What are the most popular traditional sports in India?

Sport is an important aspect of Indian society. While tracing the chronicles of sports in India, the popular Atharva-Veda saying, “duty is in my right hand and the fruits of victory in my left,” will come to mind. This is because the saying is akin to the famous traditional Olympic oath, “for the honor of my country and the glory of sport.”

Sports in India can be traced to as far back as the Vedic period, 2500 – 600 BC. During those times, elites and men of stature in society played games like chess, archery, horse racing, to name but a few. Although many may not know it, contemporary sports played in many countries today, including the Olympics, have their origins in ancient India. Some of these sports are Chess, Snake & Ladder, Archery, Wrestling, to name but a few.

As a country replete with diversities, both in the religious and cultural sphere, India is home to a diversity of traditional sports and games peculiar to India alone. Some of the popular traditional sports played in India include:

  • Cricket

Cricket has and will remain one of the most popular traditional sports in India. Though it has transformed into the more modern sport it is today, cricket has evolved with the Indian generation. It has grown from being that backyard game to one many are playing on big stages and also betting on. Moreover, cricket players, including members of IPL 2022 teams, are treated as national stars. The passion, interest, and popularity of cricket in India is second to none.

  • Mallakhamb

This sport is a mixture of gymnastics and martial arts. Malla – gymnast, khamb – pole. As the name suggests, the sport is played by a gymnast hanging from a vertical wooden pole, cane, or a thick rope. The gymnast performs various poses and acrobatic feats while hanging from the wooden pole or rope. The game requires not only flexibility but also mental concentration and strength.  

  • Kho-Kho

Another popular traditional Indian sport is the Kho-Kho. It is one of the oldest games whose history can be traced to ancient India. It is a tag game played with 12 players on each team. It involves running while trying to avoid being touched by players in the rival team. It is a sport that any age group can play. Today, Kho-Kho is an international game played globally in over 25 countries.

  • Kabaddi

This is a popular sport played in rural India. It is a struggling game between two teams, typically requiring body strength and quick movements. It is a popular sport in Asian games, and India has won the gold medal for this sport many times, acquiring the title as the reigning champion in Kabaddi.

It appears that you’re missing out on a lot of fun in India if you are yet to give the Kabaddi game a try.

  • Thang-Ta

Thang – sword, Ta – spear Thang-Ta is part of an ancient Manipuri martial art sport – Huyen-Langlon, which comprises Thang-Ta (armed fighting) and Sarit-Sarak (unarmed combat).

As a part of Huyen Lagoon, Thang-Ta uses weapons like the sword and the spear. It is a popular traditional sport in India, similar to war dancing, and is divided into three main parts; ritualistic, combat, and demonstration.

  • Vallamkali

Vallamkali is a snake boat race that doubles as a major tourist attraction for indigenes of Indians and those who come to visit. Over the years, we’ve had many people come in from other countries to witness Vallamkali noting their thoughts about the game. It is an outdoor water sport that involves canoe racing and is usually conducted during the harvest of Onam.

Though the history of this game goes as far back as you can imagine, it is still embraced by many Indians, especially those in riverine areas. To liven up the mood of their environments, these people sometimes put together competitions.

  • Jallikattu

Another old but popular game with roots in ancient India is Jallikattu. It typically involves setting angry bulls against vibrant young men. The game requires skill, strength, expertise, and fast body movement, which can be dangerous for amateurs.

In ancient India, men loved to be confrontational and prepare themselves for what may lie ahead; they tried to engage with bulls. While these may sound surprising, many of these men spend days, weeks, months, and even years trying to train for this sport. The fun, the applause, defeat, or win are some of the high points of this sport.

Today, you may not find many of these traditional sports played out in India as they used to for many years. What you have now are the more common options like cricket and the Indian Premier League. People don’t play alone for these common options, but they put their money on the line hoping to win bigger sums if and when their team wins.


Other than these listed above, other popular Indian traditional games include Archery, Gilli-Danda, Camel-racing, etc. Being a country with a rich history of culture and religion, the development of these Indian games has been recognized to have been greatly influenced by these two factors; religion and culture. As a bettor who wants to stay in touch with these traditional Indian games, you can consider checking Parimatch website.