The Origins of Kho-Kho

This is a sport you have definitely played in your physical education class, especially in Maharashtra. This is one of India’s oldest and most popular traditional tag games, ‘Kho-Kho,’ which was invented in Maharastra. The word ‘Kho-Kho’ comes from Marathi and is imitative of the sound invoked while playing the game.

It is a high-intensity game that involves running and chasing. The game is played between two teams, having no more than 12 players at any point in time. In the beginning, 9 players enter the field to start the match, and 3 defenders of the opposite team try to avoid being touched by the chasers.  

The sitting (chasing) team aims to “tag” the opponents. The chasers can run only in one direction and cannot cross the central lane. To reach the other side, they have to run around the post. The other option is to pass the chasing job to another chaser whose back is facing you as you are running. The attacker touches the chaser he wants and utters the word “Kho” loudly to signify the change.

A kho-kho playing field is rectangular. It is 27 by 16 metres (89 ft × 52 ft) in length. There are two wooden poles in the middle of these two rectangles. Eight cross lanes lie across the centre lane. It makes the small rectangles at right angles to the central lane and is divided equally into two parts by the central lane. At the end of the central lane, the free zone tangent to the post-line, two smooth wooden posts are fixed.

It is tough to trace the origins of Kho-Kho, but many historians believe that it is a modified form of ‘Run Chase,’ which in its simplest form involves chasing and touching a person. In ancient times, the game originating in Maharashtra, Kho-Kho, was played on ‘raths’ or chariots and was known as ‘Rathera.’

The present appearance of the game was an adoption from the time of World War I in 1914. But at that time, there were neither any dimensions of the playground nor the poles which demarcate the central line. The time factor was also missing.

25 countries currently play Kho-Kho across the globe. Three Asian Kho-Kho championships have been held so far, India (1996, 2016) and Bangladesh (2000). The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is hopeful of Kho-Kho’s inclusion in the 2026 Asian Games. With the collaborative efforts of these individuals, the sport has reached new heights. In 2018, the ‘International Kho-Kho Federation’ was formed to govern and guide the sport of Kho-Kho globally.

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