Chinjj organised at Katra, perhaps,leaves behind other places where this event is organised. International wrestlers participate and prove their mettle to win the tile ‘Katra Kesri’ title along with the cash prize of more than a lac.This event draws about 30, 000 to 40, 000 spectators. Similarly, Chinjj at Akhnoor and Roun Domail in Udhampur attract about 2, 000 spectators from far and wide. Many other places across Jammu are known to organise these events. The spectators get enthralled and energised by witnessing various wrestlers vying for prizes associated with various bouts. This game is becoming popular in the girls and women too.In January this year, the District Administration Udhampur organised a wrestling competition ‘Ab Hoga Dangal’, exclusively for girls under the programme ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padao’ scheme, on the eve of National Girl Child Day. In the event, about 42 female wrestler, including some national and international level wrestlers from Delhi, Punjab, U.P, Jammu and Kashmir etc participated and displayed their mettle and skill to defeat their opponents and to prove that they are, in no way, less skilled and strong than male wrestlers.
Thus, this popular sport is primarily a sport of strength and stamina. It also provides opportunities to the people to break their monotony and refresh their lives. That is why Chinjjs or Dangals were organised in various places such as Moungri, Roun Domail, Battal Ballian and other places over the last few months, which draw huge crowds who watch this sport with enthusiasm. But this combat sport is losing craze with the young generation these days. They are interested more in using mobiles, watching TV or using laptops/desktops rather than playing games or going to the Dangal to watch the wrestling bouts. The result is that children lack the basic skills and attitudes such as interpersonal skills, tolerance, selflessness and helping others. Thus, there is need to popularise this sport to develop good physique besides developing these important skills.
Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, State President of Indian Style Wrestling Association has played an important role in reviving this traditional sport in our State but much more needs to be done. The local youth should be encouraged and trained to take part in this sport. Special training centres or akhaadas need to be set up at panchayat or tehsil level to attract the local youth to this sport demanding stamina and power.It will also help the youth to keep themselves busy and thus, away from the vices like drugs and utilize their energy in a useful manner. Moreover, the wrestlers who are fully dependent on this sport, have to struggle a lot to make both ends meet after they suffer an injury or retire from this sport.Some of the wrestlers, no doubt turn into coaches and organisors of Dangals at village or other level but others have to live a miserable life.
The Government, perhaps has not given as much attention to this aspect as ought to have been given. There ought be some welfare schemes for the wrestlers after they retire from this sport. There also ought to be the provision of training the local youth in this traditional sport, while they are young. The Government should also announce schemes such as medical insurance to the wrestlers to provide relief to the wrestlers who suffer injuries during the bouts and take effective steps to revive this traditional sport.
(The writer is serving as lecturer in English, Govt Hr. Sec. School, Thial Udhampur).