Kusti is India's traditional wrestling on soil. This ancient sport used to hold great importance in Indian societies of the past, its popularity over the recent years however, has dwindled tremendously.
At present Kusti is only practiced in a handful of pockets around India. Even in these places the future of the sport is uncertain. The government constantly pressures traditional Kusti schools to abandon ways of the past, embrace international wrestling standards and win medals at the Olympics.
Kolhapur is one city where Kusti seems to be thriving. The sport is as popular as ever in the villages that surround the city. When matches are held, as many as 20,000 spectators attend.
It is common for rural families to send boys to Kolhapur's Thalims or Akharas - traditional wrestling schools. There the young men dedicate themselves entirely to the sport.
Grueling daily training, strict diet and celibacy for the duration of their careers are necessary if they hope to ever achieve their dream – to become a champion 'pailwan' (wrestler), which in these parts of India still means – glory, respect and power.