It all began in 1909 with a rich merchant named Abdul Jabbar Shawdagar and his passion for wrestling. He wanted the youths of his time to feel inspired to join the anti-British movement through the display of their physical strength—namely wrestling. As it slowly gained popularity and was widely entertaining, he kept on holding the event every year.
Today, the wrestling festival called Jabbarer Boli Khela (Jabbar’s Wrestling Competition) stands as one of Chittagong’s major festival in Laldighi area. Boli means wrestling in local dialect, and khela is sport.
The one-day festival begins in the Bangla month of Baishakh—or around April 25. Scores of professional and amateur wrestlers from across the country participates in the competition now organized by Jabbar’s grandson Shawkat Anwar Badal.
This year Shamshu Boli of Ukhia emerged as the champion by defeating Didar boli.
In the past, similar wrestling competitions used to be organised in different areas of Chittagong. Over the years, those events have disappeared while Jabbarer Boli Khela gained momentum and became more extravagant each year.
Anyone can participate in this competition- from youth to sexagenarian. The winner of each match traditionally entertains thousands of spectators with a winning dance.
The competition is supplemented by a three-day fair where traders bring in household goods to sell. The fair begins one day before the competition. Artisans and manufacturers bring their product of clay, timber, iron, cane, utensils, clothing, trees, birds, flowers, fruits, sweetmeats, and other goods. The fair is held at a one-kilometer stretch around the wrestling venue Laldighi field.