A menacing, circular labyrinth known as the Chakravyuham or Padmavyuham was formed to capture Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna, during the Kurukshetra War in the Indian epic Mahabharatha. This defensive military formation encompasses several warriors assembled in positions to resemble a blooming flower or a wheel, making penetration a herculean task. Few had the knowledge of pervading the formation and even few knew how to escape after that. Unfortunately Abhimanyu was one of those who only knew how to enter the formation but not to escape; causing him to be trapped alone, allowing his opponents to attack him simultaneously, exhausting and eventually killing him. This is probably one of the oldest mentions of the origins of the game of Kabaddi. While it is hard to state the exact period in which the game originated, researchers claim that the game has been played all around India for over 4000 years!
The name Kabaddi is said to derive from the Tamil words ‘Kai’ – meaning ‘hand’ and ‘Pidi’- meaning ‘hold’. However the game also goes by many other names across the states in India. For example, it is known as Kabaddi or Sadugudu in Tamil Nadu, Kaunbada in parts of North India, Ha-Do-Do in East India and Hu-Tu-Tu in West India. The gameplay also differs across the states, but only in minor ways (such as if substitution and/or player revival applies). The main aim of the game remains unchanged across the nation with the raider/attacker entering enemy territory to touch the ‘enemy’ line and return ‘home’ without getting caught by the defenders. The aim of the defenders on the other hand, is to work together to create defensive and entrapment formations to ‘capture’ the attacker and prevent a successful raid.
This gameplay is said to mimic survival instincts as researchers claim that the game has its roots in prehistoric times when humans had to defend themselves against animals that attacked in groups. It is said that this then served as an inspiration for wrestling moves and eventually morphed into the game, as it is known today. In fact, Kabaddi was once used to train warriors to improve their agility, strength and stamina. There are countless benefits to playing Kabaddi, of which some have been summarised in the chart below:
Kabaddi used to be played simply, on any open plot of land that was sandy enough to mark boundaries. However, modern variations of the game have specific field dimensions and boundary line markings, which differ according to the terrain on which the game is being played. This came about as a means to standardize the game, so as to better market it as a legitimate sport. These standardisations also led way to the expansion of Kabaddi into its various forms such as Indoor Kabaddi, Outdoor Kabaddi and Beach Kabaddi!
While Kabaddi is still being played in villages across India today; it has also spread to countries around the world such as Canada, United Kingdom, Thailand and Malaysia, largely through the Indian diasporic communities. However there was once a fear that this ancient game might die off due to the popularity of more modern games like cricket. Thankfully, the game is now undergoing a revival through the Pro- Kabaddi League that was set up in 2014 with financial backing from Bollywood stars like Abhishek Bachchan, who owns the Jaipur Pink Panthers team. The league’s launch had a fantastic welcome with over 426 million people tuning in to watch the games that spanned across 36 days!
The appeal of Kabaddi can be seen across all age groups, as our cultural workshops that feature Kabaddi are usually a hit amongst students, ranging from primary schools to junior colleges! We have observed that many students, males and females alike, often develop a bond with their teammates and a connection to our culture after playing Kabaddi. So, the benefits of playing Kabaddi transcend the physical sphere to a more emotional one as well!
Images: Students enjoying the game of Kabaddi under the supevision of Brainworks Education Trainers.