The King and the Wrestler

While King Nandana was wielding sway over Malabar a wrestler approached him and said that he had toiled hard and learnt the art of fencing and other similar arts, could fight with wild animals, and could even walk with a huge mountain on his head. But he had found no one, except the king, who could give him the wages due to his powers. He had come, therefore, to the king’s presence to represent his grievances and earn a proper livelihood. The king heard him and thought that such a warrior would be serviceable to him, and engaged his services at a hundred pagodas a month.

There was a huge mountain near the city infested with wild beasts which were causing great havoc among the people. The king, therefore, sent for the wrestler and said, “You declared, you know, that you could carry a mountain on your shoulders. A mountain there is in the neighbourhood, which is the cause of much suffering to the people. Take it away to a distant spot and return hither.”

The wrestler promised obedience and on the next day at dawn, the king took him with his ministers, priest, and a retinue of soldiers to the vicinity of the mountain. The wrestler girded up his waistband, tied his turban and stood ready. The king saw him and asked him why he hesitated, and called upon him to take the mountain on his head and go.

The wrestler replied, “Sir, I humbly gave you to understand that I could carry the mountain on my head, but I did not say that I could lift it up. Kindly command your soldiers, therefore, to tear the mountain up and place it on my head, and I will then carry it to whatever place you may command me.”

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, shows a terracotta sculpture of two wrestlers from Uttar Pradesh (dating back to the 5th century CE). Wrestling or malla yuddha was a favourite of the royalty, and Indian kings and nobles patronized champion wrestlers. Bouts between wrestlers attracted huge crowds. The sport has flourished in one form or the other for thousands of years, even into modern times.


  • Folk-lore of the Telugus by GR Subramiah Pantulu (1919)