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Google Doodle Honors Hamida Banu: India’s Pioneer Woman Wrestler

Google Doodle marked a significant moment in Indian sports history on Saturday, May 4, by celebrating Hamida Banu, the nation’s first professional female wrestler. Banu’s groundbreaking achievements shattered gender barriers in the male-dominated sport during the 1940s and 50s.

Challenging Tradition

In a bold move that echoed her fearless spirit, Banu famously challenged male wrestlers with the proposition, “Beat me in a bout and I’ll marry you,” as reported by BBC from February 1954. Demonstrating her prowess, she emerged victorious against two male champions from Punjab‘s Patiala and Kolkata, respectively, shortly after issuing the challenge.

Vadodara’s Frenzy

Banu’s arrival in Vadodara, Gujarat, for her third fight of the year sparked widespread excitement, vividly remembered by Sudhir Parab, a local resident. The city buzzed with anticipation, adorned with banners and posters announcing her arrival. Dubbed the “Amazon of Aligarh” by newspapers, Banu’s presence left an indelible mark on the local populace.

Triumphs and Tribulations

Her bout with Baba Pahalwan, lasting a mere one minute and 34 seconds, solidified her prowess as she claimed victory, with the referee humorously declaring her opponent “out of her wedding range,” according to the Associated Press.

A Legend’s Legacy

Banu’s physical attributes and dietary regimen became subjects of fascination, with reports detailing her impressive 108kg weight, 5ft 3in height, and a rigorous daily diet regimen. Despite her acclaim, she faced opposition, such as the cancellation of a match in Pune due to objections from the local wrestling federation.

Global Ambitions

Undeterred by challenges, Banu’s aspirations extended beyond India’s borders, as she aimed to compete in Europe after triumphing over Vera Chistilin, Russia’s formidable wrestler, in a Mumbai bout.

Personal Struggles

Amid her meteoric rise, Banu endured personal hardships, including conflicts with her coach, Salam Pahalwan, and disputes over her marital status. Allegations of mistreatment and physical abuse surfaced, casting a shadow over her remarkable career.

Hamida Banu’s legacy as a trailblazer in Indian wrestling endures, her story a testament to resilience and determination in the face of adversity. As Google Doodle immortalizes her achievements, Banu’s impact on the world of sports resonates, inspiring generations to defy conventions and pursue their dreams relentlessly.

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