The Timeless Sports of India

India is home to several ancient sports. The cultural diversity and the colonial rule, too, have resulted in India having a wide variety of sporting disciplines in the country. There are quite a few forgotten Indian sports as well as sports that have been adopted into a modern format. Here is a blast from the past as we have a look at historic Indian sports:

Gilli Danda – 

Gillidanda is an ancient sport, possibly with origins over 2,500 years ago. Also known as Viti Dandu and by other variations, it is a sport originating from the Indian subcontinent, played in the rural areas and small towns all over South Asia as well as Cambodia, Turkey, South Africa, Italy, Poland, and in some Caribbean islands like Cuba. The game is played with two sticks: a large one called a danda which is used to hit a smaller one, the gilli. Other than using a smaller target stick, rather than a ball, it bears many similarities to bat and ball games such as cricket and baseball.                         

Badminton – 

Quite a few famous sports and games of recent times have taken their origin from ancient India such as the game of Badminton. The game developed in British India from the earlier game of battledore and shuttlecock. British army officers, who were posted in Pune in the early 19th century, were the pioneers of the Badminton game. During the 1870s, the Britishers got well-versed in Badminton and decided to take the game back to their homeland in an attempt to introduce it in Europe.

In 1873, the Duke of Beaufort hosted a lawn party in a place called Badminton in England. The game of Poona (Since Pune was initially known as Poona, the game also started being called as ‘Poona’) was played at the party by the guests, and the game was thoroughly enjoyed by all. It was after this that the name ‘Badminton’ was coined for the game.

Kabaddi – 

The game became popular in the 20th century but historical accounts show that the game has its origins in ancient India. Although the exact origins of Kabaddi are disputed, historical narrations indicate that ancient India is the cradle for Kabaddi. Religious believers have put forward theories that indicate that Kabaddi could be an origination of the Vedic period.

Some narrate that Kabaddi came from the Sistan region of present-day Iran. Regardless of the disputes, India has played a significant role in formalizing Kabaddi as an international game rather than a game that was initially only played in villages. India was the first country to have organized formal Kabaddi competitions in the 1920s.

Snooker – 

In the late 19th century, Snooker originated among the British army officers that were stationed in India. During 1874, a slight variation of the game, with different coloured balls except for the usual red and blacks, was introduced at the officer’s mess in Jabalpur. Later, in 1884, the first formalized set of rules for the game were issued by Sir Neville Chamberlain in Ooty, an Indian hill station. The name of the game has also been derived directly from ‘snooker’, which was a slang used for first-year cadets or inexperienced personnel.

Polo – 

The founder of the Mughal Empire, Babar (in the 15th century), is known to have firmly established the popularity of Polo in the Subcontinent. Between the fall of the Mughal Empire and the establishment of British Rule, the popularity of Polo slowly died down in India. In the 19th century, during the British Raj, Modern Polo originated from Manipur and became quite famous. The name Polo stems from ‘Pulu’ which was one of the olden names that were given for Polo. The first Polo club was founded in Silchar, Assam, in 1833, whereas the oldest Polo club still in existence is in Calcutta and was founded in 1862.


These are a few old Indian sports that have their origins or gained popularity from India. To know more about ancient sports, follow Kreedapanti’s ‘Kreeda Extinct’ on Instagram

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