Indian Bodybuilders: 5 Top Legends You’ve Never Heard Of!

Indian bodybuilders? Well, India is not a country most of us would associate with bodybuilding. Indeed, when we think of bodybuilders we usually think of big names from the Western hemisphere like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane. However, over 4,000 miles away from our own small island, India has a rich history in physical culture.

We explore five bodybuilders from this huge and mystical country who have contributed significantly to the world of bodybuilding in Indian Bodybuilders: 5 Top Legends You’ve Never Heard Of!

1. Bishnu Charan Ghosh

If you have any familiarity with yoga, there’s a possibility you will know of Bishnu Charan Ghosh. He was the younger brother of Parmahansa Yogananda, author of the best-selling spiritual, metaphysical and new age classic book “Autobiography of a Yogi” (Steve Jobs and The Beatles’ George Harrison were huge fans of this book).

Bishnu was interested in the development of strength and muscle, and combined his training with some of the methods used in yoga. Bishnu made significant contributions to bodybuilding in the first half of the twentieth century. With his friend K.C. Sen Gupta, they wrote a book called “Muscle Control and Barbell Exercise”.

Influenced by Eugen Sandow and German strongman Maxick’s book “Muscle Control”, it featured many photos of Indian men with stunning muscular development. Considering that it was published in 1930, the well-built, highly-defined and even shredded bodies of these men is nothing short of incredible.

Bishnu travelled around India and Europe to teach his training methods. He set up the College of Physical Education in 1923, which still exists to this day. It is now named Ghosh’s Yoga College and Bishnu’s granddaughter teaches the traditional methods of her grandfather.

2. Monotosh Roy

Monotosh Roy is undoubtedly one of most well known Indian bodybuilders from the last century.

His spectacular Mr. Universe win in 1951 made him the first ever Indian and Asian man to win the competition. The man he looked up to, Bishnu Charan Ghosh, taught Monotosh how to build his body and guided him in his training. Before his NABBA Mr. Universe win, this small but powerful (he could bend steel with his bare hands) bodybuilder gained experience in other competitions.

He didn’t place well in his first show at age 23, but his continuous improvements later earned him victories in the East Indian Bodybuilding Championships and the All India Bodybuilding Championships.

In Class 3 (under 5′ 6″) of the 1951 Universe comp, he gave a crowd-pleasing performance in London, displaying a well-muscled body and showing his extreme flexibility developed using yoga. He placed first out of sixteen men in this group, winning the audience’s respect and admiration. Another Indian bodybuilder placed second in this class, and his name was…

3. Manohar Aich

Standing only 4 feet 11 inches, Aich was in the same class as his fellow countryman Monotosh Roy.

Determined to win the Universe title, Manohar stayed in London to work instead of returning to his homeland, and trained hard for the following year’s show. The sacrifice paid off and he confidently won the Mr. Universe in 1952. He made his country proud and he became a hero in his nation.

Aich’s beginnings in bodybuilding were not typical. He was introduced to weight training while in the RAF in the early 1940s. His training became more serious while he spent time in prison for slapping an officer who insulted him. He trained in his cell using his own bodyweight, sometimes for 12 hours in a day. The staff noticed Manohar’s commitment to training and gave him a special diet to aid his muscle building.

He had plenty of success in bodybuilding competitions. He won Mr Hercules, was a Gold Medalist in 3 Asian Games, and placed fourth in the 1960 Mr. Universe at the age of 47.

He stayed passionate about building muscle and strength throughout his life, until he sadly died at the ripe old age of 104. A documentary called “A very old man with enormous wings” was made about him a few years ago.

4. Moloy Roy

Next on our list of Indian bodybuilders is son of the legendary Monotosh Roy, Moloy had a very successful bodybuilding career.

With his well-defined physique, he managed to win Mr. Asia three times and Mr. India an impressive eight times. Tons of hard work and the genes inherited from his father were two important factors that helped Moloy become a champion.

Moloy ventured into acting and a role that caught everyone’s attention was the one where he played the bodybuilder Gunamoy Bagchi in the 1979 film Joi Baba Felunath.

To many people’s delight, he got to show off his muscular upper body in this Sherlock Holmes-style Bengali film. As bodybuilding was yet to thrive in India, this was a huge achievement in itself.

These days, Moloy (looking much younger than his age) runs his own successful gym in Kolkata. Aptly named the “Moloy Roy Yoga Gym Centre”, he passes on his knowledge to bodybuilders and fitness fanatics alike. Who knows, India’s next bodybuilding superstar could be training there right now.

5. Premchand Degra

Lot of fans consider the 1980s to be part of bodybuilding’s Golden Era and it is in this decade that Premchand Degra found much of his competition success.

In fact, 1980 was the year he entered his first competition after encouragement from one of his teachers. Although he had minimal bodybuilding knowledge or posing skills, he had a solid physique from his wrestling background and managed to score first place.

Bitten by the iron bug, Premchand regularly trained three or four times a day. The hard work truly paid off for him. He won the Mr. India title nine times and the Mr. Asia title eight times in his career.

Becoming India’s third Mr. Universe winner is unquestionably one of Premchand’s career highlights – his virtually flawless physique (check out his awesome upper back development) earned him this prestigious title in 1988.

He earned the Arjuna Award (one of India’s highest sports awards) in 1986, and the Padma Shri (a civilian honour) in 1990. He also earned an IFBB Achievement Medal in 2003. With this long list of achievements he’s undeniably one of the best bodybuilders India has ever seen. It’s no wonder so many people call him the “Indian Arnold”.

So there you have it. Five incredible, legendary Indian bodybuilders. As bodybuilding continues to thrive there, we’re sure to see more Indian musclemen winning the world’s top titles with a little help from their vast yogic heritage!

Have you heard of these Indian bodybuilders? Let us know in the comments below.
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Alan Riseborough

Alan is a strength and physique enthusiast and has 28 years' of training experience behind him. He has competed in powerlifting, arm wrestling, bodybuilding and grip strength competitions. He also includes rigorous bodyweight, sprinting and kettlebell training regularly in his routines. He believes in the transformative power of the squat which is (believe it or not) his favourite exercise!

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