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HomeFashionAt This Indian Wrestling Academy, Young Women Find Freedom and Hope

At This Indian Wrestling Academy, Young Women Find Freedom and Hope

As the winter sun rises over a mustard field, pale orange bleeds into bright yellow, a line of 36 girls dressed identically—T-shirts, track pants, crew cuts—across an open field. I emerge, sleep rubbing from their eyes. Under a tin shed, they sit on their haunches, bent over stone mortars. For the next 20 minutes, they grind raw almonds into a fine paste, extracting a bottle of nut milk. They will need it to regain their power.

Launched in 2017, Yudhvir Akhara is a residential wrestling academy for girls, run by a family of competitive wrestlers in Sonepat, a semi-urban industrial city in Haryana, north India bordering Delhi. is a province of It currently hosts 45 trainees who, on arrival, are usually between 10 and 15 and are expected to stay until they are in their 20s, self-styled female wrestlers. Immersing in a growing community. Every student who enters the academy has one goal: to win an Olympic medal for India.

“In India we are surrounded by stories of violence against women,” said Prathana Singh, the photographer behind the story. Despite this, the country has seen increasing participation in women’s sports like wrestling. “Within these patriarchal constructs, we have these academies where young women are carving out a niche for themselves as sportswomen. It’s inspiring to see the dedication and hard work it takes to become one.”

After the warm-up, their training is different. Cardio days can mean a cross-country run or stair climbing. On sports days they play handball or basketball. Strength-building days are the most demanding: girls must drag wooden blocks across the field or pull themselves up several meters of rope.

A young woman, wearing a blue sweatshirt, black pants, and sneakers, holds a rope suspended in the air.  He is level with the top of a tree, which is to his right.  To his left are more ropes and a wooden post.

“If we hadn’t come here, our lives would be very different,” said Siksha KharbAbove, a 16-year-old girl from a farming family in Sonepat. If she hadn’t been wrestling, she said, “I would have dropped out of school to get married.”



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