i was introduced to several kushti wrestlers by a friend during a trip to mysore, india in the winter of 2012 and was invited to attend and photograph their daily afternoon practice sessions. kushti is india's traditional form of wrestling, a 3000-year-old sport which is still widely practiced throughout the country and can draw as many as 20,000 spectators to its matches. elite wrestlers live under strict rules of celibacy, consume a prescribed diet and are forbidden to drink and smoke. the grueling, daily practice takes place in a pit filled with soil which is first screened for impurities, stones and other abrasive objects and then treated with ghee (clarified butter), water and ayurvedic oils. each day, hindu prayers or pujas are conducted in the pit which is revered by the wrestlers and treated like a temple. practice starts with a regimen of calistenics, pushups and weight lifting and the wrestlers are then paired for matches by their guru (teacher/coach). the men rub their faces and bodies with the red dirt which is considered a spiritual blessing and also improves the grip throughout the bouts. it is each wrestler's duty to manually plow over the entire pit once during practice in order to soften up the soil again. this can be as physically challenging as the practice itself. the hindu monkey god hanuman is the patron saint of kushti wrestling, representing incomparable strength, virtue and the destruction of evil. unfortunately, this beautiful tradition is gradually being marginalized due to the indian government's pressure on the kushti akharas (schools) to abandon their old ways and embrace international wrestling standards in order to win medals at the olympic games.