25 Traditional Sports and Games of India

India is an ancient civilization. Each part of this country has different cultures and traditions. The same is true for sports and games. Did you know that India has several amazing traditional sports and games? Most of these traditional sports and games are popular even now.

Several of these sports whose origin lies in ancient India are famous in the modern world too.

Defining Traditional Sports and Games

India is a country with a unique history. Each state of this country has many different traditions and cultures.

Some of the most popular sports and games of today, find its origins from this country itself.

Many of these traditional sports and games have also found themselves on international platforms.

Interesting isn’t it? Continue reading: We have made a list of the 25 traditional sports and games of India, some of which are soon to be forgotten.

List of 25 Most Popular Traditional Games of India

1. Kabaddi

Kabaddi is a match of one against seven. It is known as the game of struggle.

In modern India, Kabaddi is one of the most famous games. People in small towns and even villages love playing it. This game requires skill as well as body power. 

Kabaddi originates from India in the pre-historic ages. Today, people all over India have found a love for this sport. Not only to play it but to watch and cheer as well.

At present, Kabbadi has its own national league called ‘Vivo Pro Kabbadi

Also Read: Top 10 Richest Sportsperson in India

2. Kushti

Indian wrestling is also called Kushti or Pehlwani. This sport too is very famously known. It is one of the oldest sports in India and it originates from the bygone age- or about 4000 BC.

The Mahabharata epic has one of the first mentions of Kushti.

Kushti differs from free style wrestling that happens in many different parts of the world. Earlier, the game of Kushti would end only when one of the competitors signal defeat.

However, matches today do have separate rounds and also have a referee who intervenes.

This sport has also come to find itself as one of the events in the Olympic Games.

3. Archery

Archery is the skill of using a bow and arrow. Archery in India dates all the way back to the Vedic period.

In the beginning, man used archery to hunt animals. As the years went by it soon became a sport.

The earliest mentions of archery in India is in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. In these two epics, many of the characters were said to be great archers.

Archery was a basic necessity for survival and hunting food. Later, the bow and arrow went on to become a weapon for war.  

Now archery is a sporting event for pleasure. Moreover, it is now one of the events of the Olympic Games.

4. Hunting

Initially, hunting animals was for man’s survival. It was not only for food or clothing but also to protect himself from predators. However, we now see that the purposes of hunting have taken a turn.

When hunting became a sport only the rich could do so. This hunting was traditionally done by a bow and arrow. However, in recent years, people are making use of firearms.

Nowadays, with many species of animals going extinct, the hunting of certain animals are forbidden.

However, the sport of hunting animals can be done for a number of reasons. It helps control the overpopulation of a specific species, helps eradicate the spread of disease, and so on.

5. Kho Kho

The majority of us are familiar with this game, as it has been one of the most famous games in earlier years. Kho Kho is a fun-filled game that people of all ages enjoy playing.

The tactics and strategies of this game are possibly from the Mahabharata epic. This game originates from Maharashtra and has become famous all over India.

Even today, we see small children and teenagers playing this game on playing grounds and parks.

6. Mallakhamb

Mallakhamb is an ancient Indian traditional sport that combines yoga, gymnasium and martial arts. It is known as the mother sport of ancient India.

‘Malla’ means gymnast and ‘khamb’ means a pole. So typically ‘Mallakhamb’ means a ‘gymnasts pole’. This sport originates from the 12th century.

Previously, wrestlers or pehlwans made use of Mallakhamb to practice their skills for kushti. However today, it gets the recognition it deserves. It is now a separate sport altogether.

7. Gilli Danda

Yes, this too is one of India’s traditional sports. Majority of people have forgotten this game since very few people continue to play it.

Children in rural areas and small towns continue to play Gilli danda. Children in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan mainly play this game.

Gilli Danda is a famous game in rural areas and small towns among children. This sport is mainly famous in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan.

Gilli Danda is a very ancient game of India. It originates from over 2,500 years ago. People believe that Gilli danda inspired western games like cricket, baseball and soft ball.

8. Kite flying

Kite flying is a sport in India that people of all ages enjoy. This sport takes place on the festival of Makar Sankranti on January 14 and January 15 every year.

Unlike all other festivals, the sun marks the date of this festival. Therefore, it falls on the same day every year.

In the beginning, only the royal families flew kites. But with time this festival became famous all over India. Today, Makar Sankranti is also known as kite-flying day.

The main objective of the game is to keep your kite in the air for the longest time possible until yours is the only one left.

On the 14th and 15th of January, the state of Gujarat hosts an International Kite Festival. Millions of people come and participate in this festival every year.

Also Read: 25 Most Popularly Celebrated Festivals of India

9. Jallikattu

Jallikattu is the sport of taming bulls. A part of the Pongal celebration in Tamil Nadu includes this sport. ‘Jalli’ means gold or silver coins and ‘kattu’ means tied.

Together it means coins that are tied on the horns of the bulls. The person who successfully tames the bull wins this prize.

This is an ancient sport that originates from over 2,500 years ago. It is an ancient tradition that is very symbolic of the Tamilian culture. Every year this sport takes place on the third day of this festival.

Jallikattu is a part of the Tamilian pride and culture. It is similar to the Spanish event where the people run from the angry bulls. In this case, they are meant to tame the bulls. This sport keeps all the animals safe.

10. Vallamkali

Vallamkali is commonly known as boat racing. It is one of the most famous traditional sports in Kerala.

This sport is a display of extreme team spirit. All the oarsmen have to coordinate and row the boat in order to make sure that it stays steady.

This sport is held during the festival of Onam and it takes place in the backwaters of Kerala.

These boats were introduced in the early 14th century. They are 100 to 120 feet long. It can carry people as well as war equipment since it is capable of carrying heavy weights.

11. Ball Badminton

Ball badminton is an ancient sport in India. It is a racket game that also includes a yellow color ball made of wool.

In 1856, the royal family in Tanjore were the first to play this sport. However, it is now widely famous all over India.

Ball badminton is a fast game that requires skill, good judgment, and a few other qualities.

12. Dhopkhel

Dhopkhel is also called ‘dhop khel’ or ‘dhoop khel’. It is a ball game that two teams of eleven players play.

This is game is a traditional game of the state of Assam. It is said that it is closely related with the development of the state.

This sport requires stamina, speed and tactics. This sport is seasonal. People come from various places to play this sport in the spring festival also called Rangoli Bihu of this state.

13. Kambala

Kambala is commonly known as buffalo race. This race takes place in coastal Karnataka.

This sport takes place between two pairs of buffalos. Each pair has one person riding them. In this sport, the buffalos have to run through paddy fields which are filled with slush and mud.

Initially, the reward for this sport was coconuts. However, nowadays the reward is gold or silver coins or sometimes even a cash prize.

This event occurs every year from November right up to March. Many people gather around to watch and cheer this race.

People believe that the festival of Kambala originates from about 800 years ago. They believe that by celebrating this festival they can please the Gods for a good harvest.

14. Silambam

Silambam is an Indian martial art that uses a stick as a weapon. This sport originates from the state of Tamil Nadu.

It is one of the oldest martial arts in the world as it is more than 5,000 years old. Silambam is a martial art that was used in war by most of the South Indian rulers.

Silambam slightly relates to the martial arts of Kerala which is Kalaripayattu.

There is a theory that believes the famous Shaolin style of martial arts is derived from the Indian stick fighting.

15. Camel Race

A camel race is held every January in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan. The Bikaner Camel festival is a two-day and night festival that brings people to visit from all around the world.

The Camel Race is the most famous race of this festival. People gather in large bulks to watch and support this race.

This race is part of the Rajasthani culture. The origins of this race are unknown. But it is said that this race has been taking place every year for the past several years.

16. Mukna

Mukna is a sport which is a combination of wrestling and judo. It originates from the state of Manipur in the 15th century. It has become very famous since. It is said that this sport goes back to the Hayachak era.

This sport is always played on the last day of Laarei Haraoba festival. It defines which of the competitors is stronger.

The techniques and styles of Mukna are similar to those of Kushti. However, two-sport games do differ from each other.

17. Kalaripayattu

Kalaripayattu is one of the oldest martial arts of India. It originates from Kerala and can be traced back to 15,000 BCE.

This martial arts uses swords, daggers, spears, and so on as weapons. It tests the coordination between mind and body.

Training of Kalaripayattu includes learning about Ayurveda and also locating the vital points of the body. 

The training of this martial arts is very meditative as opposed to being violent.

18. Chess

Chess is a very famous game that people all over the world love to play.

You are probably unaware of this but the origins of chess are from the North of India. It then spread all over Asia and is now a world-famous game.

The origins of chess trace way back to around 1,500 years ago.

According to one legend, a wise man wanted to convince an Indian King that everyone in his kingdom was important. Therefore, he invented a game that represented the kingdom. The king, his wife as the queen, the other members of the kingdom as bishops, rooks, knights and even pawns.

The king took a liking for the game as he realized this game was just like real life. He then convinced everyone in his kingdom to play it.

19. Carom

Carom is another famous board game that requires skill and precision. This game is widely famous and is fun to play. It is said that the origins of carom trace back to the state of India.

What we know for sure is that people have been playing this game for the past two hundred years. There is no exact form of proof that states that carom existed before this. 

Carom is similar to many other board games like billiards and shuffle board. However, it differs because carom requires the use of fingers to play.

Some people believe that carom was invented by Maharajas to impress the British colonials. This may be the reason why this game has so much in common with many popular British games.

However, there is no evidence that proves this.

20. Pachisi/Chaupar

Pachisi is said to be the national game of India. Pachisi is a board game which translates to ‘twenty five’.

Pachisi is different from Ludo. It was made simpler and then called Ludo. One should avoid confusing the two.

Mentions of the description of this game was in ancient India, in the 16th century. When the Mughal emperor Akbar played a life-sized game of Pachisi.

In addition to this, Mahabharata also mentions the description of this game, where it is said Sakuni, a man at that time was a champion in this game.

21. Gutte

Gutte is more commonly known as five stones. Children and adults both can play this game.

This game is very easy to play. Obviously, you are going to need five stones for this game. The objective of the game is to pick up all five stones while spinning one in the air.

This game was very famous among women and small girls.

It is said that this game originates from Ancient India since 1184 BC.

22. Lagori/Satoliya

Lagori/Satoliya is also known as seven tiles. This game requires two teams.

You need seven stones one smaller than the other. These stones are then placed one on top of the other according to their size, from biggest to smallest.

This game requires extensive running and physical energy. We mainly see children playing this game in playgrounds and on roads.

It is said that this game originates from the southern part of India.

23. Kancha

Kancha is a traditional Indian game that children all over India play. Earlier, we could see boys everywhere standing in circles playing this game.

This game is very simple. Every person playing this game carries their own marbles. They have to aim and hit a selected marble. The winner who is able to hit all the marbles wins the marbles of the other players as well.

Kancha is played in the rural areas and small towns. The origins of this game go way back to ancient India.

24. Lattu

Lattu is the game of wrapping a rope around a top and then pulling the rope to make it a spin. Many rural areas of India continue to play this game. Although, today it is losing its value and is being forgotten.

Lattu originates from thousands of years back. The first top was made from clay like many other household items.

Woodentops came into existence around 2,000 BC. Not only were these tops used for children to play with but it has also been used for prophecy, gambling and sometimes as gifts to honor the Gods.

25. Nondi

Nondi is a very old game in India. It was a very famous game that all children loved to play in schoolyards.

Nondi is a traditional game of South India. It is a hopping game that is played in many rural areas and even small towns. It was said to be a game that only small girls played.

However, this game is now fading away as not many children play it anymore.

This game has been around for the past several years. Hopefully, it continues to do so.

Wrap Up

Did some of these games refresh your childhood? Mine sure did.

Majority of people are unaware of how amazing India is. There are so many world-famous sports and games that originate from India itself. We should pride ourselves about such a fact.

Although with the introduction of the internet and new electronic gadgets, the generation of today stay inside the house instead of playing the kind of games we did.

It is very unfortunate to see these traditions slowly fading away. However, we should be hopeful that they do not vanish completely.

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