Traditional Indian Sports and Games

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It's all well and good learning about the cricket and hockey of India, but you already know what they are right? Well, how about Gilli Danda? Or maybe Pehlwani? No? Well you better read on.

India has a wide range of ancient and traditional sports and past times that are still practiced today. Many of them are played up and down the country every day alongside the newer, more popular sports. Here is a small selection of the most popular:

Kabaddi (above)

Modern Kabaddi is a game that has formed out of various other similar games that have been played in India for centuries. It is still one of the most popular sports in India and is played in villages up across the country day-in day-out.

It doesn't require any equipment, but just two teams of seven members each and an area to play on. The teams take it in turns to send one member of their team- the ‘raider' in to the oppositions half. The raider then has to touch one of the opposition team and run back to his own half whilst holding his breath and chanting ‘kabaddi'. The opposition has to try and stop him returning to his half before he takes a breath. Easy eh?

It became known to the world when amazingly it was included in the Calcutta Olympic Games in 1938. However, it wasn't until 2004 that the first Kabaddi world cup was held. Since then, India have won all four World Cups, beating Iran (twice), Pakistan and Canada in the finals. You can watch some of a match between Indian and Pakistan in the 2010 World Cup below:

Gilli Danda

Gilli Danda is a game that is hugely popular in villages around India because the only equipment you need is a small bit of stick and a stick slightly longer. Any sticks will do, even ones found just lying on the floor.

Basically, the game is a little bit like cricket. The longer stick -the ‘danda', is used as the bat, and the smaller stick- the ‘gilli', is used as the ball. Other than that it kind looks There is no organised league or anything like that, and it is more of a past time that children play in rural areas. If the video below is anything to go by, it still looks pretty fun (even though it looks like they are making the rules up as they go).


Pehlwani is an ancient form of wrestling, which dates back as far as the 5th Century BC. Just like regular wrestling, that is a sport at the Olympics, the fight is between two people, both basically trying to get the other to submit. There is lots of grappling and holding, and it's very technical.

There is huge amounts of prestige in india for champions, and the undefeated champions of the whole country hold the title ‘Rustum-i Hind‘ , meaning the Rustam of India. This is named after the greatest ever pehlwan (the name for those who take part), Rustum, who was the Persian warrior king of Persia.

As the video below shows, fights look pretty brutal:

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