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The lesser known Indian sports


India is a sports-loving country, and several games like Chess, Snooker, Kabaddi, originated in this country. While cricket is the most played sport in India, others like badminton and football are also quite popular. On the occasion of India's 70th Independence Day, let's look at indigenous sports which are popular in rural parts of the country.


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Jallikattu, also known as Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju virattu, is a sports event held in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations. Bulls are bred specifically by people of the village for the event and attended mainly by many villages' temple bulls. The ability to fight an animal was traditionally considered a measure of a man’s strength and bravery. Both bulls and men train specially for this perilous encounter that can prove deadly for the one who is lesser-prepared.

Pachisi or Pasha

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A pasha is a powerful governor. In Pasha, all players try to roll the best combination with five dice to become a Pasha and capture the most valuable card. Those, who use their action cubes smartly, will have good chances to win the game. Play a card to determine the points that can be scored this round. Roll the dice and try to make the best combination. Claim the most valuable card and win bonus tiles to get special actions. This is basically more of a board game than a sport and is probably an ancient version of Ludo. Players move their pawns across a symmetrical cross board made of an embroidered cloth to reach a designated “nest”. The one who is the first to move all pieces here is the winner.


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Tipcat or Gilli-Danda is an amateur sport played in the rural areas of various South Asian countries, including, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and also in Cambodia, Turkey and Italy. The game is played with two sticks: a large one, called a danda that is used to hit a smaller one, the gilli. It is an ancient sport of India, possibly with origins over 2500 years ago. It is believed to be the origin of Western games, such as cricket, baseball and softball.

Ke Nang Huan

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This is game that tests a human’s ability to control an animal. Ke Nang Huan is a popular tribal sport in the Nicobar islands. A pig that has been caged is released into a field and participants seek to grab its ears and control the animal. The person, who manages to do this and tames the animal, is considered an ace fighter.

Kambala Buffalo Race

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Kambala Buffalo Race is one of the most popular of the lesser known Indian sports. The lush greenery of the paddy fields and their slush and mud serve as the backdrop for a popular buffalo race, called Kambala. From November to March, more than 45 buffalo races are held in the villages along Karnataka’s coastline with farmers racing a pair of their fastest buffaloes.

Well of Death

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Well of Death is an attraction at rustic fairs and exhibitions. Defying the laws of gravity, participants ride either cars or bikes, trying to outdo each other in speed and thrilling stunts as they race across a barrel-shaped track specially erected for the purpose. While some onlookers watch with speechless wonder, the majority lustily cheer the drivers as they perform their daring maneuvers.


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Gella-Chutt is one of the popular sports of Tripura. Gella-chutt is played between two groups, consisting of 10-12 members each. A special place, called “ghar”, is designated for each team, who has a “king” standing about 2.5 metres away from the ghar. The players are divided into an outside and inside group, with the inner group trying to aid the king’s entry into the ghar even as the outer group tries to prevent it.

Vetrukkaal Seval Porr

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Vetrukkaal Seval Porr can be described as the Indian version of cock fighting that began in Persia. In Tamil Nadu, this fight takes place between two roosters that use their sharpened natural spurs to attack each other. Some rare breeds of roosters are trained especially for these fights that are conducted in different parts of the state with slight variations in techniques, such as attaching a blade to the legs of the rooster.

Naga wrestling

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Wrestling is a popular sport in Nagaland, where the goal is to reach an opponent’s waist belt. Using the arms, rolling the body and lunging, each wrestler strives to outdo the other during three rounds. The one, whose body touches the ground the most number of times, loses. Since 1961, there is an annual championship held with wrestlers from different villages participating to win the trophy.


© PTI Photo

Chouka is a game that encourages the use of resources available at home for entertainment. It is a popular pastime in Tripura. Using sea shells, tamarind seeds and broken bangle bits at coins, players seek to move them across a square drawn on the floor to reach an inner space, called “home”, using moves that are reminiscent of Ludo.

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