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India’s Muscle Capital

With many national and international credentials to its name, Delhi is emerging as the premier city in the Indian bodybuilding scene

In June this year, when the entire country was immersed in the football world cup fever, an Indian man conquered the world in Slovenia — Chitharesh Natesan won the ultimate prize in the World Bodybuilding Championships held in Ljubljana.
On May 12, Supriya Sharma, 23, became the youngest Indian bodybuilder to win a gold medal at the IFBB NPC East Seaboard Classic —  a bikini bodybuilding championship — held in Atlanta, Georgia.
What connects two of these most premier bodybuilders in the world is that they have plied their trade and trained in Delhi. According to the statistics of the Indian Bodybuilding Federation (IBBF), there are 61 bodybuilders from Delhi alone, who are registered to compete in the senior and junior categories, making it the city that is producing the highest number of bodybuilders in the country.
“Delhi has always been the bodybuilding capital of India. In all national competitions, Delhi bodybuilders always remain in the top bracket, both in senior and junior, male and female events,” says Mukesh Kr Pawar, Vice President of the Delhi Body Builders’ Association. “Even in international events, maximum number of athletes who represent India are from Delhi,” he adds.
“The major reason why there has always been a craze for bodybuilding is that the people here have always been fitness freaks,” says Pawar. “In the lanes of Old Delhi, one will find many people who have been  practicing bodybuilding and wrestling since a long time. This was sort of a tradition, and this tradition has now made its way to  the modern times through the sport of bodybuilding,” he adds.
“People want to look good and if you practice bodybuilding, you will have a good physique, and that is what attracts many youngsters to take up this sport. Not only does a bodybuilder’s physique stand apart from the rest of the crowd, but he/she also remains fit,” says Pawar.
“We have state-of-the-art gyms where people come and train. Probably we have the best facilities in the country,” says Sanjiv Kumar Jha, former Mr Universe and General Secretary of the Delhi State Amateur Body Building Federation. “There are many private bodybuilding gyms across the city, maybe in the hundreds, and the association’s gym located in Pitampura is filled with equipment of international standards,” says Jha. “Many aspiring bodybuilders come and train at our facilities, with even children as young as 15 years old starting it off”, he adds.
“There are a lot of job opportunities for bodybuilders now at different government organisations,” says Powar. “Earlier, there used to be no quota for bodybuilders, as it wasn’t even considered a traditional sport. Now with India doing so well and getting recognition worldwide, the government has provisions in different departments like police, army, navy and railways. So, people also join bodybuilding for better job opportunities,” he adds.
However, it is not only the boys who are making a mark in the sport. “Though bodybuilding is a male dominated sport, a lot of women are coming to the fore and achieving success,” says Powar. “In fact, the last few years have seen a lot of female athletes from Delhi”. Out of the 40 registered female bodybuilders in India, 15 female bodybuilders are from Delhi, which is the highest for any city. “Earlier, there used to be societal prejudice against girls participating in bodybuilding because for any event you need to wear either shorts or a bikini to perform,” says Powar. “Now, however, this prejudice is no more as there are so many girls who come and train at our facilities,” says Sanjiv Kumar Jha.
“To be an ideal bodybuilder, not only do you need to have proper training and coaching facilities, but you also need to have a proper diet,” says Jha. “What I’ve seen Delhi people do is that they maintain a proper natural diet, and the intake of protein supplements is very low here,” he adds. “You need protein supplements to enhance your physique but the intake should be very low, and that is what we, as trainers, advise and this is where I think we are ahead of other Indian cities,” he adds.
“Next month, we are having the Asian Championships in Pune,” says Powar, who is also a trainer with the IBBF. “For the first time this competition is being held in India, and the athletes will show that Delhi is not only the bodybuilding capital of India, but also a major force to reckon with at the international stage,” concludes Powar.