National Sports Day 2018: 5 Lesser-Known But Fascinating Indian Sports
Someone has rightly compared sports to poetry by saying “Sports is the greatest physical poetry.” A poem has various rhymes and rhythms, likewise every game has its flow and tune too. There is a lot your body can experiment and explore while playing. Be it hockey, cricket, football, rugby, golf, swimming, cycling, shooting, or any other sport. Each has its own tempo that one has to match with. And this is what makes them all beautiful in their own unique way.
Did you know that every year India celebrates National Sports Day on 29th August – the birth anniversary of the legendary hockey player – Major Dhyan Chand Singh? He is by far the most exceptional player in the history of Indian hockey. His astonishing control over the ball earned him titles like ‘The Wizard’ and ‘The Magician.” Not only that, he is also the highest goal scorer in the history of this sport. He was awarded the third highest civilian honour award – Padma Bhushan – by the Government of India in 1956. He made Indians proud by winning gold medals in the field hockey in 1928, 1932, and 1936 Olympics.
We can’t help but wonder about what a great phenomenal luminary he must have been.
The President of India honours distinguished sportsmen who have made a significant contribution in the field of sports with illustrious awards such as Arjuna, Dronacharya, and Dhyan Chand Awards on the National Sports Day. Many schools celebrate their Annual Sports Day on this day and lots of friendly matches are also organized in the Dhyan Chand National Stadium in Delhi – made to honour and respect the greatest hockey hero we have ever had.
This National Sports Day, let’s discuss some lesser-known but fascinating facts about Indian sports:
1- Kho Kho
Aren't you smiling at the flash of the most cherished childhood memories? When the only tension in the world was how many children will gather in the street to play this most-loved sport of India. The Asian Kho Kho Federation was established in 1999 – with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Nepal being the core member countries. And the first Asian Championship was held in 1996 at Kolkata. Formally, the game requires each team to have twelve members, out of which only nine take the field.
However, it was better when we played it as kids, right? As many as five in a team and we were good to go. The best part about this game is that it can be played with as less as four members in each team to as much as twenty – as long as we have sufficient space. It is still a favourite amongst school children and even grown ups, especially during family get togethers during vacations, when they miss those fun-filled days the most.
From Aamir in Dangal to Salman in Sultan, Bollywood has always given kushti aka pehlwani its due. This ancient sport – over 3000 years old – is primarily practiced in the northern part of our country, especially in Haryana. It is also practiced in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and other states as well. It is believed that it was during the Mughal Empire when Indian wrestling originated.
The one who teaches pehlwani is known as ustad and the one practicing it is called a pehelwan. One has to follow strict rules, regime, techniques, and diet to become a recognized mud wrestler. Lots of struggle, hard work, incessant efforts, and training bring out a worthy wrestler. This unique form of sport is taught, practiced, as well as performed in mud. The art of this sport is passed on from generation to generation, very meticulously. Children as young as four are considered fit to begin with the basics of kushti. Girls and boys of all age groups engage in the interesting game to show off their strength and display some well-kept tips.
The most marvellous of all is the boat race aka vallamkali organised during Onam in God’s own country – Kerala. The first boat race was organised in 1952. And since then it became a tradition. Onam celebrations are incomplete without this grandiose phenomenon. All the traditional paddled long boats of the state participate in the event every year. The race competition among the Chundan Vallam commonly known as snake boats is the most awaited. It is held in the Punnamada Lake in a stretch of 1.4 kms. This grand show of strength, stamina, determination, and force is absolutely wondrous. Every year thousands of locals participate in this event with full zeal and passion. This is one of the most important tourist attractions of the state, and it even gets a full coverage on Doordarshan, and why not! From national to international, every tourist has a desire in his heart to witness the grand snake boat race. This extravagant sport is as splendid as it gets.
Is it me, or it does look unbelievable? Malla refers to man of strength, and khamb means pole. However, there are two versions of this game – pole and rope. You’d be surprised to know that it is the state sport of more than twenty Indian states. It is as difficult and unbelievable as the picture above. We are sure most of you must not have heard of this traditional Indian sport, wherein a gymnast performs stunts on a vertical pole. What a grand display of strength combined with breathtaking stunts – all on a stationary, standing pillar.
Mallakhamb aka pole gymnastics has been practiced in India since the 12th century. However, it got lost with time and came to the fore again in the first half of the 19th century. Around this time, Rani Lakshmi Bai learned this art of strength with her friends Nana Saheb and Tatya Tope. The gymnasts showcase an astonishing display of strength coupled with the right techniques. From yoga to wrestling, the gymnast performs the most difficult stunts in a distinguished way.
This sport made its debut at the National level in 1958 at the National Gymnastics Championship held in Delhi. Currently “The Mallakhamb Federation of India” has 29 states registered with it.
Dhopkhel is the most popular game of Assam played by both men and women. Two teams of eleven players each compete on the field. One rubber ball is thrown in the court, and the players have to target the members of the opposing team with that ball. If the ball hits the target player he has to leave the field. The team with more players at the end of the game is declared the winner. Dhopkhel matches are organised during Bihu. This sport is a display of the survival of the fittest. Running, aiming, and throwing the ball with full strength in a 125 metre long and 80 metre wide field is not easy.
This National Sports Day take a pledge to pick up a sport of your choice, if you already are not into one. You can try your hands at one of India’s traditional sports as well. They will give you a chance to push your limits, explore your strengths, associate and be a part of the rich culture of our country in a unique way.
Each one of us has a sportsman within us, waiting to be pushed into the world of a healthy rush of adrenaline, thrilling moves, and exciting challenges. It is time to let that part of you free.
‘Sport teaches you how to play by the rules. It shows you how to win and how to lose. It teaches you how to play as part of a team. And it teaches you how to rely on yourself,’ said Dianne Kenny, the famous health and wellbeing expert.
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