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Kho Kho: The lost Indian game makes a comeback in the era of online gaming

Fancy gadgets have taken over the space of outdoor games in our lives
Fancy gadgets have taken over the space of outdoor games in our lives

By Ankita

If you’re a kid who grew up in the 1980’s and 90’s in India, kho kho would sound familiar to you. And for those of you who are new to it, ‘Catch me if you can’ is what best describes the traditional Indian sport.

A game played on a rectangular court between two teams of twelve players each,kho kho is a test of speed, strength and stamina. Nine players are allowed to take to the field in one match and every one player down leads to another one joining the team. The contest continues till all players of a team have been sent back.

A clear origin of the game remains untraced but the first book of rules known to be published about it was in 1924 from Gymkhana Baroda (Gujarat). Before the cricket mania that India is known for, Kho kho was being played in almost every corner of the country, by men and women alike. Every village and town had its own teams and every age group had its own lineup. It was fast, fun and extremely popular among the youth. 

It was popular in small towns and at school level. But this is changing now. The game has just changed its diversions. League of events, commonly known as the ‘Premier League’, recently inaugurated the ‘Kho-Kho Premier League (KKPL) at Shivaji Park in Maharashtra. Similar to the Kabbadi League, KKPL had its share of shimmer. And it will still be some time before we can see the game becoming as glamorous as cricket. However kho kho has its fans and the event managed to appeal to quite a few. It attracted more than thousand people every day in the south-western corner of the country. It was a blend of Bollywood and politics.


The effort expanded the world of traditional sports, making India look beyond cricket and has served as a great way of keeping up the morale of those interested in it. Events such as these can be revived in schools and can be promoted at the corporate level with its lessons in team spirit, alertness, discipline, obedience and coordination.

Though KKPL has initiated with not-so-big incentives for the winners, youngsters are more than happy with this new-found attention.  It is definitely not a grand celebration, but its very beginning is nothing less than a fest for admirers. The contest between the chaser and defender is as good as a wildlife predator and its prey, the only difference being in the hunger for food and the passion for victory

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10 Outdoor Indian Games On the Brink Of Extinction

These once-popular children's games have been the victims of the virtual generation and must be revived before they are lost forever

Fancy gadgets have taken over the space of outdoor games in our lives
Fancy gadgets have taken over the space of outdoor games in our lives

Today, in the modern age of smartphones and a huge virtual world, classical Indian outdoor games are on the brink of extinction. Your parents or grandparents would strike into a stage of nostalgia at the very mention of these games. Kho kho, Pithu, and Galli danda are maybe known names to you, but the majority of kids today, have not experienced the bliss of them.

Ask them, and they will tell you a tale or two about the games mentioned below:

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A boy playing 'Pithu'.
A boy playing ‘Pithu’.

1. Lagori or Pithu

At one time, it was one of the most popular games for kids in India. It involves a ball and a pile of stones (which are stacked on top of each other). Member of one team has to throw the ball to knock the stack of stones. Following this, the team has to re-built the stack, while the opposing team throws the ball at them. If the ball touches a person, s/he is out and the team continues to play without him/her. The game is played by two teams with any number of members.

Childern playing with marbles.
Children playing with marbles.

2. Kancha or Marbles

This game is played with glass marbles that are round in shape. The motive is to collect as many marbles as possible by striking other marbles with the ones you have. It is still a very popular game among kids in rural areas. It can be played by any number of people.

3. Chain

This one’s a classic children’s game which is losing popularity now. The game consists of a ‘denner’, who has to catch other players. Once the denner catches a player, s/he becomes a part of the chain, then they have to catch the remaining players. This game is usually played with not more than 10 people.

Playing Gilli-danda,
Children playing Gilli-danda.

4. Gilli Danda

The game is played with a small piece of wood, which is reduced on both sides (‘gilli’), and a large piece of wood that is used to hit the gilli (‘danda’). Players have to hit the gilli as far as possible, and members of the other team have to catch it. Gilli Danda is played in two teams. Its popularity in India once rivalled that of cricket.

Kho Kho
Students playing Kho Kho.

5. Kho Kho

Kho Kho is played by two teams, who are required to chase down and tag the players of the opposite team to win the game. The chasing team has nine players in the field, who sit in a straight line with alternate players facing opposite sides. The chasing team has to catch the runners before time runs out.

A boy spinning a lattoo.
A boy spinning a lattoo.

6. Lattoo

This game involves spinning a wooden top known as a ‘lattoo’, which has grooves in the lower half and a nail at the bottom. A thick string is wrapped around the grooves on the lower half and pulling the string making the topspin.

Kids playing Hopscotch.

7. Hopscotch or Stapoo

This one’s a popular playground game. In Stapoo, the players have to throw a small object into the numbered spaces of a pattern of rectangles marked on the ground. Then, they have to hop or jump through the spaces to retrieve the object.

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8. Chhupam Chhupai or Hide-n-Seek

In this game, players hide in a marked area. They have to be found one by one by the seekers. The denner has to close his/her eyes and count, after which s/he tries to find other players.

9. Chor-Sipahi

In Chor-Sipahi, two teams play (one of thieves and others of ‘sipahi’). The sipahi try and catch the chor, after which the turn changes. This game was the Indian equivalent of the western game ‘Tag’.

10. Four Corners

In this game, four corners are designated, and a player is chosen as being ‘it’. The rest of the players have to swap corners without being caught by ‘it’. If a player is caught by ‘it’ or is without a corner to stand in, he becomes ‘it’. It is a game often played by primary school children.