“Kabaddi-Kabaddi- Kabaddi-Kabaddi- Kabaddi-Kabaddi- Kabaddi-Kabaddi- Kabaddi-Kabaddi- Kabaddi-Kabaddi-…” If you just uttered the phrase in one breath, you would surely make a good Kabaddi player. But then you would also have to be prepared to tackle seven strong and muscular opponents who will leave no stone unturned to hurl you down the ground and make you literally beat the dust!
Kabaddi is a game of passion, perspirations and body strength, but it is also a game of strategy, mental-physical coordination and intelligent analysis of the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. It is a team event and yet a single player might win or lose a game. It has the characteristics of American rugby and yet it is Indian sport to the very core.
No one is certain how this game became so popular in India although it is definite that the game was played as early as 4000 years ago. It might have been a reformed form of wrestling which combined teams instead of individual competitors in order to involve more participants. It is also believed that it was originally formulated as a training exercise for army personals and has its roots in Tamil Nadu. Some people also say that it is a modern representation of the Chakravyuh that Prince Abhimanyu had to face during the battle of Mahabharat.
There have been instances of royalties enjoying the game but the most consistent and admired fans have been the commoners. The farmers, artisans, cow herders, the scholar, teachers and the rural population who found a way to showcase their power to the whole community through this rugged and inexpensive event.
The game has been used umpteenth times by movie makers to solve family feuds or win hearts. It has also been used to portray the vivid colors of vibrant Punjab although this is not the only state that loves Kabaddi.
A Game with Many Names
While northern India knows kabaddi as Kabaddi, the western states call it Hu-tu-tu. Likewise, in Eastern India the game is called Ha-du-du for men and Chu-kit-kit for women. In southern India it is known as chedugudu.
Kabaddi is the national game of Bangladesh and also a popular sport in Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Japan, Canada and the UK.
How to Play
My grandmother was a Kabaddi Champion in her own words. That is how she remembers spending her childhood and even her early married days. Friends and family would gather around and divide into two teams of twelve with seven players in the court and five as reserve. They would then chalk out a court approximately 12 m x 10 m divided into two halves by a median line.
The game would begin when one player of a team entered the opponent’s end of the court and tried to touch one or all players before going back to the safe side. The fairly simple touch-n-go strategy was complicated when the player had to keep uttering the word kabaddi repeatedly in one breath. If he was out of breadth, he was declared out. If he could not touch any opponent while in their side, he was again out of the game and if he touched but was stopped from reaching his side of the court by players intent on keeping him struggling in their side, the poor beaten fellow was again declared out. Alternatively, if the single team member could dodge the burly opponents, keep saying ‘kabaddi’ in one breath while he also touched a player and returned triumphantly to his side of the court, the touched opponent had to sit out.
The game continued with the teams alternating in sending a team member into the opposite tiger’s den and whichever team lost all players first, automatically lost the game.
My grandmother was invariably the player who made the match-winning moves and as she goes back 50-60 years down memory lane re-enacting the games in her mind I know from the determined look in her eyes and the stellar expression that she is not bluffing.
The Rural Game in Modern Times
Over the last decade much effort has been made to revive the ancient sport and package it for the city youth. The international interest in the game is promising with many taking to kabaddi as a sport in a professional way.
It was in 1936 that a demonstration match was first played at Berlin Olympics and Kabaddi first became officially recognised. It has been a part of the Asian games for a long time and is also played in Asian Indoor Games and Asian Beach Games apart from SAF Games. The Kabaddi World cup was first played in 2004 and then in 2007 and 2010 with team India being the unbeaten champion all the three times. Kabaddi will also be a demonstration sport during Commonwealth Games 2010.
Kabaddi is an inexpensive entertainment. It is a game that can bind families and also teach important lessons of individual spirit and team effort to youngsters. It is a sport that enthralls the audience with its rapid pace and also gives them an adrenaline rush predicting the winners and losers with the scenario changing every second. It is rustic and yet the lessons learnt from the game can easily be taught to any modern MBa graduates.
From sheer enjoyement to teaching life changing moves, Kabaddi is a contact sports whose anceint roots can easily touch modern hearts.
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