Top Indian Bodybuilders - History of Indian Bodybuilding

Did you know long before the west got the hang of body building, Indians were sweating it out with dumbbells? Read on to know about the best Indian bodybuilders and their history.

Contrary to popular belief, bodybuilding is not a western phenomenon.  The history of Indian bodybuilding dates back to 1100 AD and by 1500 AD bodybuilding had become a national passion. In medieval India stones and sacks of sand were used for weightlifting. A popular form of exercise equipment was 'Nal' made of rough stone with a hole through the center. A giant wooden club or a 'Mudgal' was another such equipment carrying pre-historic hangover. Stone wheels with holes were used largely for building massive shoulders and a strong neck.

Bodybuilding in India in the 19th century owes a larger share of credit to Professor K. V Iyer, a physician to the Maharaja of Mysore  

 

 

Being a South Indian Brahmin, Iyer forbade meat. He was a complete vegetarian and teetotaler. Grains, like unpolished rice and ragi, were his dietary staples. Vegetables, fruits and buttermilk provided him with enough nutrients. Professor Iyer started Hercules gym in Bangalore in 1930 and trained more than 25000 students through this gym. He believed in imparting education through demonstration and explanation. Those who couldn't enroll in the gym learned through correspondence. For outstation students, Iyer had set up a lodging facility as well.  Undoubtedly, the Hercules gym played a focal point in Indian bodybuilding history as it guided bodybuilding initiates with the right information. In the year 1938, Iyer wrote a book called "Chemical Changes in Physical Exercise", in English, without realizing the profundity of his own work. In the year 1940, he was aptly awarded The Doctorate degree from Missouri University.

Post-independence, four names stand out as top Indian bodybuilders who have made India proud by winning the coveted Mr. Universe title. Consecutively in 1951 and 52, Montosh Roy and Manohar Aich bagged the title for the country. Contrary to popular perception, it was Roy and not Aich who won the first Mr. Universe title. In the year, 1988 unforgettable Premchand Degra won the title and in 2012, Sangram Chougule, our very own MuscleBlaze athlete won the prestigious award. 

MONTOSH ROY: FIRST INDIAN TO WIN THE MR. UNIVERSE TITLE

Timeline: 1916-2005

Body Measurements at his best

  • Height: 5feet 5 inches
  • Weight: 70kgs
  • Neck: 16.5 inches
  • Chest: 45 inches
  • Biceps: 16.5 inches
  • Thigh: 23 inches
  • Calf: 15.5 inches

Born in the present day Dhaka district of Bangladesh, Montosh Roy is a unique amalgam of bodybuilding and yoga. He trained under legendary yoga teacher, Bishnu Charan Ghosh, younger brother of Sri Sri Paramhansa Yogananda, the author of 'Autobiography of a Yogi' His first foray in the bodybuilding competitions was not successful. Undaunted by failure, he persisted and went on to win the title of East Indian Bodybuilding Championship. In 1947, he lifted the title of All India Bodybuilding Championship.

But, the moment of glory kissed Montosh Roy when he became the first Indian to win the highly prestigious Mr. Universe title. Roy's extremely aesthetic physique swept the audience and competitors off his feet and he won the Mr. Universe title in Group III Amateur Division Category. So much was Roy's aura, that people queued up to take his autograph post the show.

 After winning the title of Mr. Universe, Roy came back to India to further interest in bodybuilding. He laid the foundation of Indian Bodybuilding Federation and opened a number of bodybuilding centers and gyms, trained celebrities and authored books on the subjects. Roy was also known for his ability to bend steel with bare hands and his mastery of yoga.      

Bodybuilding Titles

  • 1947 All India Bodybuilding Championship
  • 1951 Mr. Universe in Group III Amateur Division Category   

MANOHAR AICH: POCKET HERCULES

Timeline: 1912-2016    

Body Measurements at his best

  • Height 4 feet 11 inches
  • Biceps: 18.1 inches
  • Chest: 47.2 inches
  • Forearm: 14.1 inches
  • Wrist:6.4 inches

Manohar Aich, a household name in the fifties was born in present day Bangladesh. Aich was interested in physical fitness since his early years. An inch, shy of 5 feet (4feet 11inches) Manohar Aich's formidable physique more than compensated for his height.  

He started his career as a stunt man in legendary P.C Sorkar magic shows, where he performed feats like bending steel with his teeth, bending spears with his neck and resting his belly on a sword, but his love for bodybuilding flowered when he was imprisoned for protesting against the colonial regime. In the jail, he began to train for as long as 12 hours, which impressed the authorities enough and as a concessionary step, they arranged a special meal for Aich. Post India's independence he was released from the prison. Though he lacked money to support his bodybuilding activities, still, he persisted. The hard work paid off in 1950 when he won the Hercules title. Here onward, he earned the name, 'Pocket Hercules' because Manohar displayed strength and stamina in small size. The next year, he won the runner-up title in Mr. Universe in London and the very next year in 1952, he bagged the title for the country. He also later went on to win gold medals in Asian Body Building Championships. Aich lived a long life and breathed his last, two days, on June 05, incidentally two days after the god of boxing Muhammad Ali met his maker. The secret to his longevity was his complete abstinence from smoking, drinking and worries.

Bodybuilding Titles

  • 1950: Mr. Hercules Title
  • 1951: Runer up in Mr. Universe Contest
  • 1951: Gold Medal in Asian Game (New Delhi)
  • 1952: Mr. Universe Gold
  • 1954: Gold Medal in Asian Game (Manilla)
  • 1955: 3rd Position in Mr. Universe
  • 1958: Gold Medal in Asian Game (Tokyo)
  • 1960: 4th Position in Mr. Universe

PREMCHAND DEGRA: INDIA'S ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER

Timeline: Born 1955

Body measurements at his best

  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches
  • Weight: 80 kgs
  • Chest: 48 inches
  • Waist: 31 inches
  • Arms: 18.5 inches
  • Forearms: 15 inches
  • Thighs: 25.5 inches
  • Calves: 17.5 inches

Padamshree and Arjuna awardee, Prem Chand hailed from Punjab. Like his predecessors, his life too followed the pattern of adversity. He had to struggle hard to make his mark and he broke the lull of 30 years in Indian bodybuilding by muscling his way in the international bodybuilding arena. He started out as a wrestler, but bodybuilding won him over and he was crowned Mr. Punjab, Mr. North India, and Mr. India (9 times in a row).

The start of his international career happened with securing the title of Mr. Asia in Middle-weight Class at Karachi in 1983, a feat he was to repeat at Seoul in 1984. Subsequently, he switched over to Light Heavy-weight Class in Mr. Asia contest too, winning the title at Colombo in 1985, Taipei in 1986 and Malaysia in 1987.

Degra stuck to Middle-weight Class in all the five appearances he made at the World Championships. The climax came in 1988 when at Queensland in Australia he won the Gold in Middle-Weight class and was crowned Mr. Universe. Prem Degra turned professional in 1989 and the same year participated in Mr. Olympia contest.

Bodybuilding Titles

1983

 

Asian Amateur Championships - IFBB, MiddleWeight, 1st

1984

Asian Amateur Championships - IFBB, MiddleWeight, 1st

 

1985

Asian Amateur Championships - IFBB, MiddleWeight, 1st

 

1985 

World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships - IFBB, MiddleWeight, 4th

 

1986 

IFBB Mr. Universe - IFBB, Middle-Weight, 2nd

 

1986

Asian Amateur Championships - IFBB, Light-HeavyWeight, 1st

 

1987

Asian Amateur Championships - IFBB, Light-HeavyWeight, 1st

 

1987

IFBB Mr. Universe - IFBB, MiddleWeight, 4th

 

1988

 IFBB Mr. Universe - IFBB, MiddleWeight, 1st

 

1989

 Mr. Olympia - IFBB, 16th

 

1992

Niagara Falls Pro Invitational - IFBB, 18th

 

1996

Asian Amateur Championships - IFBB, Light-MiddleWeight, 1st

 

 

SANGRAM CHOUGULE: MUSCLEBLAZE ATHLETE

Body Measurements at his best:

  • Height: 5 feet 8.5 Inches
  • Weight : 74 kgs
  • Chest : 46 Inches
  • Forearm : 17 Inches
  • Biceps : 20 Inches
  • Waist : 32 Inches

Marathi lad, Sangram Chougule is an electrical engineer by education and a bodybuilder by passion and profession. Recently announced as the 'Bodybuilder of the Decade' by Indian Body Builders Federation, Sangram's journey has not been easy. Coming from a small village in Kolhapur and conquering titles amidst adversities, makes him an inspiration and ideal for many budding bodybuilders across the country. Twice nominated for Arjuna awards, Sangram has won many national and international competitions, but winning the Mr. Universe title in 2014 catapulted him and the country in the international bodybuilding league.  

Bodybuilding Titles

  • 2014: Mr. Universe
  • 2012: Mr. World
  • 2012: Mr. South Asia
  • Mr. India -  6 Times
  • Mr. India Overall Winner  - 2014
  • JERAI Classic Overall Winner
  • Mr. Maharashtra - 5 Times

 

Other than Sangram Chougule, in recent times Murali Kumar, Ankur Sharma and Suhas Khamkar have renewed interest of young Indians in bodybuilding. In a country where sports begins and ends primarily at cricket, with a bit of badminton and hockey in between, it's heartening to know that bodybuilding has started to make its mark. It is like rediscovering the roots for Indians because bodybuilding has always been a part of our heritage and culture.