Prominence of Traditional Games


The cricket enthusiasts around the world are waiting anxiously for the highest-profile cricketing-event the Indian Premier League (IPL) to be held from the month of September. With the BCCI receiving the Indian government’s approval to hold the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the game of cricket is all set to keep everyone’s summer entertained and engaged.But there are some traditional games which are equally loved and played around the world which nobody ever talks about. It is obvious that it is increasingly getting harder for traditional games to compete against the ever-growing invasion of screens around the house that grab the attention of the youngest members of the house.

Games have always been an important part of Indian culture along with its rich in values and tradition. Be it Lord Shiv and his consort Parvati playing Pachisi, the Pandavas loosing Draupadi over a game of dice or the Mughals enjoying an afternoon of chess – games and sports have always played an important role in the history and mythology of India. Gradually the time changed and so did our sports.

A game can be defined (Oxford English Dictionary, 2016) as “an activity that one engages in for amusement or fun” and games are very important for child and youth development because they contribute to their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being (Batdi, 2017; Goldstein, 2012). Traditional games are based on cultural values and beliefs and therefore, have significant roles in preparing children for life. Promotion of traditional games in societies necessitates studies for attitude shift and knowledge improvement among parents and caregivers.

Traditional games are part of the cultural heritage of every city, region and country. The most important characteristics of these games are its easy rules which is fun oriented, they don´t teach players to win and lose, they instigate values which are useful in daily life, no special skills needed, they help to develop imagination and creativity, help to develop communicative skills, Passed down from one generation to another generation and reflect and transmit cultural values. This summer let’s recall and replay some of these traditional games which are still winning our hearts amidst the hardest of times-

  1. YubiLakpi is the traditional game of rugby played in the state of Manipur. Literally meaning ‘coconut snatching’, this game is similar to rugby but is not played with a ball, but an oil-soaked coconut. Yes! You all heard it right. The sport is played on a rectangular field, A box, which essentially acts as the goal region is marked at one end of the field. To score a goal a player must carry the coconut and go through the box and out of the field. There are seven players in each team and even the players are well-oiled to make it difficult for the opponents to catch hold of them. Each player tries to score goals by carrying the coconut, and other players try to tackle the coconut carrier and snatch the coconut away. The player that scores their most goals in the match receives an award. The sport is played barefoot and players wear just a pair of shorts and no shirts.
  2. Chess boxing is a hybrid board game invented by the Dutch performer Lepe Rubingh in 2003. It is now a well-loved sport in Germany, Great Britain, Russia and India. The sport requires both brain and brawn- either beat your opponent in rounds of chess or of boxing.

The match starts with a four-minute round of chess, followed by a three-minute round of boxing before returning to chess board. It consists of 11 rounds (6 rounds of chess and 5 rounds of boxing) with one-minute intervals between rounds. The players wear headphones for the chess round (so that they don’t hear the advice from the audience) and gloves for the boxing round. The chess round is ‘speed chess’ and players must make their moves quickly. To win the game, a player must checkmate his or her opponent in chess or knock out his or her opponent in boxing.

  • GilliDanda – The game requires two sticks. The bigger stick is called ‘danda’ and the smaller one is called ‘gilli’. The player then uses the danda to hit the gilli at the raised end, which flips it into the air. While it is in the air, the player strikes the gilli, hitting it as far as possible. Having struck the gilli, the player is required to run and touch a pre-agreed point outside the circle before the gilli is retrieved by an opponent.
  • Kith Kith–Any open surface, road or even floor of an empty building and a chalk to draw is all you need to play Kith Kith! A popular playground game in which players toss a small object into numbered spaces of a pattern of rectangles outlined on the ground and then hop or jump through the spaces to retrieve the object. This popular game is also played in other countries and is loved by all.
  • Chaupar/Pachisi/ DusPachis- A board game, which was quite popular in ancient India. The game finds its mention in the Mahabharata. Akbar and his descendants also played this game. It involves two to four players who strategize their pawn’s moves on a piece of cloth designed in the shape of a symmetrical cross to win the game.

Chaupar is also a board game which was invented around the 4th century. It includes two to four players who use cowry shells and wooden pawns to plan their manoeuvres and win the game. The contemporary version of Pachisi/Chaupar is Ludo which we all might have played in our childhood and obviously during this lockdown period.

  • Bossaball- If we mix together volleyball, football, gymnastics, and trampolines and add music to it, what we get is pure fun and excitement – that’s Bossaball. Bossaball was invented by Filip Eyckmans(a Belgian) in 2004. It is played on an inflatable court with a trampoline on both sides of the net. The objective in Bossaball, as in volleyball, is to ground the ball on the opponent side of the court. The players (three to five, a mix of men and women) can use any part of their body (head, feet, hands) to get the ball over the net and into their opponent’s section. A trampoline is installed on each side for more bounce. Only one player is allowed on the trampoline; the others around it.

A maximum of five touches are allowed per team. Points are awarded based on where the ball falls and it gets grounded. The first team to score 25 points wins the game. The referee of the game is a ‘samba referee’ who is both the Master of Ceremony and DJ for the sport. The height of the net can be adjusted for different levels such as adults, beginners, or children.

  • Cheese Rolling- As the name suggests Cheese rolling is a game designed for food lovers. Here the players follow a three-kilogram chunk of cheese down a slope and win the chunk, the one who is the first to cross the finish line with the cheese is declared the winner.

The contest is held every year in May on Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester, England. The cheese moves around 48 kilometres with the participants hurtling after it at approximately the same speed and getting quite hurt in the bargain. A traditional sport in England, the origins of cheese rolling is not clearly known. The event is becoming more and more popular and contestants come from across the world to compete or just to watch.

Playing conventional games have always brought kids together encouraging teamwork and social interaction.This happens in the form of behaviour that is encouraged by the game (the mindset or actions which best facilitate winning) or even the songs sung whilst playing (as many comprise of folktales or historical stories). Hence, the games indirectly inculcate the moral and cultural values that were held important by the founders of tradition and pass this heritage down to those who play them.

Dr.MoushumiBhattacharjee is an Independent Researcher and Folk Media Enthusiasts.

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