Monday 11 March 2013

Jetties of Mysore

Myore is synonymous with several things. Talk about Dasara and the first place that comes to mind is Mysore. Similarly, mention Chamundi and the Chamundi Hills of  Mysore come to our mind. So also do sandalwood, jasmine, silk and even wrestling or Kusti.
Traditional Indian wrestling or kusti as it is popularly known  has long been a part of Mysore and the Dasara festivities. In Mysore these wrestlers are known as pehelwans or Jetties.
The Wodeyar Kings of Mysore were known or their patronage of wrestling. One of the kings, Ranadheera Kanteerava was himself a champion wrestler.
There were two types of wrestling that were patronized in Mysore. One was called Musti Kalaga and in this sport, fists were used to hit the forehead of an opponent and the fight was stopped when the first blood was drawn.
The second was the regular Kusti or Malla Yuddha where an opponent had been pinned on the ground. Both forms of Kusti were held during Dasara.  
When India became independent in 1947, Mysore had more than 150 Garadi Manes or places where wrestlers learnt the game. Today, there are less than 50.
Generally Hanuman was the presiding God of the Garadi Mane. The centre of the Garadi Mane had a ring of mud which is considered to be sacred and wrestlers stepped on it only after offering prayers to Hanuman and other Gods.
One of the oldest and still surviving Akhada or Garadi Mane in Mysore is the Sahukar Chennaiah Kusti Akhada.
The Garadi Manes and Akhadas hosted several wrestling matches. Today, almost all the wrestling bouts are held at the Doddakere Maidana Kusti Mane. The best time to see wrestling in action would be Dasssara.
The wrestling bouts in Mysore till the 1980s were held regularly at the Sauhkar Chenniah Kusti Akkada.  After the closure of the arena, there was lull in the activity and only State-level Dasara competitions were held every year.
Since February 2011, there has been a revival of some sort and monthly Nada Kusti bouts being conducted at the D. Devraja Urs Multipurpose Wrestling stadium at Doddakere Maidana (Dasara Exhibition grounds).  Well-known Wrestlers from outside the State also are taking part in the bouts and this has been attracting the crowds. The Negilayogi Trust has been formed and a corpus fund of Rs.5 lakhs has been set up with contributions from former wrestlers and sports promoters so that this activity goes on without a lull.
Some of the well-known wrestlers of  the times like Rudra Mooga, Shankar Chakravarthy, Lokesh, Girish and others have flexed their muscles here before going on to the national level.
Old timers still recall the Garadi Manes of yore which became centers of Nada Kusti. They recall that Hathujanagala Garadi, Pakeer Ahmed Sahebara Garadi, Mayannanavara Garadi and Ustad Srinivasan Garadi received royal patronage.
Apart from these garadis, nearly 240 others came up all over Mysore and Bangalore districts. Most of them have closed down due to lack of patronage.
Once a crowd puller, it is today struggling for survival.


  1. hi ramu,
    can you please pass me the contact info of any of the jettis or let me know how i could meet anyone. i'm keen to know more about vajramushti.

    1. Hi Sourab,
      I am glad that Vajra Musti interests you. It is not a blood sport as it is made out to be. It is more of a martial are involving strength and precise hitting.
      I personally do not have the telephone numbers of present day jettys but I can share some information which I think will interest you.
      The Vajramushti Kalaga in Mysore even today takes place within the confined of the Mysore Palace and it is set in motion by Maharaja, now Yuvaraja.
      It commences on Vijaya Dashami and it takes place at the Savari Thotti, the courtyard in the Mysore palace. The Jumboo Savari procession commenced immediately after this ritual.
      This year, the Vajra Musti Kalaga began with Yuvaraja, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, performing pooje between 9.15 and 9.25 am in the auspicious Vrischika lagna.
      The palace priests Narasimha Sharma and Manjunath Sharma chanted the slokas after which the Kalaga or fight between Jetties commenced at 9.50 am.
      This year, for jetties participated in the contest. Narayana Jetty from Bangalore, Vijaykumar Jetty from Mysore, Anil Jetty from Channapatna and Shamanth Kumar Jetty from Chamarajanagar.
      The contest is stooped even as the first blood spills. Narayana Jetty
      drew the first blood by pinning down Mysore’s Vijay Kumar Jetty. Srikantadatta Wodeyar then pierced a pumpkin with a dagger,
      signaling the commencement of Vijaya Yatre or victory parade.
      Senior jetties Srinivas Jetty and Tiger Balaji were the referees of the the bout.

  2. By the way, R Vijaykumar Jetti is an autorickshaw driver from Mysore. You can ask his address at the Mysore Palace office or any autorickshaw driver hailing from Mysore.
    Last year, Manjunath Jetty, a KSRTC driver, had represented Mysore and had won the bout. The KSRTC officials will have details about him, if not the conductors and drivers.
    Even today, members of the Jetty or Jetti community are found in large numbers in Mysore, Chamarajanagara, Channapatna and Bangalore. They originally hailed from Delmal in Gujarat but migrated to Vijayanagar first and Mysore next when they saw that the Mysore Kingdoms –of Hyder, Tipu and Wodeyars-patronised wrestling.
    History tells us that the first migration of the Jettys from Gujarat was in the 11th century when the Hoysalas ruled Mysore.
    If you want more details abpout jettys and their art, you can contact M.R. Madhava, son of M.R. Sudarshan of the Jetty family, who lives in Mysore.
    The family of Madhava is synonymous with the vajra mushti kalaga. They trace their fighting skills to the times of Tipu Sultan. When Kari Jatappa, great great grandfather of Madhava, was a Raja Vastadi or royal courtier. Another well-known Vajra musti exponent in this family is Rama Jattappa who was patronised by Mummudi Krishnaraja Wodeyar.
    Rama Jatappa was considered to be invincible and people treated him with a lot of respect. They would say “Aakashakke eeni ella, Rama Jatappange kustili sati ella” (Just as there is no ladder to the sky, there is no equal to Rama Jatappa). Another wrestler in the family was M.R. Jatappa who supplied agarbattis to the palace durbar. It was famous all over India. His son was M.R. Sudarshan, who was conferred the title Mr. Body Builder Mysore and with Mr. Olympics in Madras.
    Tiger Balaji, the referee is one of the five sons of M R. Sudarsha. The other brothers of Tiger Balaji are Ramji, Basavanna, Arvind and Madhav. All five were experts in wrestling and M.R. Madhava specialised in Varja Musti.
    Now coming to the contact details, please check with the Mysore Palace Board. This board is in charge of the Mysore Palace and is involved in its day to day running. If you fail to get information here, you can contact the office of Srikantadatta Wodeyar and I am sure they will be happy to help you out.
    There are many akhadas or wrestling houses in Bangalore and Mysore and they will be able to give you more details. If you still fail to gather information, check out with the Karnataka Wrestling Federation. They should be having some information. If all this fails, head straight to Mysore, talk to the auto drivers and ask them to take you to the house of Madhava or any other Jetty.
    I hope this answers your question.

  3. Hello everyone - I trained with the Jyesthimalla family in Baroda in the 1980's - and I can attest that this sad spectacle that I see today (in the Dassara) is poor reflection of the original art. We trained to enter, clinch, take the opponent down to the ground, establish a control position - and then - strike with the Vajramushti weapon. Today, all I see, is this pathetic and desperate flailing of arms, in the hope that the opponent is struck on the head and starts bleeding. Sad! This beautiful art was a highly structured and very technical art - one that it seems, has passed from society. This is sad in the extreme - as it survived as a part of India's beautiful and rich culture for over a thousand years. See here for article: