If there is a film that moviegoers are eagerly awaiting this year, it is definitely Aamir Khan’s Dangal. This highly anticipated film is based on the real-life story of Haryanavi wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat, who trained his daughters to become world-class wrestlers.


Born in Balaji (Haryana), Mahavir Singh once visited Delhi to train under Chandgi Ram, a Padma Shri winner. In a few years, he became a successful mercenary wrestler, competing and eventually winning numerous dangals in various villages of Himachal, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and others.

This inspiring man is responsible for the great change in the wrestling scenario; he trained his own daughters in a sport which is traditionally male dominated, that too in a state which is renowned for gender inequality and a low sex ratio. Besides training his four daughters, Mahavir has also trained two daughters of his deceased brother who have all made a name for themselves in the international wrestling scene.


Mahavir decided to train his daughters in the year 2000, when Indian weightlifter Karnam Maleshwari became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal and he was also influenced by his own coach, Chandgi Ram, whose centre (based in Delhi) was one of India’s few places for women wrestlers.

Phogat eventually quit his job with the Haryana State Electricity Board and began training his daughters, Geeta and Babita, who used to practice with boys since there were no other girls to practice with. This, of course, became a talking point in the village and he was severely criticized; but Mahavir did not budge. He later took them to local dangals where, unfortunately, people didn’t allow them to fight due to their conservative world-view. The tough taskmaster eventually took them to the Sports Authority of India Centre in Sonipat where they could train further.

All his hard work came to fruition when Geeta, the eldest of the Phogat siblings,  won India’s first gold medal in women’s wrestling (in 2010) and followed it up with a bronze at the 2012 World Championship. Also, she became the first Indian woman wrestler to qualify for the Olympics, in the year 2012.


Image courtesy: The Indian Express

Likewise, her sister Babita won the silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and then acquired a gold, in the next Commonwealth Games. His daughter Vinesh has a gold to her kitty from the 2014 Commonwealth Games and is also the winner of a bronze medal at the Asian Wrestling Championships.