India, the land of cultural heritage & vibrant traditions is also home to rare & unusual sports. Many few of us are aware that India has a rich sporting history with indigenous sports nurturing in every nook & corner.
These rare sports are being played in different areas in India depicting India’s rich culture & vibrancy. For the unversed, India also possesses Rural Olympics which is popularly known as the Kila Raipur Sports Festival. It annually takes place in Ludhiana Punjab & hosts some of the rare sports of India that have been practiced in the country for years. Just like Punjab, there are various other states that host such rare sports & games. These sports are a symbol of India’s rich cultural heritage. So without wasting a minute let’s have a glimpse of rare sports in India that forms the basis of its rich culture & heritage.
Rare & Unusual Sports in India:
1. Rare Sports of India- Inbuan
Originating in Mizoram, Inbuan is a rare variety of wrestling that is played in the State of Mizoram. Beginning in the 1950s, there are certain rules of this sport that make it different from mainstream wrestling. In Inbuan a circle of 15-16 feet in diameter is created on the ground or grass. Two players are involved in the game & the objective is to lift one opponent off his feet while adhering to the rules. The rule is quite simple, none of the opponents could step outside the ring & no bending of knees is permitted. The game will be played in three rounds for 30-60 seconds each. One major rule of the Inbuan sport is that the belt or catch hold rope which is tied around the waist of the players will remain tight throughout the fixture. This makes it difficult for a player to get hold of another player.
When sports that are rare & unique to India are discussed, Mallakamb becomes a part of the list. Mallakamb is an ancient sport dating back to the 12th Century. The sport is widely practiced in the interiors of Maharashtra & highlights the flexibility & strength of players. Malla means gymnast & Khamb means pole. It’s basically a gymnastics & yoga combination practiced with the use of the pole. This ancient sport gained recognition during the reign of Peshwa Bajirao II when Balambhatta Dada Deodhar, the sports and fitness instructor was handling sports activities. He made the sport popular as according to him the sport increased the strength & flexibility of soldiers.
Mallakamb is widely practiced in Maharashtra where children get trained in it from a tender age. The sport involves immense control & focus on one’s movements. This sport tests the endurance of individuals & increases their strength & flexibility. We think Mallakamb is one of the gems of ancient India.
3) Unsual Sports of India: Kalarippayattu
God’s Own Country Kerala is home to bountiful nature. But less did people know that various art forms & ancient sports also hail from Kerala. And one such rare sport which hails from Kerala & is the heart of India is Kalarippayattu. Keralaites take pride in owning the roots of this traditional sport which is the first form of Martial arts.
It’s not easy to play Kalariyppayattu as it requires a special kind of sword & shield crafted for it. The sport includes all the practices of martial arts such as strikes, kicks, grappling, weaponry, and healing methods. It requires dedication & focus to master this sport. While discipline is the key to inculcating this sport in our daily lives. Kalarippayattu is also depicted in movies like Soka (2001), The Myth (2005), The Last Legion (2007), Commando (2013), and Baaghi (2016) & has gained immense popularity.
4) Yubee Lakpee
Originating from Manipur, Yubee Lakpee is one of the rare sports in India. Let us explain to you what Yubee Lakpee means, Yubee means coconut while Lakpee means snatching. Thus Yubee Lakpee is basically snatching coconut. This sport is very similar to rugby but here coconut is used like a ball. This sport holds mythological significance. It is said that it was played on the grounds of Bijoy Govinda Temple on the pichakaree day by persons acting as gods and demons.
Every year the locals of Manipur play this game on Pichakaree day where they re-enact a scene from Hindu mythology which involves snatching the pot of Amrit. The sport is currently played by Men of Manipur while women witness the enactment of the sport with joy.
Dhopkhel is one of the rare sports of India originating from Assam. It is a seasonal game that is played during Assam’s Spring festival also called Rangoli Bihu. Dhopkhel is played between two eleven-member teams on a ground of 125 m × 80 m. “Dhop” is a kind of ball that is thrown at each other by players of both teams. And if it doesn’t fall on the opponent’s court then the ball has to be thrown again. If the ‘dhop’ (ball) doesn’t get caught by the opposing team then the player of the other team takes the throw.
6) Asol Aap and Asol-Tale Aap
When the topic of ancient rare sports of India is talked about how can we forget Asol Aap & Asol tale Aap sports from Andaman & Nicobar Islands? This is a very creative sport that involves canoe racing. In Asol Aap, the canoe race takes place in the ocean waters while in the case of Asol-Tale Aap, it’s being raced on sand. The canoes are made up of wood extracted from coconut.
In the Asol Tale Aap race, participants place one foot in a canoe & one on the sand & as soon as the race begins participants start dragging it with their limbs. The race is around 5-6 km long & involves 40-90 participants depending on the size of the canoe. Whoever completes the distances in less time wins the race. Till now you all have understood that Asol tale Aap is not for weak people & tests the strength of the arms & legs of the participants.
7) Rare Sports of India: Kambala Buffalo Race
One of the most proficient & popular sports of India, Kambala Buffalo Race occupies a top place in the list of rare sports of India. This rare sport is played on the fields of Karnataka among the local farmers. Played on the backdrop of lush greenery on muddy slushy fields, Kambala Buffalo Race is one of the most played sports in Karnataka.
Over a five-month period from November to March around 45 buffalo races are held in the villages surrounding Karanataka’s coastline. Farmers choose their best & fastest buffaloes for the Kambala race as the winner receives a gold medal or a trophy. In the Kambala buffalo race, the buffaloes are raced by a whip-lashing jockey running behind them. These buffaloes run 140 to 160 meters & have to complete the race within a time limit. However, this sport is condemned by many animal activists who argue that tying the noses of buffaloes & subjecting them to being whipped is a cruel form & needs to be stopped. But no one ignores the fact that this sport is widely liked by the rural people of Karnataka who cheers the crowd.
The Kambala buffalo race was originally played as a symbolic thanksgiving to the Almighty for keeping the buffaloes protected against diseases. And till today this rural sport has witnessed large crowds turning for the event & cheering for their favorite teams.
8) Elephant Polo
Elephant Polo is a captivating and extraordinary sport that contrasts with the more familiar horse-mounted version. Played on the vast and picturesque landscapes of India, this unique sport involves using majestic elephants as the means of transportation and maneuvering the ball across the field. The game is played with two teams, each comprising skilled players who must demonstrate finesse and dexterity while sitting atop the elephants’ broad backs.
Each player is granted three attempts to strike the ball with their polo stick, but unlike traditional polo, they are prohibited from using hooking sticks. Additionally, only two elephants from one team can occupy any half of the playfield simultaneously. To add an element of challenge and excitement, elephants are forbidden from lying down before reaching the goals, and they are not allowed to use their trunks to handle the ball. Historians trace the origins of this captivating sport back to the 1900s in India.
While polo has historically been a male-dominated sport, elephant polo transcends gender boundaries, with both men and women participating. Female players have the privilege of using both hands to handle the polo stick, whereas male players must skillfully control it with just one hand. Rooted in history and cherished by players of all genders, this rare sport continues to amaze and captivate all who witness its grandeur on the playing fields of India.
9) Hinam Turnam
One of the rare sports in India, played in the dense forest of Arunachal Pradesh is Hinam Turnam. This sport is played amongst the tribe of Arunachal & is one of a kind. The participants of this rare sport take up the role of a hunter & enact the complete act of hunting. As the tribes reside in dense forests & spend a lot of time hunting the idea of this rare sport forms their way of living. It is also said that it’s their way of enacting the story of life & death with people taking up the roles of hunter & beast.
10) Unusal Sports of India: Ke Nang Huan
When rare & unusual sports of India are talked about Ke Nang Huan can never miss out on the list. Played in the tribes of Nicobar Islands, Ke Nang Huan is another sport that requires a test of the strength & determination of players. The individual participating in it should have the ability to control a wild pig. What happens in it is that the pigs are put in a cage & then released by smashing the bamboo cage with an axe. The participants have to tackle & tame the pig once released. They usually take on the pigs by holding their ears & proceed to tame them. The individual who gets successful in accomplishing the task gets entitled as a strong fighter in his community. Notably, only men can play this sport while women are not allowed to participate in it.
These are some of the rare sports which are widely practiced & followed in the interiors of India. These sports are unique in themselves & truly resemble ancient India. Do you know some rare sports in India which can be added to this list? If yes, then don’t forget to share with us as we are waiting for your unique responses!