Ghulam Muhammad, The Great Gama also known as Gama Pahelwan and Lion of the Punjab was born in 1880 at Amritsar. He was a renowned wrestler, warrior and a practitioner of Pehlwani wrestling. Gama was awarded the
Ghulam Muhammad, “The Great Gama” also known as “Gama Pahelwan” and “Lion of the Punjab” was born in 1880 at Amritsar. He was a renowned wrestler, warrior and a practitioner of Pehlwani wrestling. Gama was awarded the South Asian version of theWorld Heavyweight Championship on October 15, 1910. He is the only wrestler in history to date who remained undefeated during his more than fifty years career. Gama belonged to a Kashmiri Butt family.
Ghulam Muhammad nicknamed "Gama", was born to the renowned wrestler Muhammad Aziz in 1882 at Amritsar. Maharaja Bhawani Singh, the ruler of the princely state of Datia, patronized the young wrestler and his brother Imam Bukhsh. Gama was first noticed at the age of ten when he entered a strongman competition held in Jodhpur, which included many gruelling exercises such as squats. The contest was attended by more than four hundred wrestlers and young Gama was among the last remaining fifteen wrestlers. At that point the Maharaja of Jodhpur announced Gama as the victor due to his remarkable show of enormous stamina and dedication among the many older wrestlers.
Fame came to Gama at the age of 19 when he challenged the then Indian Wrestling Champion, middle aged Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala, who was also a kashmiri Butt wrestler from Gujranwala. At about 7 feet tall with a very impressive record, Raheem was thought to easily defeat the 5' 7" Gama. Raheem's only drawback was his age as he was much older than Gama and near the end of his career. The bout continued for hours and eventually ended in a draw. The contest with Raheem was the turning point in Gama's career. After that, he was looked upon as the next contender for the Indian Wrestling Championship. In the first bout Gama remained defensive, but in the second bout, Gama went on the offensive. Despite severe bleeding from his nose and ears, he managed to deal out a great deal of damage to Raheem Bakhsh.
By 1910, Gama had defeated all the prominent Indian wrestlers who faced him except the Champion Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala. At this time, he focused his attention on the rest of the world. Accompanied by his younger brother Imam Bukhsh, Gama sailed to England to compete with the Western Wrestlers. In London, Gama issued a challenge that he could throw any three wrestlers in thirty minutes of any weight class. This announcement however was seen as a bluff by the wrestlers and their promoter R.B. Benjamin. For a long time no one came forward to accept the challenge. In order to break the ice, Gama presented another challenge to specific heavy weight wrestlers. He challenged Stanislaus Zbyszko and Frank Gotch, either he would beat them or pay them the prize money and go home. The first professional wrestler to take his challenge was the American Benjamin Roller. In the bout, Gama pinned Roller in 1 minute 40 seconds the first time and in 9 minutes 10 seconds the other.
The next to accept Gama's challenge was Stanislaus Zbyszko, and the date of bout was set as 10 September 1910. The match was £250 in prize money and the John Bull Belt. Within a minute, Zbyszko was taken down and remained in that position for the remaining 2 hours and 35 minutes of the match. There were a few brief moments when Zbyszko would get up, but he just ended back down in his previous position. Crafting a defensive strategy of hugging the mat in order to nullify Gama’s greatest strengths, Zbyszko wrestled the Indian legend to a draw after nearly three hours of grappling, though Zbyszko’s lack of tenacity angered many of the fans in attendance. The two men were set to face each other again on 17 September 1910. On that date, Zbyszko failed to show up and Gama was announced the winner by default. He was awarded the prize and the John Bull Belt. Receiving this belt entitled Gama to be called Rustam-e-Zamana or World Champion.
During this tour Gama defeated some of the most respected grapplers in the world, "Doc" Benjamin Roller of the United States, Maurice Deriaz of France, Johann Lemm (the European Champion) of Switzerland, and Jesse Peterson (World Champion) from Sweden. In the match against Roller, Gama threw "Doc" 13 times in the 15 minute match. Gama now issued a challenge to the rest of those who laid claim to the World Champion's Title, including Japanese Judo champion Taro Miyake, Georges Hackenschmidt of Russia and Frank Gotch of the United States - each declined his invitation to enter the ring to face him. At one point, in order to face some type of competition, Gama offer to fight twenty English wrestlers, one after another. He announced that he would defeat all of them or pay out prize money - still no one would take up his challenge.
Shortly after his return from England, Gama faced Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala in Allahabad. This bout eventually ended the long struggle between the two pillars of Indian wrestling of that time in favor of Gama and he won the title of Rustam-e-Hind or Champion of India. Later in his life when asked about who was his strongest opponent, Gama replied, "Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala".
After beating Raheem Bakhsh Sultani Wala, Gama beat Pandit Biddu, who was one of the best wrestlers in India of that time (1916).
In 1922, during a visit to India, the Prince of Wales presented Gama with a silver mace.
Gama did not have any opponents until 1927, when it was announced that Gama and Zbyszko would face each other again. The day finally came in 1928 when both wrestlers met again in Patiala. The result of the bout was quick when Gama threw Zbyszko in only 42 seconds. He was now known as the "Great wrestler" of South Asia.
After soundly beating Zbyszko in 42 seconds, Gama beat Jesse Petersen in February 1929. This bout lasted only one and a half minutes. This was the last bout that Gama fought during his career and although he did not retire until 1952, he did not find any opponent and retired undefeated.
After the partition in 1947, Gama moved to Pakistan where he lived the rest of his life with his brother, the Champion Imam Bux and his nephews, the famous Bholu Brothers. After retiring, he trained his nephew Bholu Pahalwan who held the Pakistani wrestling championship for almost 20 years. Kulsoom Butt, the wife of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is the grand-daughter of Gama´s brother.
The Great Gama died in Lahore, Pakistan on 21 May 1960.