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He held three automobiles with his bare hands

20 November, 2020 16:07:53
He held three automobiles with his bare hands

“When world-renowned German bodybuilder/strongman and physical culture pioneer Eugen Sandow came to India on an eight-month tour between 1904–1905, he created quite a stir and prompted a surge in nationalism. Bengali youths, who had by then been influenced by the Swadeshi Movement, were greatly moved and took to wrestling enthusiastically.

There was a newfound zeal for wrestling and akhadas (gymnasium) suddenly gained immense popularity among young bodybuilders. Bhabendra Mohan Saha (born 1890) was a young teenager who suffered from frequent bouts of malaria incapacitating him physically. One day he was thrashed mercilessly by a neighbourhood boy. This was a turning point for Saha, who vowed to turn tables and decided to join an akhada to build strength and empower himself. 

Saha joined Atindrakrishna Basu aka Khudi Babu’s gymnasium to train in wrestling. He was a quick learner and soon attracted attention with his deft movements and intelligent tact when he defeated a number of well-known senior wrestlers with ease. He was young and possessed lightning speed and coordination – two primary needs for winning a match. He was also hardworking and always strived to improve his style further. This earned him the sobriquet of ‘Bheem Bhavani’ later in life. 

Saha shifted to Khetu Guha’s akhada at Darzipara to take wrestling lessons. This akhada was famous and greatly appreciated by renowned wrestlers from across the country. Gobor Goho (Guha) was a worthy descendant of the akhada. At the age of 19, Saha went to attend a public show of famous Indian bodybuilder and wrestler Kodi Rammurthy Naidu, also known as Professor Rammurthy and Ram Murti Naidu. Known as ‘Kaliyuga Bheema’ and ‘Indian Hercules,’ Professor Rammurthy sent his audience into a tizzy with his astonishing physical prowess. 

Bhabendra Mohan Saha (born 1890) was a young teenager who suffered from frequent bouts of malaria incapacitating him physically. One day he was thrashed mercilessly by a neighbourhood boy. This was a turning point for Saha, who vowed to turn tables and decided to join an akhada to build strength and empower himself.

Saha was greatly impressed. Professor Rammurthy had also spotted Saha sitting amid the audience and was impressed by his physical appearance. He offered to take Saha under his wings and offered him a job in his circus. By then, Saha had lost his father and he knew his mother would never allow him to join a roving circus. So, one day, at the dead of night, he left his home stealthily and went to try his luck in the circus. Professor Rammurthy Naidu took the young ward under his tutelage and began a tour of south-east Asian countries. The team first went to Rangoon and from there to Singapore and then to Java. 

When the circus team was performing at Java, a Dutch wrestler challenged Rammurthy to a wrestling bout. Saha sought his guru’s permission and then went to take on the Dutch challenger. He defeated the wrestler in just three minutes. However, Saha’s association with the circus team was very short-lived.  He soon outstripped his master in prowess and had to leave the circus.

He returned to Bengal and continued his public shows in circus companies. He then joined another legend, Professor K. Basak’s Hippodrome Circus, which embarked on a tour of Asia. On this trip, he performed extraordinary feats. He bettered Rammurthy’s record by holding not one, but two running automobiles at bay with both hands. Then he shifted a large cement barrel on which half a dozen people were sitting solely by the strength of his teeth. He placed a huge stone weighing 40 maunds upon his chest, and then invited about 20 people to sit on top of that and give a khayal recital. A mightily impressed Japanese Mikado (Monarch) presented him with a medal and Rs 750.

Back in India, Saha increased his repertoire and when requested by the Maharaja of Bharatpur, he held three automobiles with his bare hands. The Maharaja himself sat in one of the four wheelers and the other two were occupied by the British Resident and the Maharaja’s Prime Minister. Thick, sturdy ropes were tied to the back of the cars and Saha held the ends of two ropes in his hands and tied one end of the third rope to his waist. The drivers started the engines but the cars did not budge. Despite repeated attempts, they could not move the cars even an inch. The Maharaja was astounded and rewarded Rs 1,000 to Saha. In another instance, Saha took on his chest an untamed elephant from the stables of the Murshidabad royal family. The Governor of Bengal was astounded to witness this Herculean feat.

Saha’s pet name was Bhavani. During the Swadeshi Mela in Calcutta, he performed in front of such luminaries as Surendranath Banerjee, Bipinchandra Pal and Amritalal Basu and received the accolade “Bheem-Bhavani” from Amritalal Basu.

In his 1940 book Balider Katha, Sachindra Majumdar wrote that Bheem-Bhavani could have become one of the greatest weightlifters of the world: his technique with the “globe” bar-bell was particularly exemplary. But Bheem-Bhavani passed away in July 1922 due to pneumonia. He was only 33 years old at that time – a time when weightlifters usually come to their peak. Saha’s name has been lost in the annals of history, but in his short lifetime, he left his mark and inspired a generation of Bengali youths to take up outdoor physical activities, necessary for building a strong nation.

Information: www.bongodorshon.com
Translated by TTW 

Story Tag:
  • Bheem-Bhavani

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