Akhara praised by Gandhi lies unsung on its centenary

Amravati: Ever heard of an akhara here which was endorsed by none other than Mahatma Gandhi for its commitment to physical health?

Located in this small Maharashtra town, Hanuman Vyayam Prasark Mandal has stood the test of time, acting as a premier institute of physical education and sports. However, despite its prominent history, the institute, founded in 1914, lies unsung as it prepares to celebrate its centenary next year.

Gandhi inaugurated the main building of the institute, built later, in 1926, and commended it both for its commitment to physical health and for the communal harmony it exhibited on the campus. Then, a touring team from the akhara which showcased India`s traditional physical activities on their Berlin Olympics visit in 1936, received Hitler`s Medal.
 
The institute was established as `Hanuman Akhara` by the Vaidaya brothers – Anant Krishna and Ambadas Krishna – drawing inspiration from Maharashtrian patriot Veer Vamanrao Joshi. "We initially lacked fund to build the establishment but slowly with public subscription and financial assistance from the members and workers, we could finish the building," its general secretary P A Vaidya told PTI.

The institute takes pride in its association with some of the most historic luminaries. "We are proud of the luminaries who visited our campus. Apart from Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, legendary Olympics administrator Carl Diem also paid a visit to this institute," says its treasurer S H Deshpade.

Hanuman Akhara also lent fervour to the national freedom movement. Martyr Rajguru joined this institution in 1927-28 for training in traditional physical activities and many of its workers and members actively participated in the movement for which they were imprisoned.

But sports isn`t the only reason this institute is known for, as national integration and social commitment also find space in its agenda. "To mark International Youth Year declared by UNESCO, we organised an all India student and youth rally for national integration in New Delhi in 1985," Vaidya says.  Besides, the institute runs special programme for farmers of Vidharbha region to help them regain their confidence.

To mark its centenary, the institute has an ambitious programme of hosting a global conference on traditional physical cultures, sports and games in Maharashtra from January 15 to 17.

The event has received patronage of various international organisations and effort are also on to get UNESCO and International Olympic Committee (IOC) nod through IOC Sports for All Commission. Scientific paper presentations, exhibitions and cultural activities will also mark the centennial occasion.