Asola-Fatehpur Beri is the strongest village in India. For generations, men have held 2-hour workouts every morning and evening in the countryside community on the southern rim of Delhi.
From pre-teens to men nearing 50, bodybuilders sweat it out at one of the most popular training spots, Akhada ( a Hindi word for ‘wrestling arena’) This is where brawny men wrestle in mud, climb ropes and perform a few 100 sit-ups and push-ups, balancing their hands on bricks. They carry each other on their shoulders —- all part of traditional Indian way of working out.
A group of about 40 males exercises outside, each wearing a simple loincloth. “They eat healthy and on time, they practise here every day and that’s why they are so strong,” says Vijay Tanwar, the head-trainer at Akhada. The musclemen of Asola-Fatehpur Beri are capitalizing on their brawn by working as bouncers in New Delhi’s clubs and bars. Tanwar is credited with starting this new trend. 15 yrs ago, he missed out on a place in India’s wrestling team for the Olympics. He says he was looking for an opportunity where he could use his muscle and power, and so took a job as a bouncer. “I was the first bouncer from this village,” he claims. “Then everyone followed my path. More than 300 musclemen work as bouncers in New Delhi’s clubs and bars now.”
It is said ‘Health is Wealth’. We are healthy, but we are also earning good money, send our children to good schools, eat well —– what else does one need I life ? Disciplined training is very important for these men and part of a tradition in the village. The musclemen don’t drink and smoke. A major of them are vegetarians, with diets that consist mostly of fruits, nuts, yoghurts and lots of milk. We do not consume any muscle-enhancing supplements.
“Instilling a habit of working out, in young males, is important,” says Guru Lekhraj, a 75year old native of this village. Children are prone to bad behaviour between the ages of 17 and 27, but if we get the child interested in physical exercise and good health, bad behaviour will not be an influence. This is what our ancestors have taught us as well.” Lekhraj comes to the Akhada often to observe the men working out. He is a respected figure among the musclemen and is considered the bodybuilding Guru of the village. Due to his age, he cannot participate in training any more, but says he is very happy the young generation is continuing the legacy.
In the case of Asola-Fatehpur Beri, bodybuilding also means BUILDING A LEGACY.
———CNN’s Sumnima Udas, Omar Khan and Kunal Seghal contributed to this report.