Traditional Indian Games And Their Benefits

These traditional games of India will not only keep your child entertained and active but also keep him away from gadgets. So, read on to know more about the benefits of traditional games.

By V Saravana Kumar  • 15 min read

Traditional Indian Games And Their Benefits
Indian traditional games are a great way to teach history and culture of the country

You and I have played all or a few of these traditional games of India when we were young. But, how many traditional games do our children play or know about?

Sadly, in today's age, children are constantly glued to the television and electronic gadgets. So, for the love of all things Indian, let’s learn about a few traditional Indian games, how to play them with your child and their benefits. 

Also read: How Traditional Childhood Games Boost Brain Power

Indoor traditional games

Pallanguzhi

History:

This game is believed to have originated during the rule of the Chola dynasty in South India. It is also referred to as Channe Mane in Karnataka.

This two-player strategic game involves counting pieces (stones, seeds or beans) and placing them into holes/cups on a board or pits in the earth

The pallanguzhi board consists of 7 holes/cups in 2 rows. In both the rows, the cup at the centre is called Kasi.

The objective of the game is to capture as many pieces.

How it is played:

  • From their collection of pieces, the players fill each cup with 12 shells except the Kasi, which is left empty.
  • The player who starts the game picks all the shells from a cup on his side of the board. He then drops 1 shell in each cup, moving in a clockwise fashion.
  • Once he has finished dropping the last shell, he picks the shells from the next cup and repeats the above-mentioned process. If the last shell falls in the Kasi, then the shells in the cup next to the Kasi is earned by the player.
  • The player then continues to play by picking up the shells from the next cup.
  • If the last shell falls in a cup with only 2 shells, the player’s turn is over, and the next player begins his turn.
  • Once a round is over, the players take shells from their collection and fill as the cups with 12 shells and begin again.

Benefits:

  • It helps children learn to count.
  • Boosts memory and observation ability.
  • Improves hand-eye coordination.

Pachisi

History:

This is a very old game and is believed to be the national board game of India. It finds mention even in our history and mythology, with legend indicating the Pandavas and the Kauravas played this game in the Mahabharata.

The name Pachisi is based on the number 25 (called pachis in Hindi), which is the highest score a player can earn in the game.

The game is played between 4 players divided into 2 teams, with 2 players in each team. The partners sit opposite to each other.

The Pachisi board has 4 arms, which meet at the centre of the board. The centre is called Charkoni.

On each arm, there are 3 rows with 8 squares in each row. One square in each row has a different colour to indicate that this is a ‘Castle’.

The game is played with shells or pieces of different colours. Each player has 4 pieces; so, there are a total of 16 pieces among 4 players. Partners can take pieces of the same colour or different colours.

The objective of the partners is to move their 8 pieces through the arms of the board and then re-enter the Charkoni.

How it is played:

  • The players begin the game by keeping their pieces in the Charkoni and rolling the dice.
  • The first piece is moved as many squares as the number indicated on the dice.
  • To move the remaining 3 pieces out of the Charkoni, the players should land the number 6 on the dice. This number is also called Grace.
  • Pieces of partners can occupy the same square. However, a piece(s) cannot occupy the Castle if the opponent’s piece is already there.
  • If a piece lands on a square occupied by the opponent, then the opponent’s piece is ‘captured’ and placed back in the Charkoni. A captured piece can come out only with the roll of a Grace. A player who captures a piece gets to throw the dice once again.
  • It is not compulsory to move a piece after throwing the dice, especially when the piece is in the Castle. A piece can wait in the Castle of the third arm until the number 25 is scored by rolling the dice. The would allow the piece to enter the Charkoni straightaway.
  • A piece can go around the board a second time if the player wants to help his partner. But to do this, the piece should not enter the Charkoni.

Benefits of Pachisi:

  • Gives children a chance to make meaningful choices.
  • Fosters team spirit.
  • Teaches strategy building.

Ludo

This game is believed to have originated in India in the 6th century. It is derived from Pachisi. It is also depicted on the walls of the Ajanta caves. It was also a favourite of many Mughal emperors like Akbar and Babar.

Ludo is a game played by 4 players split into 2 teams, or by 2 players. Team members sit opposite to each other.

The ludo board has 4 bases of different colours (1 base for each player). The board also has 4 arms, which meet at the centre of the board.

On each arm, there are 3 rows with 6 squares in each row (similar to the Pachisi). One square touching the base has a different colour to indicate that this square is a ‘Castle’. It is also the starting position from where a piece begins its journey around the board.

How it is played:

  • The players begin the game by keeping their pieces in the respective bases and throwing the dice.
  • If a six is rolled, a player moves his piece out of the base and places it in the starting position, or the Castle.
  • When a six is rolled, a player gets the chance to roll the dice again.
  • The first piece is moved as many squares as the number indicated on the dice.
  • If a piece lands on a square occupied by the opponent, then the opponent’s piece goes back to the base. This piece can then come out only when a six is rolled with the dice.
  • If a player lands a piece on one of his own pieces, then that square gets blocked. The opponent cannot land his piece on that square or bypass it.
  • To win, a player must take his pieces around the squares on the board and bring them home, which is a triangle at the centre of the board.
  • A piece can enter the home only when the roll of the dice throws a number which is equal to the number of squares a piece must go to reach home.
  • The first player to take all the four pieces home is the winner.

Snake and ladder

In ancient India, this game was called Mokshapat. Records show that this game was played even around 2000 years ago.

This is a board game with squares numbered from 1 to 100. Some of the squares have ladders and snakes with ends reaching another square. The objective is to begin at the first square and reach the last one, taking ladders for shortcuts and avoiding the snakeheads.

How it is played:

  • All the players place their pieces on the first square and roll the dice.
  • A player moves his piece forward the number of spaces the dice rolls.
  • If a piece lands in a square which has the base of the ladder, then it climbs to the top of the ladder.
  • If a piece lands on a square with a snakehead, it slides down to the square where the end of the snake’s tail rests.
  • The first player to reach the end is the winner.

Outdoor traditional games

Lagori

Although there is no specific reference to the history of this game, Lagori is a traditional game that is believed to have been played for generations in rural India.

How it is played:

  • Lagori is played using a soft ball and seven flat stones, in a large outdoor area.
  • The players form two teams - ‘seekers’ and ‘hitters’.
  • The flat stones are piled up at the centre of the ground and a player from the ‘seekers’ hits the pile with the soft ball.
  • Now, the ‘seekers’ try to collect the scattered stones and pile them up again, while the ‘hitters’ use the soft ball to hit the ‘seekers’.
  • If a ‘seeker’ gets hit by the soft ball, he’s out of the game. The ‘hitters’ try to get as many ‘seekers’ out this way, before the stones are piled up.
  • A ‘seeker’ can avoid getting out, by touching any of the ‘hitters’, before being hit by the ball.
  • If the ‘seekers’ collect all the stones before being all out, they win. If the ‘hitters’ hit out all the ‘seekers’ before they collect all the stones, they win.

Benefits:

Kancha

History:

Playing with small stones or pebbles was a caveman’s game. Going by that logic, the origin of Kancha can be traced to the early days of mankind.

How it is played:

  • The objects used for playing Kancha are round glass marbles, also known as ‘golis’ (about half an inch in diameter) in different colour combinations.
  • To start with, a shallow hole is made in the ground. A line is then drawn, three feet away from the hole.
  • Each player stands behind the line and aims to throw his goli into the hole.
  • After all the players do this, the one who has his goli closest to the hole gets the chance to play first.
  • The first player takes all the golis and throws them again towards the hole.
  • He has a second goli, using which he’ll hit the other golis.
  • The other players choose a particular goli to be hit by the first player.
  • The first player, now, throws the goli in a peculiar style. He holds it tightly between the two index fingers. He places the left thumb firmly on the ground and stretches the left index finger backwards with both index fingers still holding the goli. This looks more like a bow and arrow position. Now, as he releases the right index finger, the goli is shot.
  • If this goli hits the selected goli, the first player gets all the golis and becomes the winner.
  • Otherwise, he gets the one he hits and the next player gets his chance.
  • The player who gets the most number of golis wins the game.

Benefits:

Gilli Danda

Traditional Indian Games And Their Benefits
Traditional games pictures

History:

This game, remarkably similar to cricket, is believed to be more than a thousand years old – dating back to the Mauryan Dynasty.

How it is played:

  • The game is played using a short wooden peg (3 to 6 inches long) with tapered ends, called the gilli, and a wooden stick (2 to 3 foot long), called the danda.
  • The players are divided into two teams with no restriction on their number in a team.
  • A team can opt either to bat or field by winning the toss.
  • A small circle is drawn on the ground and a little crater is made in its centre.
  • The ‘batsman’ from the batting side stands inside the circle, while the players of the fielding side spread around him in various positions.
  • The ‘batsman’ places the gilli just above the crater in the circle, hits it hard with the danda, and as it rises up, strikes it again.
  • The spot where the gilli falls is marked, and its distance from the circle is measured using the danda. The batsman gets one point for each danda length.
  • The batsman is out if he fails to strike the gilli in three consecutive attempts or if the gilli is caught by a fielder.
  • In such a case, the next batsman comes in to bat. This is repeated until all the players in the batting team have batted.
  • The total points of batsmen are added up to get the team’s total score.
  • The team batting next will try and chase this target to win the match.

Benefits:

  • Improves hand-eye coordination.
  • Sharpens judgement skills.

Kith-kith

History:

This traditional game is similar to hopscotch and dates back to the 17th century. 

How it is played:

  • An 8-square grid (2 columns and 4 rows) is drawn on the floor using a piece of chalk.
  • The players choose a button, shell or stone as their markers.
  • The game starts with one player standing in front of the starting line and tossing her marker into the first square.
  • She then hops across all the eight squares, turns around, and hops back all the way to the second block.
  • She picks up her marker from the first square and tosses it to the second block.
  • She then continues the hopping cycle, until the marker reaches the eighth block, and ends her lap.
  • The other girls ‘hop’ in the same manner.
  • If a girl loses her balance and her folded leg touches the ground mid-way through the game, she is considered to be ‘out’.

Benefits

  • Enhances physical balance and rhythm.
  • Strengthens muscles, improves motor skills and develops spatial awareness.

Parental supervision is essential for all the games since they use goods like pebbles, marbles and wooden logs.

About the author:

Written by V Saravana Kumar on 24 November 2016. Last updated on 16 April 2020.

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