(Last Updated on : 01/07/2013)
Traditional Sports in India, amidst immense popularity of international sports, has survived, over the years. In India whenever one thinks of sports, cricket is the only game that instantly comes to mind. But the country has a history of producing many other sports that are played in different parts but not known to all, as it is very much restricted to a particular state or region. Since India is known for its rich cultural heritage, it has a wonderful, exclusive tradition of games, which can be played, not only by skilled sports persons, but also by every member of the family during leisure. Ancient India, even during the Vedic period, had a rich tradition of games, though mainly played for maintaining physical fitness.
Hinduism religion has always given importance to physical perfection. And during the Vedic period and also during the period of the great epics, the Ramayana
, physical fitness was given prime importance, especially by the kings and the higher-class warriors. Wrestling seems to have been a popular sport among warrior kings, as there are numerous occasions in different forms of literature, which has an element involving wrestling. Lord Hanuman
is said to be a master wrestler with immense physical strength, that he is considered even today, as a symbol of strength and courage. Jambavan, Jarasandha were some of the other great champions in wrestling. Two very significant events in the Mahabharata revolve around the sport of wrestling in India
. The killing of Kansa
by Lord Krishna
as well as the killing of Jarasandha
, both took place on wrestling arena. Wrestling was known as Mallayuddha, translating to body combat.
The Mahabharata also mentions the Pandavas
in their childhood, playing different ball games. Several legends like Krishna who is said to be an expert with his famous discus, Sudarshana chakra, Arjuna
was an expert in archery, and wielded the famous bow Gandeeva. Even the existence of the bow and arrow, the dagger, the axe and the mace found during the excavations at Harappa
confirm that during the Indus Valley Civilization
these weapons were involved in war and hunting exercises. These weapons of war, for instance, the javelin (toran) and the discus (chakra), were frequently used in the sports arena. Women, too, excelled in sport and the art of self - defence, and were active participants in games like - fighting, quail - fighting and ram - fighting. Even as Buddhism in India
preached and practiced non-violence, it never compromised on physical fitness. In fact, Gautama Buddha
himself is said to have been an ace at archery, chariot racing, equitation and hammer throwing.
In Villas Mani Manjri, Tiruvedacharya describes many of these games in detail. In Manas Olhas (1135 AD.), Someshwar has written about Bharashram (weight - lifting), Bharamanshram (walking), both of which are established Olympic disciplines at present, and Mall - Stambha, a peculiar form of wrestling, wherein both contestants sit on the shoulders of their 'seconds', who stand in waist - deep water throughout the game. Even the renowned Chinese travellers Hieun Tsang
wrote of a variety of sporting activities. Swimming, sword - fighting, running, wrestling and ball games were immensely popular among the students of Nalanda
After the legends, even the Mughul history boasts about such sports, as the Mughal Emperors
were patrons of hunting and wrestling. The Agra Fort
and the Red Fort
were the popular venues of many wrestling bouts in the times of Emperor Shah Jahan
. During the rule of Maratha Emperors
, Chhatrapati Shivaji
's guru, Samarth Ramdas, built several Hanuman temples all over Maharashtra
, for the promotion of physical culture among the youth.
A large number of regional games have been played right from many centuries in India. The most popular traditional indigenous games that are played even today include the likes of Thoda
, Khong Kangjei
, Dhopkhel, Silambam
, Camel Race, Kite Flying, Asol Aap
and Asol - Tale Aap
, Cheibi Gad-Ga, Hiyang Tannaba
, Ke Nang Haun
. Games like these have always been a part and parcel of India's great culture. The improvised modern games actually trace their roots back in India. And surprisingly, these traditional games have yet not lost their touch, but actually kept their distinct nature alive, even today. If taken a look minutely, most of these games are played all over India, by different names and with a slightly little difference in their way of playing it.