A majority of the Indian population is absolutely crazy about sports. While hockey is the national sport, it’s cricket that’s more popular. But these games are not what define India per se. India is home to many native sports that have not quite captured the attention of an international audience.
If you truly want a taste of live sporting action in India, it’s these traditional games that you must watch. The raw energy, time-honored customs and pride of the players will keep you enthralled for the entire duration of the game.
Here are some of the most astonishing sports in India that you must see live.
Image by AshLin via Wikimedia
Mallakhamba is a traditional sport that’s famous in at least 14 Indian states. The word “Mallakhamba” comprises of two words – “malla” which means gymnast, and “khamb” which means pole. In essence, Mallakhamba is the event where gymnasts hang from a vertical wooden pole or rope and perform risky feats.
This sport originated in the 12th century as an exercise performed by Indian wrestlers while preparing for their competitions. There are many variations of the game and the competitions held nowadays are quite challenging. It requires participants to be agile, dexterous, graceful and quick.
To get the full essence of this sport, you must watch it happen live on a muddy ground. It’s a heady combination of strength and agility that will bewitch the viewer and entertain them with the exhibition of pure muscle power.
Vallamkali is the native name given to the snake boat race that’s held annually in Kerala. It is a main attraction during the festival of Onam and thousands throng to nearby water bodies to witness the event. The most spectacular Vallamkali competitions are held at Aranmula, Champakulam and Kottayam.
The competition is stiff and usually includes hundreds of boats. The boats themselves are swan shaped and have vibrant silk umbrellas adorned with gold coins and tassels. The oarsmen row the huge boats gracefully in rhythm to the sound of drums, clash of symbols and an enchanting tune.
The whole setting of the race is surreal. The sound of oars hitting the water, the monsoon weather, tall coconut trees and lush greenery will give you a 360 degree experience that you cannot miss.
Image by Iamkarna via Wikimedia
Jallikattu is one of the most ancient sports of South India that is still practiced with great vigor today in the state of Tamil Nadu. The game is held during the traditional harvest festival of Pongal and involves crowds of courageous young men trying to tame angry bulls.
Jallikattu has a lot of similarities with the bull fights held in Spain. While it is a dangerous sport, Jallikattu does showcase the bravery of local youngsters as well as the prowess of native bulls that are raised specifically for the sport. It’s best to watch the sport from a cautious distance as the locality can be crowded and loud.
- Inbuan Wrestling
Inbuan is a traditional combat wrestling sport that’s held in the North Eastern state of Mizoram. Two men wrestle within a circle on the grass or a carpet that is 15 to 16 feet in diameter. Whoever succeeds in lifting his opponent off the ground is crowned the winner. This sport is a test of raw strength, skill, dexterity and quick reflexes.
In earlier days it used to be a test of strength for newcomers to any village. They would be pitted against the strongest man in the village and they would have to showcase their ability. While it may look like a just another tussle, the game has some strict rules that the players must follow.
Image by Arivazhagan89 via Wikimedia
Kabaddi is one of the more popular native sports in India that is also played in the international arena. It is a contact team sport, and includes players that are both well-built and agile. While the play may seem complex to a novice, it soon becomes interesting once you get a hang of it.
The sport encourages quick thinking and teamwork among the players. The game is traditionally played on mud or clay courts. But now, with the advent of the Pro Kabaddi League, it has taken a more professional turn.
Whether you choose to watch a local Kabaddi game in a village, or a professional one in a city arena, you are sure to enjoy the thrill and suspense that the game brings.
- Camel Race
Image by Toby Hudson via Wikimedia
Camel racing is one of the main tourist attractions in the historical town of Pushkar in Rajasthan. As the town borders the Thar Desert, camels are an integral part of the people’s lives. During the annual five-day fair that’s held in October or November, well-bred camels from all over the state are showcased and traded.
The camels are adorned with brightly colored embellishments and ridden by jockeys. The race itself is exciting to watch as dozens of camels bolt through the desert sands. If you are planning a trip to Rajasthan, you must fit the camel fair into your itinerary.
These are just a few of the many indigenous Indian games that sport lovers would enjoy. Be sure to enjoy the full live experience of one of these sports during your next visit to the region.
Sunu Philip is the Inbound Marketing and Creative Head for Paradise Holidays, Cochin – a Kerala based tour operator. She loves reading, exploring new places and trying out different cuisines!