Divya Kakran, India’s pin-down girlhttps://indianexpress.com/photos/sports-gallery/divya-kakran-indian-woman-wrestler-kushti-dangal-fighter/

Divya Kakran, India’s pin-down girl

In the dangals of north India, a 17-year-old wrestler challenges boys to a match and leaves them pinned to the ground. Divya Kakran is a woman who overturns the masculine hierarchy of the akhara every time she steps into the ring and goes for gold.

In the dangals of north India, a 17-year-old wrestler challenges boys to a match and leaves them pinned to the ground. Divya Kakran is a woman who overturns the masculine hierarchy of the akhara every time she steps into the ring and goes for gold. Click here to read the full story. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

Divya isn’t the first girl to wrestle in India. Chandgi Ram, one of India’s most decorated wrestlers and one of the first advocates for women’s wrestling in India, introduced his daughters to the sport in the late 1990s. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

As a junior wrestler in the 72 kg category, Divya has had plenty of success on the mat, although not near the level of these pioneers. None of the latter, though, has the reputation in the kushti world that she has: of fighting and beating boys. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

Kushti runs in Divya’s family as it does for nearly all Indian wrestlers, male or female. Father Suraj, a heavy-set 47-year-old with a quick smile, has the trademark crushed ears of a wrestler. So did his father and his father’s father. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

Over the last five years, dozens of hand-held videos of Divya fighting boys have been uploaded onto YouTube. They are shot from obscure village dangals across the north Indian heartland — Karari near Jhansi in UP, Khedi Pul in Faridabad, Haryana, Banhore in Jammu, Ghumarmi in Himachal Pradesh. All end with a cry of “chit” — her male opponent sprawled on the ground, his shoulders flat against the earth. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

Most of the videos end at the moment of Divya's triumph. A few go further, recording the reward that follows. The blessings are welcome, the money more so. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

Money is tight in the cramped family home Divya shares with her parents and two brothers. It’s all of two rooms in a four-storey brick building in the narrow lanes of Gokulpur, a hardscrabble working-class neighbourhood in east Delhi. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

At 15, Divya and her father travelled ticketless in train compartments. She just kept winning. In two months, she had earned more than Rs 80,000. (Source: Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

In 2013, Divya was picked for the Indian team for the Asian Cadet (U-17) Championships in Mongolia where she won a silver. Now, she was an international wrestler who would bring a bit of star power to a dangal. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

There have been moments when she contemplated regular life; she grew her hair long, begged her mother to buy her a pair of jeans. In the ring, it's difficult to remember that Divya is just a kid with an enchanting and innocent smile. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

The walls and shelves of Divya's house is now full of medals and shields from all her wins. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

“She would copy other wrestlers. Over time, I noticed that she was able to match and even exceed what they were capable of. I remember she was able to do 2,000 baithaks in one session,” says Ashok Goswami, who has observed Divya at the akhara. Click here to read the full story. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)