India’s imagination often borders the surreal. Our affinity for jugaad makes a great case in itself. Our out-of-the-box thinking is a trait that runs through the DNA of everything Indian, including sports.
The variety, ingenuity and sometimes the extreme elements of some of the country’s very own indigenous sporting disciplines will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.
Here is our pick of some great Indian originals which definitely deserve a spot of their own in the Olympics.
1. Khong Kangjei – Field hockey or American football?
It is a combination of field-hockey, wrestling and American football. The game has its roots in Manipur and the aim is to run a ball over the goal line with the help of a stick. However, one is allowed to kick the ball while passing. But the best part is that players are allowed to tackle the ball-carrier and wrestle them to submission.
2. Mallakhamb – Hung from a pole
If you haven’t heard of it, you have certainly seen it being performed by street-artists in carnivals or on television. Simply put, malla means gymnast and khamb means pole. So Mallakhamb translates to gymnastics on a pole. There are different variants of the game, one of which involves balancing the pole on bottles.
3. Vajra Mushti – Fists of thunder
Did you think that there was no extreme sports culture in India? Think again. Vajra Mushti is an ancient Indian combat sport which essentially is wrestling armed with knuckledusters made of ivory. And all this time you thought UFC was extreme.
4. Yubi Lakpi – The original rugby
A sport that predates yet resembles rugby, Yubi Lakpi is played with a coconut for a ball. We will just put it in our list as a token protest demanding exclusive copyright for rugby.
5. Maut ka Kuan – The well of crazies
Only an Indian could have thought of peeking out the window while driving a Maruti 800 along the steep walls of a well, made of creaky wood. NASCAR fans, keep your eyes peeled for this one.
6. Jalikattu – The Indian bull-fight
This was a sport that originated in the Indus Valley Civilization so that women could choose worthy husbands. Take a wild and well-nourished bull, throw in a few overtly-enthusiastic young men, and tell them to wrestle the bull down one-by-one or else they can’t win their bride.
Spanish matadors at least have the insurance of being armed and the option to kill. In India you can only wrestle Lord Shiva’s favourite animal but not kill it.
7. Thoda – Martial arts with bow-arrow
A sport from Himachal Pradesh, Thoda is a tribute to the Mahabharata, Abhimanyu’s story to be precise. Two groups of archers dance around in circles trying to hit opponents under the knee with a flat-tipped arrow. Quick feet movement and acrobatics are used to dodge the projectiles.
8. Rickshaw rally – Meter down
A very modern Indian creation, which involves navigating through Tamil Nadu in an auto-rickshaw. The kicker being, you can pimp your ride while at it.
9. Kite duel – Master of the sky
Kite flying has been a leisurely activity in various ancient cultures. But to add a competitive edge to the game by using glass-sharpened strings to cut each other’s kites down from the sky is as ingenious as it is bizarre.
10. Kambala – Bullock cart racing
This used to be an ultimate favourite in rural North India. The dangers associated with the sport prompted an official ban from the Supreme Court. However, a ban couldn’t decrease the game’s popularity and is still played in various villages across the north.