Thoda is a martial art form from Himachal Pradesh
. The sport demands excellent expertise in archery. And so expectedly, the main weapons needed for Thoda are bows and arrows. Expert artisans make wooden bows and arrows. The length depends upon the size of the individual. Though there are close to 500 people in one group, majority of them do no take part and are present just to cheer up the team. The two sides that take part are named as Saathi and Pashi since they are believed to be descendants of Pandavas
and Kauravas of Mahabharata
. Unlike archery
, the target of the competitors here is the opponents` leg; below the knee, where the opponent should aim his arrow.
The moment the two contesting groups reach the village fairground, both the parties dance on either side of the ground, waving their swords, aglitter in the sun, and sing and dance to the stirring martial music. The Pashi group forms a "chakravyuh", and blocks the Saathi group, who in turn begin to penetrate their defences. After the initial resistance, the Saathis reach the centre of the ground. The two groups stand 10 metres apart and prepare to attack. The defenders start shaking, kicking their legs to and fro with brisk movements, to thwart the accurate aim of their adversaries.
In fact the whole concept of the sport is to create a highly energetic atmosphere with non-stop leg kicking on one-hand and constant attempts to hit the target on the other. Lightning movements and agility are the sole methods of defence. The whole competition is conducted to the lively, virile rhythm of war dance, with one side furiously sidestepping, legs kicking in all directions, and other side doing its best to place an arrow on the target. If a defender is hit on the wrong part of the body, negative points are awarded. At present, the game is played in a marked court, which ensures that a certain degree of discipline.
In the olden days, Thoda was organized in a very exciting manner. Some villagers would go to another village, dump tree leaves in their village well before dawn. Following this, they would then hide in the bushes and when the villagers arrive to remove water from the well, they would challenge them for a game of Thoda. However, nowadays, Thoda is conducted in a marked court in order to have a certain amount of discipline in the game. Thoda is hugely popular in Theog Division (Shimla District
), Narkanda block and many other places. It is held every year on Baisakhi Day i.e. April 13 and 14.