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Kabaddi: The mythological sport of tomorrow.

The revival of a sport nearly forgotten is always a benefit to culture. Kabaddi or the ‘Game of Warriors’ gained its rightful place among the popular sports of India.

Ever heard an Indian chant “Kabaddi, Kabaddi, kabaddi” under their breath? Well, that is due to the sport; a sport that goes back an estimated 5,000 years. This combat sport is one of the earliest sports and is played in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand and many other counties.

It is a sport that involves seven players on each side. The main idea of the game is to score points by raiding into the opponent’s court and touching as many defence players as possible without getting caught, all within a single breath. It’s a one against seven game and is known as ‘the game of struggle’.

Kabaddi is often related to the game tag or chasing, though they are similar in the aspects of tagging players out and catching a player; they have their own differences. The game lasts for 40 minutes with a five-minute break in between.

Everything in life has a predecessor, most ideas have a primordial beginning, an idea that is as different from its origin as man is from Apes. Kabaddi evolved from the Hindu religion. There are many different theories for the origin of the sport but one of the most believed origins is from the Kurukshetra War, which takes place in a Hindu epic, the Mahabharata

This mythical war was fought between cousins the Pandavas and the Kauravs and how Abimanyu (the son of one of the Pandava’s) managed to penetrate the defences but couldn’t figure out how to exit. Legend says that the unborn Abhimanyu learned the knowledge of entering the deadly and virtually impenetrable seven-tiered defence called Chakravyuha while still in his mothers’ womb.

On the 13th day of the war, Abhimanyu was called upon to break through the formation and although he fought gallantly, without the knowledge of escaping he died at the centre of the Chakravyuha. Kabaddi was created in remembrance of Abhimanyu, the warrior and the sport can also known as the ‘Game of Warriors’.


Just like the war, kabaddi was developed to improve defence ability. It is the only combat sport in the world where the offence is an individual effort whereas defence is a group effort. There are two styles to the sport: the standard style, that is most widely followed and the circle style.

Unlike the circle style in the standard format the players can resume play only when their side scores point against the opposite side during their raiding turn; or if the remaining players succeed in catching the opponent’s raider. Whereas in the circle format once they are out, they don’t return. The courts are also different for these two styles, where one is played in a circle outdoors and the other is played on a square mat indoors.

India is said to have re-popularised Kabaddi. This was due to their demonstration during the Indian Olympic Games in 1938 and the 1951 Asian Games. The sport became an official sport of the Asian Games in 1990 and a number of countries are now participating.

Kabaddi has been growing over the years. The Pro Kabaddi League in India has been essential in bringing Kabaddi into the mainstream media. Despite the different styles, there is no doubt that it calls for tremendous fitness of body and mind. It involves the ability to concentrate as well as anticipate the opponent’s moves. The game demands agility, muscular co-ordination, lung capacity, speed, strength, stamina, catching, kicking, as well as quick responses and a great deal of presence of mind. The sport is now played worldwide, with children learning it at a very young age, it is also played by the British Army for fun, to keep fit and to recruit soldiers from the British Asian community. 

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