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Ancient Games That Originated in India But Are Lost in Time

By Satabdi MazumdarNovember 30, 2022
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Traditional Games of India People Played for Centuries


Games and sports were the part and parcel of ancient India. The daily lives of the common people were filled with fun and entertainment when native games were played. Friends and even families took part in such traditional games of India. Some of these games are still seen played in the fields.

The advent of technology might have made our lives easier but has acquired a lion’s share of our daytime. We don’t spend time playing outside, rather stick to the screens and enjoy playing digital games. This is one of the reasons why a traditional popular game like pithoo or gilli danda is lost in time.

Traditional Games in India: What are They?

Traditional games are those that can be played using things available at home. A place for playing these games can be easily arranged. In fact, there are no limitations to playing such games. Anyone can participate and enjoy it with others.

Every popular game played in the alleys and neighbourhoods in India has some rules to be followed. A few of these games are even mentioned in the mythologies prevalent in India. Lord Krishna played with a ball with her friends. It became the reason for Kaliya Naag’s departure from River Yamuna. In Mahabharata, Pandavas and Kauravas wanted to settle their conflicts by playing Pasha, a game of tokens and dice.

There are many indoor and outdoor games played in India for ages. These games are called traditional as people bonded through this in a community. Let us find out the most popular ancient games of India.

List of Popular Ancient Games in India

These traditional games, as mentioned earlier, were developed locally and became popular. The prime reason behind their popularity is the ease of procuring things to play this game. Let us find a few of them and make a list.

A. List of Indoor Games in India

These games can be played indoors as they do not need ample space or a hefty arrangement to play.

1.  Pachisi or Chaupar

This is a board game famous among the common, as well as, the royal families in India. It is mentioned in the epic of Mahabharata. Even the Mughal Emperor Akbar used to play on life-sized boards with her family members and courtiers.

Chaupad was invented in the 4th Century. It can be played by 2 to 4 players. Wooden pawns or cowry shells were used to move on boxed tracks. A dice is rolled to find out how many boxes a shell will move to reach its home. The player who reaches the endpoint first wins.

2.  Five Stones or Gutte

This India famous game is played in almost all the states. Every player owns a set of five stones. The only rule is that a stone is thrown in the air and the player has to collect all the stones on the ground one by one. The one who collects all the stones lying on the ground one by one without dropping any wins.

3.  Lattoo

This is one of the oldest games in world history. In this game, one has to spin a cone-shaped wood called the top using a rope inside a circle. The winner is decided based on the top that lasts longer than the rest. It is called Lattoo. Spinning tops are very popular sports played in India and in other countries. It dates back to 3500 BC when clay tops were used.

B. List of Outdoor Traditional Games of India

Here is a list of traditional games of India with names that were played outdoors.

1.  Hopscotch or Kith-kith

This is a very popular name among all Indian games played traditionally for ages. In this game, a map of boxes is drawn on the floor. A player has to hop on the boxes as per the rules on one leg. If he/she drops the other leg, he/she will be disqualified.

In some parts of India, a piece of object is used to put on particular boxes. The piece needs to be carried to the respective boxes based on the rules. In some cases, a player can also use two legs but has to land on particular boxes.

2.  Gilli Danda

Gilli danda is quite popular on the list of games in India. As the name suggests, gilli means a small cylindrical stick with cone-shaped edges. Danda, on the other hand, is a bigger stick used to strike the gilli.

Traditional Indian Games- Gilli Danda

Traditional Indian Games- Gilli Danda

Also, Read: International Sports Day: Why is it Celebrated?

A player flips the gilli in the air from a small trough on the ground. If a player catches the gilli, he is out. If not, he will then strike the gilli from the drop location with his stick. Once hit, the player with the danda has to run and reach a pre-decided point before any other player touches the gilli.

3.  Pithoo

Pithoo is played with flat stones. The stones are piled to form a stack. A ball is used to hit the stack from a decided distance. There are two teams. A team hits the stack and runs while the other takes the ball to strike the opponents. If an opponent is struck with the ball before his teammates can re-stack the stones, the team loses a point. A team gets three chances to knock the stack.

Traditional Games for Better Bonding

Which game is most popular in India is quite debatable. It all depends on the places, culture, and traditions followed by the local people. Indoor games like the arrow throw game are popular in the western world but not that much in India. These games are developed for entertainment, joy, and peace. They were also played to strengthen harmony among neighbours and to maintain unity in a community.