Langadi, kho-kho, pallanguzhi, and lagori are traditional Indian games and are part of the rich Indian culture and history. They have existed for many centuries and have found a place in ancient Indian scripts.
With the advent of online games, video games, and high-end gaming gadgets, these traditional Indian games have long been forgotten. Parents can teach their children to play these games, because they are fun, and ensure a certain amount of physical exercise. These games help develop your child’s motor and social skills.
We have compiled a list of Indian traditional games, both indoor and outdoor.
Traditional Indian Indoor Games
Traditional Indian indoor games usually require a lot of mental work and improve children’s problem-solving skills. Some of these games have also been adopted by the Western world, and now we know them by their more popular English names.
Pachisi or Chaupar is a well-known board game since it was the genesis of the Kurukshetra war in Mahabharata. The Mughals were fond of this game, too. Pachisi was traditionally played on a symmetrical cross cloth. On the other hand, Chaupar was a board game invented in the 4th century.
In both these games, two to four players use cowrie shells and dice to plan their maneuvers and attack opponents. Now, you call this game Ludo, one of the more popular games today. Pachisi or Chaupar is an excellent game to teach your child how to plan and execute.
This game is widely played in Tamil Nadu. As the name of the game suggests, Anchankal is a game composed of five stones. The game improves hand-eye coordination, concentration, memory, and aiming abilities. This is a very engaging game, and the best part is that you can create your own steps.
In the original game, you use five smooth stones that can be held in your hand. Place the stones on the floor or any flat surface. Pick one stone, toss it in the air, and while that stone is in the air, pick another stone from the ground, while catching the stone tossed in the air before it hits the ground. Repeat this with the rest of the stones.
You can continue this game by picking up different numbers of stones from the floor, or even throwing a different number of stones into the air, and then picking up other stones before other stones fall. It is important that you should not let the stones tossed in the air fall on the ground. It requires some practice, but once you master it, you can enjoy hours of entertainment.
Ashtapada is the predecessor of chess. Just like a chessboard, the Ashtapada board is also divided into an 8×8 square grids but of one color. Ashtapada is a dice game. There are markings on the corners and the center square of the board. These squares are called castles. The pieces on these squares are safe, captured, or removed by the opponents.
Each player starts with an even number of pieces to play the game. The pieces must be moved clockwise around the board to enter the castle on the outer edge. Then they enter the castle in the center in a clockwise direction. This is a game to reach the castle.
Another variation of Ashtapada is Dasapada that is played on a 10×10 board.
Chaturanga is an ancient strategy game invented in India. It is believed to be the ancestor of strategy games, such as Chess, Xiangqi, Shogi, and Makruk. Chaturanga is mentioned in many ancient scripts. It is played on the Ashtapada board. There are two players.
Just like modern chess, Chaturanga has various pieces — the King (Raja), General (Mantri or Senapati), Rook (Ratha), Elephant/Bishop (Gaja), Horse/Knight (Ashva), and Pawn (Padaati or Bhata). Each piece moves in a certain direction.
The ultimate goal is to get the opponent’s king into trouble so that he cannot move without being taken by the enemy. Kings and generals played this game to gain new ideas about the form of war offensive.
It is believed that this ancient game originated in Tamil Nadu but later spread to other states such as Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Karnataka. This game gained popularity even in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. The game is still played in some rural parts of India and is called Kuzhipara, Ali Guli Mane, or Picchala Peeta in different languages.
In this game, we use a rectangular board that is divided into two rows and seven cups. Players must use 146 counters to put in these cups. These counters are usually cowrie shells or tamarind shells. Each cup contains 12 counters. In the middle row cups, only two counters are placed. There are two players taking turns.
The starting player picks the counters from any of the holes on their side and assigns a counter to each cup in a counterclockwise direction. Once they reach the end of their cups, they move on to their opponent’s cups. When their counters are over, they pick the counters from the next cup and continue the game. If the last counter falls into a cup with an empty cup beyond, the counters in the next cup are captured by the player. The next player takes over.
The game continues until the last counter falls in a cup with two empty cups beyond it. The player can capture no more counters, and their turn is over.
In this intricate game, there are other rules that make it interesting. Although this game is best played between two players, even one person can play the game on a lazy afternoon. Pallankuzhi can be played by both children and adults.
Antakshari is one of the most popular traditional Indian games. The game is played widely in social gatherings and weddings. Children play it in their free time at school. The best thing about this game is that it can also be played in a small space, just like when traveling in a car.
Antakshari is the best way to spend time. You need to have a repertoire of songs to play this game. You can play this game in a team. Each team sings in turns, starting from the last letter of the previous song sung by the other team.
7. Moksha Patam
Moksha Patam or Parama Padam is a board game that is believed to have been invented in ancient India and has spread to other parts of the world. Now, it is commonly called Snakes and Ladders. In ancient India, it was used as a form of entertainment and to teach morality to children.
The basic concept is to teach people that the way to reach heaven or “moksha” is to abandon the bondage of passion. The ladder symbolizes the rise from one level of enlightenment to another, while the snake symbolizes immoral behavior and how they lead to degeneration. This game is played by two to four players. The first player to reach the “highest heaven” is the winner.
8. Aadu puli aatam
Aadu puli aatam literally means “a game of lambs and tigers.” It is called meka puli aata in Telugu and aadu huli aata in Kannada. This is a two-player game where the tigers hunt goats on an asymmetric grid.
In this game, first, draw a triangle and divide it into three equal parts. Then, draw a rectangle on the entire triangle, intersecting it throughout. Then divide the rectangle horizontally into two parts. One player has 15 “goats,” and the other player has three “tigers.” Each of these pieces is placed at the intersection point. Tigers try to eat goats, and goats try to actively stop them. The pieces are usually cowrie shells or pebbles.
This is another four-player game that is similar to Chaupar or Ludo. The goal of the game is to achieve home safety without getting removed by the opponents’ pieces. The game is popular all over India and is known under different names, such as Eight and Four, Kattam Kalo, Chauka Baara, Changapoo, Ettu Veedu, Kattam Kazhi, and Aada Sada.
10. Pancha kone
Pancha kone is a popular Indian traditional game. You can find this game board engraved on ancient temples and monuments all over India. Pancha kone means five corners or five cones. It is played on a board with five-point stars painted on it. This is a strategy game that requires the player to move around the board and finally with a single piece. Chinese checkers is based on this game.
11. Kalaney belaney
Kalaney belaney literally means “black elephant, white elephant”. It is believed that this Indian game originated in Karnataka. It is a simple game for two players. Each player has a number of pieces that they arrange on their side of the board. The first player rolls the dice. They remove the opponent’s pieces from the board according to the number on the dice. The player whose pieces are standing, in the end, is the winner.
Lattoo refers to the traditional spinning top, and even today, it is still highly sought after among children in rural India. The game has existed since ancient times and has been an evergreen game for generations. In the early days, these tops were made of clay. Later, they were made of wood. Today, you can find plastic tops. These tops have steel pointed nib at the bottom. They come with a long string.
The player has to wrap the string around the top as tightly as they can. Then, they must hold the other end of the string and throw the top parallel to the ground, unwinding the string and making the top spin on the ground. If there are many children playing this game, they can start a competition on who has the longest spin time.
Traditional Indian Outdoor Games
These games perfectly blend physical strength and endurance with mental exercise. These outdoor games will provide children with much-needed exercises, but also help them learn basic life skills such as teamwork and strategy. These games also help improve children’s stamina, core strength, balance, and hand-eye coordination.
13. Gilli danda
The Gilli danda can be compared to baseball and cricket, except that it does not use a traditional bat. In this game, two pieces of wood are used — a small piece of wood that is called gilli and a longer piece of wood called danda. The gilli is equivalent to the ball, and the danda is equivalent to the bat. Two teams are required to play this game. Each team can have any number of players.
The gilli is placed on the ground. One player from the first team takes the danda in their hand and hits the gilli hard. The aim is to hit it as far as possible. Immediately, the team members of the other team rush to catch it. If they catch it before it hits the ground, they get the chance to bat. Otherwise, another team member from the first team will repeat the process.
Kho-kho is a high-intensity strategic game that is very popular in India. In fact, it is one of the most popular Indian traditional games and is also widely played in Indian villages and in many cities. Schools often hold interschool kho-kho competitions.
In this game, there are two teams, each with nine players. A team of eight players squat on the ground in a row, each player facing alternate directions, and one player is an active chaser. The chaser runs around a player who is the runner. The goal of the game is that the chaser should touch the runner.
The runner can run between the sitting players, but the chaser must run from end to end. However, the chaser can touch any of the sitting players saying, “kho,”and the player takes the place of the chaser while the chaser takes the place of the sitter. The pace of this game is fast, lasting more than half an hour.
15. Chhuppan chhuppai
Chhuppan chhuppai is most famous for its English name “Hide and Seek.” Any number of players can play this game, and kids of all ages like to play it. One player has to take the “den,” and the other players go and hide in different places while the “denner” counts to ten. They must search for the hidden players. The first person caught assumes the den in the next round. If one of the players touches the denner without their knowledge, the denner has to take up the den again. This game teaches children how to play together.
16. Aankh micholi
Aankh micholi is a variation of Chhuppan Chhuppai. In this game, the denner is blindfolded, and the other players run around them, calling them out or touching them slightly. If the denner touches one of the players, they are blindfolded next. This game helps develop your child’s sensory skills, improve alertness, and exercise their tactical sense.
Kancha or goti is a traditional Indian game that attracts people of all ages. Usually, you will find a group of children playing this game on the street. It is played using green glass marbles known as kancha. These marbles are placed within a circle. The goal is to hit a specific marble with another marble from outside the circle.
Hold the marble with the forefinger of the left hand and two fingers of the right hand. The forefinger is pulled back as far as it can go and released. The marble flies to the target and hits the selected marble. In an advanced version, you can select where the marble has to go exactly, just like in golf. Any number of players can play kancha, and it is very popular because it can be played on any surface and in any weather.
Lagori, lingocha, and sitoliya are some of the names of this traditional Indian game played with stones and a ball. There are two teams in this game, each with at least three players. Before the game starts, stack seven or eight flat stones on top of each other. Each team has nine chances to knock the stones down using the ball.
Once the stones are hit, the other team grabs the ball and tries to hit any player of the first team below the knees. At the same time, the first team tries to rebuild the pile of stones. If no player from the first team is hit before the stack is complete, they get a point. If any player is hit, the other team gets points.
The game continues, and other teams take turns to compete. It is a very interesting game that children like to play.
19. Kith kith
Kith kith is also called stapoo and is popularly known by its English name, Hopscotch. This is a traditional Indian game for children aged 6-12. You need some space, chalk, and a stone to play this game. Draw a grid on the ground with the chalk and number it. Each player has a chance to throw the pebbles. The square where the pebble falls is where the player must jump around. Players must hop in order to reach the targeted square.
20. Vish amrit
This is another popular game among school children. This is an outdoor game that involves many children. One player becomes a “denner” and runs behind other players. The moment they touch any other player, they say “vish” which means poison. The touched player must sit down and cannot move until another player comes and touches them to give them “amrit” or nectar. This is a fun game that can cultivate children’s social skills and agility. The game is also called Lock and Key in some places.
21. Kokla chapaki
This is a very popular game among children aged 4-8. It is also called the Drop the Handkerchief game. Children in Punjab often play this game. There can be any number of players. You only need a piece of cloth.
All the players, except one, form a circle. The standing player starts running around the sitting players in a circle carrying a handkerchief. They sing the song “Kokla chapaki jumeraat aayi aye jera agge pichey wekhey odhi shamat aayi aye.”
While running in this way, the player places the handkerchief behind one of the players. The player behind whom the handkerchief is placed, picks it up and starts running behind the tagger. The tagger tries to occupy the vacated place before being caught by the chaser.
One of them sits down, and the other continues the game with a handkerchief. This game requires players to be vigilant at all times to know when the handkerchief falls behind them. This game helps to develop endurance and observation skills.
Kabaddi is a traditional Indian game that it is now played at a national level. There are Kabaddi championships that are held all over the country, and many people of all ages participate in these competitions.
In Kabaddi, there are two teams, each with seven players. Each occupies one side in a rectangular court, and the court is divided at the center. When the game starts, one of the players on the first team starts saying, “kabaddi, kabaddi” without pausing for breath.
The two teams must try to score a point through offense and defense. When attacking, the offensive team sends the raider into the opponent’s half. The raider must touch another member of the opponent’s team to score. When defending, the goal is to capture the raiders by dropping them to the ground or simply preventing them from returning to their half until they run out of breath.
23. Posham pa
This is an outdoor game played by three or more players. The age group for this game is 4-8 years. Two players join hands to form a “gate”. They sing a song. The other players pass through it in a line. After the song ends, the gatekeepers lower their arms and trap the player inside. The game continues till all the players have been caught in the gate.
The game is played differently in different regions of India. In some places, the trapped player is asked a question secretly, and the answer they give will determine which team they join. Once the two teams are formed, they play a brief game of tug-of-war. The team that manages to pull the opponent team wins.
Dhopkel is a game mainly played in Assam. It is somewhat similar to Kabaddi. Dhop is the name of the rubber ball that two teams throw into each other’s courts over through the center line. The purpose of the game is to allow the player of one team to bring back the ball from the opponent’s team without being caught.
25. Maram pitthi
This game is the Indian equivalent of Dodgeball. There are two teams scattered throughout the field. Players of one team try to hit the players of the opposing team with a sponge ball. Once a player is hit, they are out of the game. The ball can be passed between the players of the same team.
All these are traditional Indian games that have existed for several generations, but some of them have been gradually forgotten. If you want to reduce your child’s screen time, then encourage them to play these games. All traditional Indian games have been designed not only for entertainment but also for the development of skills. Try these games to spend quality time with your loved ones.
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