Traditional Indian Games We Once Played

Hop, skip and jump back to the 90s with these traditional Indian games which lit up your childhood. As you get nostalgic of the world you grew up in, don’t let your kids miss out on the fun!

By Team ParentCircle

Traditional Indian Games We Once Played

Do you still remember the time when streets were filled with the sound of giggles and the patter of little feet running amok? When homes echoed with laughter as families played together? If you think those days are gone, think again, because we are here to remind you to how to stay in the game! 

In India, many traditional games such as Pagade (mentioned even in the Mahabharata), Ali Guli Mane, Chowka Bara, Cowrie, Lagori and Gilli Danda, have been played for time immemorial. Some of these games are played indoors while others outdoors. 

Let's take a look at a few of them:

Gilli Danda: An ancient sport with origins believed to be over 2000 years ago, this game is played with two sticks, a longer one called danda and a shorter one called gilli. Here, the player uses the danda to strike the gilli (which is placed across a small oval-shaped hole in the centre of the playing field), thereby tossing it into the air. While the gilli is still in the air, the player hits it to land as far as possible. Then the distance between the hole and the place where the gilli lands is measured using the danda.

Watch this video to know how to play Gilli Danda:

Pagade: Also known as Pachisi, this game is widely believed to be the national board game of India. It finds prominence even in our history and mythology, with legend indicating the Pandavas and the Kauravas played this game in the Mahabharata. This game is very similar to Ludo. So, if you are a master at Ludo, you should be able to crack this one too. For a detailed description of the game and the rules, look up this blog https://kreedaakaushalya.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-to-play-pagade.html

Gutte: This simple game can be played anytime and anywhere without much ado. All you need is five stones. One stone is thrown in the air by the player and the stones on the ground are picked up one-by-one or in groups before the stone in the air touches the ground. It may seem simple, but a lot of hand-eye coordination is required.

Ali Guli Mane: Also referred to as Pallanguzhi in Tamil Nadu and Channe Mane in Karnataka, this two-player strategic (Mancala) game involves counting small objects (stones, seeds, beans) and placing them into holes/cups on a board or pits in the earth. Excited?

Check out this cool video right here to understand the playing terms: 

Huli Kuri or Tigers and Goats: Popular in the rural belt of Karnataka, Huli (Tiger) and Kuri (Sheep) game is a classic battle between one tiger trying to hunt a flock of sheep, and the defense that follows. This ancient strategy board game is usually played in community areas like temple courtyards. One player gets three tigers while the other controls the flock of sixteen goats. For more insights, look up this detailed blog, https://kreedaakaushalya.blogspot.com/2008/05/how-to-play-goats-and-tigers.html

Chowka Bara or Dhayam: Also known as Ashta Chamma in Telugu, this board game remains one of the oldest to have been played in India. It is an 8x8 checkered board game using cowrie shells as game dice. An exciting game where players race to the finish by knocking out each other along the way. It is similar to Ludo and can be played by 2-4 players or 2-4 groups of players. Great for sundowners and for getting everyone in the family involved.

For more details, look this up: 

Lagori: A popular outdoor game, which has a pan India appeal, this is also called by names like Dikori, Lagoori, Lingocha, Lingorchya, Pitthu, Sitoliya, Satodiyu and Yedu Penkulata in different parts of India. The game involves knocking off a stack of seven stones with a rubber ball (or a big stone) and rebuilding the pile while the opponent team tries to hit the players trying to rebuild the stack. It involves different skills – aiming and throwing, running and evading, and dexterity. Brilliant for hand-eye coordination.

This Lagori video is sure to bring back memories for you. 

Latoo/Spinning Top: If your child is super interested in Beyblade, you should turn back time and head back to antiquity. Latoo or Spinning Top is all about the magic of science and inertia. Perfect way to teach some science to your young and budding scientist. About the game: the humble spinning top requires skilled hands to make it spin to your tunes! You have to wind up the spinning top just right, and then release it with a flick of your wrist. 

The following two traditional games can be played at huge family get-togethers, especially when you are headed out for the elusive picnic:

Kho Kho: This popular and ancient tag game is said to have originated in Maharashtra, India. It is played by two teams of 12 players each. The teams take turns being the chasers and the defenders or runners. To begin with, eight players from the chasers’ team enter the field and sit on their knees at regular intervals, each facing the opposite direction from the other. The 9th player is the active chaser. From the defenders’ team, players enter the field in batches of three and try to avoid being touched by the chaser.

Here is a video demonstrating the game:

Kabaddi: Your child might be hooked on to the popular version of a kabaddi league on TV, but this game is a lot older than he might think. A team game, which originated in the Indian subcontinent and Iran, kabaddi is today a regular feature at the Asian Games. In Hindi, 'kabaddi' means 'holding your breath,' and that is what the game is all about. The objective of the game is for a single player on the offence, referred to as a ‘raider’, to run into the opposing team's half of a court, tag out as at least one defender and return back to his half of the court. All in a single breath. Phew!!

Parent Speak:

We loved to play all kinds of traditional games at our grandmother’s house. The whole day was spent playing different games. When it was scorching outside, we would play indoor games like Chowka Bara and in the evenings, we would play Lagori, Gilli Danda and many other games. Gilli Danda was something we would always get into trouble with, because the gilli would sometimes fall on the tiled roof and break the tiles. - Babitha Rajesh, a pre-school teacher in Bangalore and mother of a 21-year-old.
“True that most kids these days will not understand what being mad about these simple games felt like. But trust me, if introduced right, the younger generation would gladly welcome these games and start playing. Times like this, where gadgets and couch potatoes rule, these yesteryears games can show the way and lure our children away from gadgets,”- Sujay Malik, who works in an insurance company, dons another hat as well – that of an author.

So next time your kid asks you for screen time, give them the joy of playing these games and we’re sure they won’t be disappointed. And what's more? Relive your childhood memories as you watch them play — and even better — play along with them!

About the author:

Written by Team ParentCircle on 30 October 2019.

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