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Gama Pehlwan's cause of death explored as Google honours late wrestler

Eve Edwards May 22, 2022

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Google Doodle’s latest honouree is Indian wrestler Gama Pehlwan, who is considered one of the best wrestlers of all time, giving him his nickname “The Great Gama”.

The Great Gama is celebrated by Google Doodle on Sunday, 22 May 2022, on what would’ve been his 144th birthday.

The Focus takes a look back at Gama Pehlwan’s life and career, leading up to his death at the age of 82.

Screenshot: Gama Pehlwan’s 144th birthday – Google Doodle

About Gama Pehlwan’s wrestling career

Gama Pehlwan (real name Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt) was born on 22 May 1878 in the Punjab Province of what was then colonial British India. As a child, Gama was already into a fitness routine with a workout consisting of 500 lunges and 500 push-ups. As reported in his Google Doodle tribute, ten-year-old Gama competed and won a lunge contest against more than 400 wrestlers from India, earning him fame across the country.

It wasn’t until Gama was 15 years old that he ventured into the world of wrestling.

Throughout the early 1900s, Gama would go on to solidify his reputation as “The Great Gama”, winning numerous titles. Some of the titles Gama secured included the Indian versions of the World Heavyweight Championship (1910) and the World Wrestling Championship (1927).

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Gama Pehlwan’s cause of death explored

The Google Doodle tribute celebrated The Great Gama’s life and career, but didn’t touch on how the wrestler passed. He passed away just one day after his 82nd birthday, on 23 May 1960.

While Gama Pehlwan found many successes throughout his wrestling career, after his retirement the wrestler found himself in dire straits. The remaining years of his life saw Gama in tough financial times. As reported by The Express Tribune, a fan of Gama’s used to give him a stipend of Rs2,000, which greatly surpassed his government pension of Rs300.

Gama Pehlwan was later forced to sell off his wrestling titles and trophies to support himself.

There are reports Gama Pehlwan suffered from asthma and high blood pressure and succumbed to an illness related to those conditions. The Express Tribune alleges “the government did not show much interest in his treatment”, which led to his death.

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Meet the wrestlers honoured by Google Doodle

Gama Pehlwan isn’t the first wrestler to be honoured by a Google Doodle tribute. In fact, he’s the third wrestler to date.

On 23 September 2016, Google paid homage to Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta, also known as “El Santo” on what would’ve been his 99th birthday.

On 8 October 2021, Google Doodle honoured Ukrainian wrestler Ivan Piddubny on what would’ve been his 150th birthday.

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Eve spends her days writing about everything culture-related. From celebrity news to music, film and television, Eve covers all bases. When she’s not writing you can find her making music or mastering the art of homemade pasta.