Of the many sports played in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, both traditional as well as foreign sports, kabaddi takes the honor for being the state sport. It’s derived from the Tamil word ‘kai-pidi’, meaning ‘to hold hands’. Kabaddi is an ancient contact sport which’s origins can be traced back to about 4000 years ago in Indian mythology during the Mahabharata period. Buddhist literatures also have citing of Lord Buddha playing kabaddi as a recreational sport.
It’s known by different names in different places such as ‘bhavatik’ in Maldives, ‘kauddi’ in Punjab and ‘hadudu’ in Bengal. At this point it’s important to note that some other states like Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana also recognize kabaddi as their state sport.
The essence of this game is for the defending team to hold onto the raiding team in their pitch. Though there are slight variations in the game played in different places, the basic rules are the same. India introduced this sport on a world platform during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. It was popularized in Japan in 1979, Bangladesh in 1973 and Iran in 1996. It is the National Sport of Bangladesh and one of the national sports of Nepal.
This game is often called the ‘game of the masses’ as it holds a lot of public appeal due to its simplicity and games are watched with a great deal of gusto and raucous cheering. So far, India has been indomitable at all the international kabaddi tournaments and with seven World Cup titles and numerous Asian Games gold medals, the Indian men’s team is at the pinnacle of success.
In Tamil Nadu, kabaddi is more than just a game; it’s a sport that’s ingrained into the minds right from childhood when all that’s required is an open ground, a few friends and the enthusiasm for the game, muttering ‘kabaddi, kabaddi’ as they maneuver through the opponents team. Stamina and agility are two key strengths that are needed for this game and Tamil Nadu has done the country proud by producing many players who have been part of the winning national team.
There are two main formats of kabaddi being played today with the main essence of the sport remaining the same, only the size and shape of the pitch and some of the rules being at variance. In the ‘International Rules’ kabaddi, a rectangular court of 13 x 10m dimension is required while in the ‘Circle- style’ kabaddi, a circular pitch with a radius of 11m is needed; both formats have their own separate World Cup tournaments.
With India being a cricket-crazy nation, kabaddi is holding up its own as enthusiasm for this sport never wanes.