Persian term for one who studies Indian wrestling, often as a lifelong committment. While training as a youngster, he is known as a taleem and trains in a taleemkhana, a wrestling gymnasium. Being a pehlwan is a way of life.
"A wrestler's life is not easy. He has to observe ceratin rules very strictly. Besides eating a good diet, he must go to bed early and wake up early in the morning. Alcohol, cigarettes, and pan are absolutely prohibited. He must not drink tea and loaf around on the streets . . . My disciples are very attached to me. If I were to tell them to kill themselves, they will not hesitate for a moment. But they know that their ustad will never ask them for their lives. He only works for their welfare. He wants them to be brave."
-- Akbar

Raising a pehlwan is very expensive. Their diet consists of almonds, pistachios, high quality meat, and lots of milk. Daily. Consequently, this, the downward turn in local economies, and the introduction in East Asian martial arts have lead to the decline of the pehlwan.

Another translation of pehlwan is "strong man". This term has connotations that have been left to be interpreted by each ethnic group. Sometimes the term pehlwan is considered a glorified tough, hooligan, etc. Pehlwans often refer to themselves as a "tiger". While one would expect a pehlwan to have a long history with the police, some claim that only 10% of pehlwans are involved in violence.

Pehlwans often make much money in the "land business" once they gain notoriety. Due to the bureaucracy of claims and suits in India, a landowner who has a dispute with a tenant will hire a pehlwan to hurry events along. Usually the tenant will completely back off or quickly agree to a settlement. If a trial takes place, a pehlwan can be counted on to scare the witnesses into silence or to harm them if they provide testimony. If both parties hire pehlwans and both are well known, the pehlwans will get together and come to a mutually beneficial (to the pehlwans, mostly) situation. In general, everybody will listen out of fear. If one of the pehlwans is new, or new in the area, a fight may take place to establish rank.

While the pehlwan will ascribe to high morals of his religion, he is noted for overt disdain for authority. He often has the reputation of a killer, one who protects his community and often heads violence in riots. He is very arrogant, yet charismatic, and considers himself a defender of the poor and oppressed. He holds himself with dignity and complete belief of the rightness of his ways.

The Hindu counterpart of the pehlwan is the akhana.

with help from:
"The Colors of Violence: Cultural Identities, Religion, and Conflict", Sudhir Kakar

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