KIKKAR SIṄGH, PAHILVĀN (1857-1914), wrestler of legendary fame, was born on 13 January 1857 to Javālā Siṅgh Sandhū and Sāhib Kaur, a farming couple of moderate means living in the village of Ghaṇīeke, in Lahore district (now in Pakistan). Javālā Siṅgh, himself a wrestler, wished his only son to train as one. Young Kikkar Siṅgh began his apprenticeship in his mother's native village, Nūrpur, under Ghulām, the potter. As he returned to his own village, he started practising with an elderly wrestler, Vasāvā Siṅgh, who taught him many fine points of the sport. He had already made a name as a wrestler by the time he put himself under the tutelage of Būṭā Pahilvān, Rustam-i-Hind (a title for the champion wrestler of India), of Lahore. Soon Kikkar Siṅgh came to be counted as the leading Indian wrestler and one among the best in the world. He enjoyed the patronage of the rulers of the princely states of Jodhpur, Indore, Datīyā, Ṭoṅk and Jammū and Kashmīr.

         Kikkar Siṅgh had a prodigious frame. He was uncommonly tall, over seven feet, as the tradition goes, and many legends became current of his Herculean strength. For example, his real name was Prem Siṅgh, he came to be known as Kikkar Siṅgh for he had once uprooted a kikkar tree (accacia) with bare hands. It is also likely that he earned his botanical name because of his extraordinary height and dark complexion.

         Kikkar Siṅgh fought and won many bouts during his lifetime. In fact there were not many competitors to match his strength and skill. He, however, lost the last contest of his life. During the Delhi Darbār held in December 1911 to celebrate the coronation of King George V, he was challenged by a younger wrestler and an old rival, Kallū of Amritsar. Kikkar Siṅgh, at 54, was long past his prime and was already a patient of asthma, but he would not let a challenge go unanswered, and came into the arena. He put up an elegant fight to the delight of the elite gathering (Mahārājā Bhūpinder Siṅgh of Paṭiālā and Sardūl Siṅgh Caveeshar were among the spectators), but lost although to many eye witnesses it appeared a dubious judgement.

        Kikkar Siṅgh died on 18 February 1914 at his native village where a samādhī or memorial shrine was raised in his memory.

Sarwan Siṅgh