India, a country with a substantial amount of tribal population, making up 8.6% of its population or 104.2 million people, according to the 2011 census. Tribes, collectively known as ‘Adivasi,’ are the indigenous colour of the nation. These tribes have given us many sporting gems over the years, like Mary Kom, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Baichung Bhutia, and many more.
On one hand, where they are taking up international sports and representing India on the world stage, their own sports and games are adrift from the people.
Here are a few tribal/traditional games which need to be in the spotlight:
Sekor, made of wood in the form of an egg, is a traditional tribal game in Jharkhand. This egg-shaped ball is normally 10 inches – length and breadth. A cotton rope of 10.15 feet is used to throw the ball and shoot to play with it.
The game is played between two teams. Each team has 5-5, 7-7, 9-9, 11-11 players. The box made in the field has a length of 30 feet and a width of 27 feet. Notably, Sekor is made of wood. The team gets 5 points to take it out. The team player who puts it on the box also gets 5 points. In other words, the competition centres around lifting and placing Sekor from the box. The Ho tribals play this game in the Chaibasa area of Jharkhand.
Kambala is an annual buffalo race held in the south-western Indian state of Karnataka. Traditionally, it is sponsored by local Tuluva landlords and households in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi of Karnataka, and Kasaragod of Kerala – a region collectively known as Tulu Nadu.
Kambala is traditionally a simple sport that entertains rural people in the area. The Kambala racetrack is a slushy paddy field, and a whip-lashing farmer drives the buffaloes.
Traditional Kambala was non-competitive, and the pair was run one by one.
Surr is a sport played in the areas around Ayodhya, in northern India. It is played between two teams, each of which needs to have a minimum of four players. A rectangular ground is divided into four equal quadrants. One team gathers in the first quadrant, while the other team gathers along the lines of defence at the adjoining quadrant’s borders.
Dhopkhel is a traditional ball game played in the Indian state of Assam. The game is played between two eleven-member teams on a 125 m × 80 m field bounded by four flags. The players take turns throwing the ball at the opponent to knock them out of the game while seeking to catch the ball and evade other players. It is a test of speed, stamina, and acrobatic skills.
This board game with 14 cups is set out with six seeds in each cup; the players distribute them into the other cups until there are no seeds left. The person who reaches two consecutive cups without seeds has to bow out of the game.
There are many more games and sports that lie in rural India’s depths and diminishing within tribes: forms of Martial Arts like Kalaripayatu, Silambam, Thangta, etc., and forms of wrestling like Mukna, Khomlainai, and many more. We need to put more effort to spread these sports across the country which will help keep these games alive and instill a sporting culture in Indian youth.