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Monday, May 29, 2023

Kaliyuga Bheema, Kodi Rammurthy Naidu

Kodi Rammurthy Naidu (1882/83–1942), also known as Kodi Rama Murthy Naidu was an Bharatiya bodybuilder, and wrestler. Rammurty Naidu was born to Kodi Venkanna Naidu and Appalakonda in the village of Veeraghattam in Srikakulam district (now in Parvathipuram Manyam district of Andhra Pradesh) on 3 rd November, 1883 (Some records say he was born on 12th April, 1882). His mother Appalakonda died when he was a child.

Since the boy had become motherless, his father treated him with more care and affection in his childhood. It is said Naidu used to swim effortlessly in the lake in his native village (0.5 KM length) 5-6 times at a time.  It is believed that one day a Hindu Monk noticed Naidu initiated him to Yoga and taught him Vayu Stambhana (Air resistance) and Jala Stambhana (water resistance) techniques that are part of yoga.

As he grew up Naidu started quarrelling with his age group youngsters. He was not interested in studies, which annoyed his father, Venkanna. Naidu left home and went to the forests and returned home after a week with a tiger cub! With that sight, people were so amazed by the bravery of the little boy. His father Venkanna sent him to Vizianagaram for his studies where he lived with his paternal uncle who was serving there as an Inspector of Police.

Rammurthy joined a fitness centre in Vizianagaram and learnt kusthi, a type of wrestling. Seeing Naidu’s interest in wrestling his uncle Kodi Narayana Swamy, sent him to another fitness centre in Madras. He returned to Vizianagaram after one-year training at Saidapet, Madras where he learnt traditional wrestling and western gymnastics and joined as a physical training instructor at the school in Vizianagaram where he was once a student. He introduced his unique style of wrestling that was a blend of traditional Bharatiya wrestling and the western model.

Very soon he quit the job and established a circus company at Vizianagaram with the help of his friend, Potti Panthulu. His extraordinary feats attracted people from all over the country. He used to break an iron chain tied to his body by taking a deep breath and flexing his muscles. Iron chains would be tied to his shoulders and the other ends were tied to two cars and he used to stop those cars from moving. He used to take an elephant on his chest and hold it for five minutes.

In 1911 he went to Madras and showed his skills of breaking steel chains, stopping motor cars and allowing elephant to pass over his chest before the public and government authorities. He was awarded there the title of Indian Sandow for his excellence by the 5th King George.

Bharat’s then Viceroy Lord Minto came to watch his show and wanted himself to test Ramamurthy. So, he sat in a car which was tied with iron chains held by Ramamurthy at another end. Though the car’s accelerator was raised, the car didn’t move an inch! Naidu’s fame spread across the country after this incident. Naidu received significant patronage from Rajah of Tuni.

He demonstrated his skills at the Indian National Congress meeting in Allahabad. At the invitation from Lokmanya Balagangadhara Thilak, Naidu gave performance in Pune and was honoured by Thilak with the titles- Malla Marthanda, Mallaraj Thilak.

Foreign tours

Impressed with Naidu’s wrestling skills, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya encouraged him to perform his feats abroad and Naidu with a team of 1600 people went to London.

In London King George and Queen Mary were impressed with his feats and gave him the title Indian Hercules after watching his display of physical strength at Buckingham Palace.

He was the first Bharatiya to be so honoured by the royal couple. Naidu explained to the British Royal couple the historical facts of Bhima of Mahabharata and compared it with those of Greek Hercules  and Prussian Sandow. Thereafter, the King awarded Naidu another more prestigious title of  Kaliyuga Bhima.

Naidu also performed his wrestling feats in France, Germany, Japan and Spain.

When he was in Spain, he was invited to participate in the famous Spain bull fight. Though he was not even acquainted with the Spain bull fight he entered the bullfighting ring, caught hold of the bull by its horns, and threw it to the ground in few minutes. Imam Baksh Lone, brother of the wrestler great Gama (Ghulam Muhammad Lone) was once part of the Naidu’s troop. 

It is interesting to note that Naidu did not participate in any of the Olympics yet he earned international acclaim as wrestler much before Mantosh Roy, a renowned bodybuilder who was the first Asian and Bharatiya to win the Mr. Universe title in 1951 (in Group III Amateur division), and Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav, a bronze medal achiever in wrestling at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. Naidu’s disciple Dandamudi Rajagopal was the first Bharatiya to receive Mr. Asia title in 1948 at Calcutta in Asian bodybuilding competition.

Naidu’s circus tours became very popular with the following feats performed by him:

  • Stopping two cars at high acceleration with iron chains tied to his shoulders and the other ends to cars.
  • Locking himself with half-inch iron chains and breaking them by taking a deep breath and enlarging his muscles
  • Holding an elephant on his chest for 5 minutes
  • Allowing elephant babies to juggle on his chest with weights attached to them.

Escape from attempts on his life

Naidu had foes along with name and fame. While giving performance in Burma he came to know that there was an attempt to kill him. He stopped the show and came back to Bharat the very next day.  In London while doing the elephant feat, deliberately a very thin wooden sheet was kept on his chest and it broke down immediately once the elephant climbed on it. His ribs were damaged and he had to undergo a surgery and take rest for two months.

In Moscow there was an attempt to kill Naidu through food poisoning. In view of the above attempts on his life, Naidu stopped his foreign tours.  Thereafter he focused on training the youth in the country in wrestling.  He was a bachelor and vegetarian throughout his life and an ardent devotee of Lord Hanuman. He is the first person in the field of sports who kept Bharat’s presence across the globe.

Records in 1911-12 reveal Naidu had left his performers stranded in Europe. The stranded performers were first sent to England and then back home with the help of the India Office. However, the records do not reveal the reason for Naidu abandoning his performers. Records also reveal that while he was fined, there was no restriction on him, and he continued his performances thereafter. Going by the blemish less record of Naidu one must infer that there should have been some compelling reasons for him to do so. 

A boil grew on his leg, which led to surgery and removal of the leg. Even then, he did not lose spirit. He even refused to take anaesthesia during the surgery and overcame the pain through his yogic practices.

Charity and support to freedom movement

Naidu was attracted towards the freedom movement through B. Chandrayya Naidu, who used to organise tribal youths against the British rulers. Naidu earned lot of money through his circus company but spent a large amount of his wealth on charity and for the Freedom movement of Bharat. Naidu stayed in Banaras for one year as a guest of Pandit Madanmohan Malviya.

Ramamurthy Naidu spent his last days along with some of his disciples under the patronage of King Kalwande Pargana in Balanghir, Orissa. He breathed his last on 16th January, 1942. Naidu had an unfulfilled dream of starting a gym to train the youth.

His statues are erected in his home town Veeraghattam, Srikakulam and on the beach road of Vizag. Sports stadium in Srikakulam and gym in Andhra University in Vizag are named after Kodi Rammurthy Naidu.

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Dr. B.N.V. Parthasarathi
Dr. B.N.V. Parthasarathi
Ex- Senior Banker, Financial and Management Consultant and Visiting faculty at premier B Schools and Universities. Areas of Specialization & Teaching interests - Banking, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Economics, Global Business & Behavioural Sciences. Qualification- M.Com., M.B.A., A.I.I.B.F., PhD. Experience- 25 years of banking and 16 years of teaching, research and consulting. 200 plus national and international publications on various topics like- banking, global trade, economy, public finance, public policy and spirituality. One book in English “In Search of Eternal Truth”, two books in Telugu and 38 short stories 50 articles and 2 novels published in Telugu. Email id: [email protected]


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