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Kabaddi In India: Origins, success and current pitiable state

Tej Manohar
Modified 07 Mar 2014
Indian kabaddi team celebrates winning the gold medal by defeating Pakistan at 2006 Asian Games

Indian kabaddi team celebrates winning the gold medal by defeating Pakistan at 2006 Asian Games

Kabaddi in our country has a glorious history. The game is widely believed to have originated in India about 40 centuries ago, albeit without any solid evidence of that. The purpose of this sport then was to act as a medium of self-protection and obviously, to better the individuals physically.

Kabaddi is a celebrated sport in India, particularly at the grass-root level, among the rural folk. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, and Karnataka have kabaddi as their state sport.

The best aspect about the game is its simplicity. There are no requirements of an extensive playing field, equipment or ambiguous rules.

Origin of the game

Modern-day kabaddi has been formulated by taking into account the salient features of its various forms. The world got the first glimpse of this game during the Berlin Summer Olympics in 1936. The Hanuman Vyayam Prasarak Mandal, a group from Amravati, Maharashtra specializing in this art, performed at the big stage and left one and all amazed and fascinated.

The global attention only helped to further the progress of the game within India as well. In 1938, kabaddi made its way into the Indian Olympic Games. 12 years later, kabaddi in India received a governing body in the name of KFI (Kabaddi Federation of India). The KFI laid down the standard regulations for the game.

The Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) was established in 1973. It brought about a few changes in the rules. Subsequently, national games were organized for both men (in Madras) and women (in Calcutta).

Kabaddi forms in India

The sport is recognized in five forms in India, namely, Suranjeevii, Gaminee, Amar, Circle, Goongi –  the first two being internationally accredited.


Suranjeevi: The rules of this form of kabaddi involve one player of a competing side being revived against a player of the adversary side (who is declared out). Hence, the total number of players on both sides, which is 18, remains constant throughout. It is a 40-minute match carved up into two halves.

A four-point bonus is earned by a team which gets all the members of the playing IX of the opposition out. This bonus is termed as ‘Lona’. The team which ends up with more points post the 40-minute duration is declared as the winner.

Intoning is an integral part of Suranjeevi kabaddi, though it differs in respective states and regions.  The revival and ‘lona’ system which originated from this form have been incorporated in international kabaddi.

The KFI (Kabaddi Federation of India) determines the regulations and basic playing conditions of a Suranjeevi kabaddi match. Suranjeevi form is nearly the same as modern-day kabaddi. It is the most extensively played form at the national and international level.

Gaminee:  Gaminee is a classical form of kabaddi. It is, kind of, comparable to Test cricket as far as the condition that a team has to pick up all the 20 wickets of the opposition to win a match is concerned.

Similarly, in Gaminee, for a team to win, all the players in the opposition camp have to be declared out. Moreover, there is no time limit in Gaminee.


Gaminee form doesn’t feature the ‘revival’ rule. A player has to be skilful enough by an extra yard than in Surjeevani, given that once he/she is declared out, he/she cannot be ‘revived.’ Hence, the luck factor, too, comes into play.

Amar:  Amar resembles the Surjeevani form of kabaddi to an extent, especially in the time frame rule. In this form, a player who is declared out doesn’t leave the court, but instead stays inside, and the play goes along. For every player of the opposition touched ‘out,’ a team earns a point.

Amar is highly popular in Punjab.

Circle: Circle kabaddi, as the name indicates, is played in a circle. Its rules exactly resemble that of Amar, except for the formations. This form of kabaddi is extremely popular in the states of North India. Circle kabaddi is practiced in the Asia Kabaddi Cup.

Goongi:  Goongi kabaddi is different from all other forms. It involves grappling between two players. Goongi kabaddi isn’t played on organized playing courts.

India’s achievements in kabaddi

The Indian national team, on expected lines, has won virtually everything at the world stage. The Kabaddi World Cup has always been India’s since its inception in 2004. In the final of the first edition, India hammered Iran by a huge margin of 55-27.

The second edition’s final, however, was a closer contest, with India still managing to outsmart Iran by a thin margin of 29-19. The third was even tighter, where India beat Pakistan by 58-51.

The 2011 and 2012 editions were almost like walkovers for India as it thumped Canada and Pakistan by margins of 59-25 and 59-22 respectively. Last year’s final saw Pakistan unable to seek vengeance over India, losing by 39-48.


The women’s World Cup was instituted in 2012. The Indian team notched up the title in the inaugural edition by getting the better of Iranian girls by 25-19. They managed to retain the title in 2013 by humiliating the New Zealanders 49-21.

Indian men even clinched the widely-popular UK Kabaddi Cup, held in the year gone by.

When it comes to the Asian Games, again it’s India all the way. Men’s kabaddi was introduced in the 1990 Asian Games. The Indian team has won all the six gold medals since its induction in the Asian Games. The women’s category was introduced in the 2010 games wherein India clinched the gold.

Some of the prominent names in Indian kabaddi include Shri Shantaram Jaatu, Shri Sadanand mahadeo Shetty, Kumari Maya Kashi Nath, Kumari Monika Nath, etc.

Kabaddi players living in oblivion

It is a pity that kabaddi in India hasn’t had the kind of attention that it deserves. Cricket is the centre of all focus in India. And this is despite India having won all the Kabaddi World Cup trophies till date in both men’s and women’s categories.

The players put in their best efforts to win the most prized tourneys only to receive a small corner column in the sports page of the most renowned newspapers. The sports channels can’t compromise with their TRPs by featuring a half-hour show on kabaddi. The advertising agencies don’t find the eye-catching X-factor in these players.

In the last decade or so, all we have witnessed are assurances and tall claims. Hardly has any action come into being with respect to development of the sport.


To make matters worse, corruption has seeped into the administration of the game. Allegations of money laundering are being made against the Punjab government, the organizers of the Kabaddi World Cup. It is averred that last year’s tourney was sponsored through black money. This is a huge blow to a sport which is yet to develop.

Kabaddi has been living in a state of ignominy in our country. It’s not just the government and the AKFI which must review this fact, but various private corporate entities also need to come forward and help the game in financial and other respects.

Even BCCI, the richest governing body in the world of cricket, can take a step or two to promote the game. Its goodwill will suffer no harm by doing so.

The urban masses ought to overcome their prejudices regarding kabaddi as a rural, humble sport. Indians have historically been unreceptive to new ideas. We follow but do not initiate.

The ideologies have to transform, the perceptions have to evolve. Receptiveness has to percolate beneath us. And this won’t materialize unless we watch the sport. How else will we realize and discern the incredibly riveting side of kabaddi!

Published 07 Mar 2014, 22:22 IST
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