No craze for Rural Sports

Ashok Sharma
India is predominantly a rural country with more than 70% of her population dwelling in villages. The life in villages is changing fast as a result of the changes brought about by modern technology and scientific advancement. People in villages now have more access to modern technology and amenities such as good road network, educational institutions,healthcare facilities, recreational centres etc. But with these facilities,together with, fast life and surging materialism, the old way of relaxed,corporate and slow life in villages has almost vanished and become a thing of the past.Materialism and selfcenteredness are invading the corporate living of villagers so much that the villagers too have adopted the urban way of life and one of the results of this trend is the indifference of the rural people to our old culture and heritage. Consequentlyvillagershave been exhibiting a fading interest in traditional sports and games which used to be an important part of our culture a means to bring the villagers together and which have been fast vanishing in the wilderness.
There was a time when free style wrestling competitions (Dangals or Shinj) were organised in every village and even small hamlets and wrestlers from across the state were invited to take part and these competitions attracted a huge crowd of spectatators from the adjoining villages and even far off areas.
The winners,especially of first, second and third bouts (Maali) used to be rewarded by offering them cash and cloth suits for their feats.The local vendors would sell their sweets and merchandise and there would be an ambience of fun and frolic all around.It was a soothing sight to watch wrestlers entering the arena by walking on their hands or somersaulting and by being introduced by the refree(Lakri) in his charasteric style. As a result of earnest efforts by a few dedicated members of Indian Freestyle Wrestling Federation especially Shiv Kumar Sharma, this game has been revived at some places and wrestling events /competituons are held at some places in our state in which national and even international wrestlers take part but these competitions have almost vanished from small hamlets and villages.
Then children used to play Hide and Seek( Chupa- Chupai). There is one seeker in the game,who has to find out all the players in the game.Each time a player is found, he/ she joins the other players in search for the other hiding players. Kho- Kho is another game which used to be very popular in the past.This game consists of 12 players who chase down and tag the players of the opposite team. These games consumed a lot of their surplous energy and made them agile and sharpened their intellect. Volleyball too was played in paddy fields, school grounds etc with great art,skill and interest with Volleyball clubs being formed at village level.’Santolia’ is a simple, inexpensive and funny game where the players are divided into two teams.A small stack of flat stones and a cloth made ball are the only things required to play this game. Each player takes their turn at toppling the stack and then run while the other team has to hit or touch each of the players in the opposing team with the ball and Tug of War were very popular among the students and the youth. Kabbaddi also used to be played in the villages before and after school hours and even while doing leisurely work such as grazing cattle.The maintenance of kabadi chant by the raider while he is on the opponent’s side bemuses the spectators.Then the elders used to organise races to encourage the youth to improve their stamina and physical prowess.Swimming was one of the rural games in which boys would compete with eachother in swimming in streams and rivers.
With vast stretch of fields all around, ‘Gilli danda’too was very popular in the rural youth.The rules of this game are almost similar to Cricket.This game is played with a piece of wood called ‘gilli’ tapered on both the ends and a larger piece of wood called ‘ danda’. The object of the player is to take the gilli as far away from the home base.A player was required to run a lot while playing this game, which developed his body and stamina.I feel nostalgic to recall digging out soil to mark the base point for the gilli.Among the less known sports,’loota’ and ‘geete’were played by young girls whereas boys used to play marbles( kancha)on roadside, streets and smaller paths. The object of the player is to collect as many marbles as possible by striking the marblrs of the opponent.I recall being punished by my teacher for being late in entering the class after recess as I was busy in playing marbles.The boys used to be very conscious of body building and they used to massage the limbs,especially,legs of their friends to make them more agile,supple and strong.Then they used to play the ‘fist’ game in which one of the players was required to open the fist (muthi) of the other or bend the arm of the other player. The rural children also used to climb trees and catch eachother on the branches of the trees.To swing in the cradles hung from trees, especially during the month of ‘Saawan’ or at the time of ‘Janamashtmi’ used to be a tradition andthe boys and girls would try to outsmart the eachother in swinging on the cradles.Then there used to be sack race , lemon race, spoon race,leapfrog race,scorpion race etc played in the villages with a lot of fun and enthusiasm. Other games which were played in the days gone bybut are now are on the wane are ‘Chor-Police’, ‘Lattu’ (spinningtop), carrom, cards, especially’ seep’ version etc.There used to be a game called ‘Oonch- Neech'(High and low) in which the members of one team would stand up at some height whereas the members of the other team standing at a low level were required toctouch the members of the other team and vice versa.Whoever was touched had to be out.In another rural game, the members of two team s used to stand on the opposite side of a line and would recite the lines ‘phoolon se ham aate hain thande mausam ke liye, tum kisko lena chahte ho thandey mausam ke liye’. Then one team would name one player of the other team and chant’hum is ko lena chahte hain thande mausam ke liye’. The members of the other team would chant’ is ke badle kisko dena chahte ho thande mausam ke liye’ and the members of the other team would nominate their player.The two players would then pull eachother to their own side and the player who crossed the line to the other side was deemed to be out.When all the players of a team were out, the other team would be declared as winner.I think this game is no more in vogue now.Some farmers also used to organise animal sports such as cockfight, bull fight, ramfight,buffalo fight etc. but these games are played no more and rightly so, as these games involved cruelty to animals and in some cases the death of the animals.
But alas! these ancient, traditional and cultural games are losing their charm to the modern day glamorous games.The youth of today waste a lot of time on social networking sites and if at all they play games,they play them on a computer,playstation,mobile phone etc.The youth of today have lost interest in these rural games and are often seen playing and watching cricket, tennis, lawn tennis and other games.They also prefer to remain glued to Television to watch serials or films.The result is that the youth of today are losing stamina and agility due to their sedentry life.Their social skills also remain unblossomed In the absence of proper means to sublimate their surplus energy and use their leisure, many young boys and girls become addicted to vices such as taking drugs,smoking, drinking, commiting sexual offences etc.It is not uncommon to see newspaper reports of boys and girls being arrested for indulging in rave parties involving drugs and alcohol.It is, therefore, the duty of the government,society and everybody to preserve the dying folk games and sports.The Department of Youth Services and Sports ought to take urgent steps to revive rural games by organising exclusive rural sports competitions at zonal,district and provincial level.The winners should be rewarded and awarded commendation certificates to boost their morale.
There is also a need to organise such competitions at the Panchayat level with the active participation of Sarpanch, Panchs and other elderly and prominent people.Women and senior citizens too should be involved in these games to bring back the lost glory of these games which have been marginalised due to the onslaught of cricket.The games need to be conducted in an atmosphere of celebration rather than competition.The Man/ Woman of the Match should be declared in the competitions and it is better if the winners are provided items of daily use such as flour, cooking oil/ ghee, rice, blankets, shirt piece etc instead of medals and trophies. The competitions such as making cords from hay/ fibres,matteresses, baskets etc adds charm to the games as they afford an opportunity to the participants to display their skill and speed and thus creates a sense of bonding among all the members of the community.The government ought to release liberal funds to the panchayats and other such bodies to conduct tournaments to promote these games.These games form an integral part of our culture and they need to become a part of our life.Parents too must take time off their busy schedule and encourage their children to play these games so that their surplus energy is sublimated and these games are saved from being extinct on the one hand and their children donot take to vices such as taking drugs,smoking,drinking etc, on the other hand.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here