This Sports Day, Let’s Discover Indigenous Sports


When you think of India, what sports come to mind? We are still ruled with the frenzy of cricket and football commanding the loyalty and passion of a huge section of the population. However, some indigenous sports are challenging the fandom of these games and making a niche of their own. Think of Kabaddi and Kho-kho, which have made a succesful come back into the mainstream.

Today is National Sports Day, celebrated each year on August 29th – the birth anniversary of the hockey legend, Major Dhyan Chand. Today, the country connects to pay homage to its own legends and sports. We thought of celebrating this day by discovering few of the more interesting indigenous sports which people may have forgotten about but are crucial to our heritage. Read on:

  1. Kushti/Pehalwani

Pehalwani is also known as Kushti and the game is that of traditional wrestling practiced in the Indian subcontinent. The words Pehalwani and Kushti come from Persian terms Pahlavani and Koshti which can literally be translated into heroic and wrestling respectively. The game was developed during the Mughal Empire by combining influences of Malla-Yuddha and Persian Pahlavani and Koshti. Players follow strict regimen and diet to grow stronger and train with their Ustad to practice every day for the fight.

  1. Mallakhamba

Mallakhamba is a well-known sport that has become state sport of Madhya Pradesh. It is a traditional sport of India in which participating gymnast performs aerial yoga postures or wrestling grips using a pole or rope or cane. The word Mallakhamba means the pole used in the sport and it is made of sheesham, polished with castor oil. The term also refers to the traditional training implement used by the wrestlers.

  1. Vallam Kali

Vallam Kali, also known as boat race, is a traditional boat race from the state of Kerala. The sport is a form of canoe racing and utilizes paddled war canoes for racing boats. The boat race is primarily conducted during the harvest festival, Onam, which occurs during autumn. In this sport, many kinds of paddled longboats and snake boats participate with Chundan Vallam (snake boat) being the main. These boat races also serve as a major tourist attraction.

  1. Kalaripayuttu

Kalaripayattu, also simply called Kalari, is an Indian martial art form, that was invented in modern day Kerala. It is considered very sacred and held in high regard by martial artists. In fact, it is said that Kalaripayattu might be the oldest surviving martial art in India (and the world!). It is designed for the ancient battlefield as the word Kalari can literally be translated into battlefield. The sport utilizes weapons and combative techniques that are unique to India.

  1. Kambala

Kambala is a traditional buffalo race held in paddy fields with slush and mud and the race generally happens in coastal Karnataka (Udupi and Dakshina Kannada) between the months of November to March. The sport is traditionally sponsored by resident Tuluva landlords and coastal district households. Tuluva people are an ethnic group who are native to Southern India and speak the Tulu language. Traditionally, there were different types of Kambala which have disappeared with time.

  1. Kabaddi

Out of all the traditional sports of India, Kabaddi is perhaps the best known. It has already made it way to the mainstream audience in the form of a modern league. This contact sport requires no equipment but sheer agility and strength. Kabaddi can literally be translated into holding the breath. There are two teams of 7-12 players each on each side in this game. One player from the offense has to raid into the defensive team and tag out as many players as they can while uttering kabaddi and return to their side of the field without being tackled by team on the offense.

  1. Kho Kho

Kho Kho is a team game that too requires no equipment but only agility and strength. The game got famous in 1935 when Akhil Maharashtra Shareerika Shikshan Mandal brought out its rules. There are two teams with nine participants each and one team chases while one team defends and runs. The chasing team sits in a row with alternative players placed in opposite directions. The chasing team members have to catch the opposing team members before their time is over.

  1. Pithoo

Pithoo is also called Lagori and Satoliya and the sport is rather simple and apt for children. It comprises seven stones that have to be struck down using a ball in three rounds. The game originated in India and has become so popular that it has found its way to other countries under different names. The seven stones have to be piled up and one player from the attacking team has to strike down the stones in three shots using a ball. Then the whole team has to restore the pile of stones before the attacking team finds the ball and hits out the players.

So, this National Sports Day, celebrate the occasion while indulging in a little bit of a heritage celebration with these traditional sports of India.