Google Doodle celebrates India's first woman wrestler Hamida Banu | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Google Doodle celebrates India's first woman wrestler Hamida Banu

May 04, 2024 05:27 AM IST

The ‘Hamida Banu’ Doodle served as a reminder of a woman's entry into a sport that was a male bastion in India in the 1940s and 50s.

Google Doodle on Saturday, May 04, celebrated India's first professional woman wrestler Hamida Banu. The Doodle served as a reminder of a female's entry into a sport that was a male bastion in the 1940s and 50s.

"Beat me in a bout and I'll marry you."

Google Doodle celebrates India's ‘first professional woman wrestler’ Hamida Banu.(Google)
Google Doodle celebrates India's ‘first professional woman wrestler’ Hamida Banu.(Google)

This was the challenge that Banu made to male wrestlers in February 1954, BBC said, citing news reports from the time.

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Soon after the challenge, Banu defeated two male wrestling champions - one from Punjab's Patiala and the other from Kolkata in West Bengal, the report said.

In May, Hamida Banu reached Gujarat's Vadodara for her third fight of the year. BBC cited Sudhir Parab, a resident of Vadodara, who vividly remembered the frenzy that ensued when Banu visited the city during his childhood. He recalled how her arrival was promoted through banners and posters displayed on trucks and various other vehicles. Newspapers called her the “Amazon of Aligarh,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the wrestler Banu was supposed to fight withdrew from the match at the last minute, leading Banu to her next challenger, Baba Pahalwan.

"The bout lasted one minute and 34 seconds, when the woman won a fall," the Associated Press reported on 3 May 1954. " The referee then declared Pahalwan out of her wedding range, the report said.

What made Banu popular?

Hamida Banu's weight, height, and diet all made news, the report said. Hamida Banu reportedly weighed 108kg and was 5ft 3in tall. Banu's daily diet included 5.6 litres of milk, 1.8 litres of fruit juice, 6 eggs, a fowl, 2.8 litres of soup, nearly 1kg of mutton and almonds, half a kilo of butter, two big loaves of bread, and two plates of biryani.

In his 1987 book, author Maheshwar Dayal described how Banu's renown drew individuals from distant places, as she engaged in numerous fights in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

However, Banu also encountered difficulties from individuals who were angered by her public appearances. In Pune, a bout with male wrestler Ramchandra Salunke had to be cancelled because of the objection of the local wrestling federation, the report cited an article in The Times of India.

On another occasion, Banu faced jeers and was even targeted with stones by fans following her victory over a male opponent. The newspaper reported that the police had to intervene and manage the unruly crowds.

In 1954, Banu triumphed over Vera Chistilin, dubbed Russia's "female bear," in a Mumbai bout lasting less than a minute, BBC said, citing media reports. She also intended to travel to Europe that same year to compete against wrestlers there.

Difficult personal life

Quoting Feroz Shaikh, her grandson, the report said Banu's coach, Salam Pahalwan, did not like her going to Europe. He tried preventing her from doing so. According to her neighbour Rahil Khan, Banu was left with fractured legs after her coach beat her. "She was unable to stand. It healed later, but she could not walk properly for years without a lathi…" the report quoted Rahil Khan.

Sahara, the daughter of Salam Pahalwan, stated that he had wed Banu, whom she regarded as her stepmother. However, Banu's grandson, Feroz Shaikh disagreed. "She indeed stayed with him, but never married him," the report quoted Shaikh as saying.

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