Published By: Satavisha

From Dhopkhel To Vallamkali, Learn About Six Indigenous Lesser-Known Sports of India And How They Are Played

Hockey and Cricket are the two most popular and watched sports in India—but in a nation as vast as ours, with a variety of traditions and culture—many indigenous sports originated centuries ago and are still played in the country but are unknown to the world.

Have you heard about the Rural Olympics? While most modern Indians are only passionate about mainstream sports—the Rural Olympics or the Kila Raipur Sports Festival is a local sporting event held every year near Ludhiana (Punjab). In this sporting fest, some lesser-known Indian sports are enjoyed that have been in existence for many generations in that area. However, Punjab is not the only Indian state that holds such indigenous sports competitions. Let us take a quick look at some indigenous lesser-known sports of India.


In Mizoram, a northeastern state of India—Insuknawr is a common game that is played by the locals. The game is a lot like tug of war—however, instead of a rope—the players use a rod. The players aim to push their challenger off balance. The game comprises three rounds, and if neither player gets pushed out of the circle within which they are playing, the round is declared a draw.


Vallamkali is a popular racing event in Kerala and has become a significant part of a unique cultural festival in the state. It is an indigenous form of canoe racing—and this sporting festival is conducted around Onam, the harvest festival. The snake boats used in Vallamkali are crafted from wood extracted from the Anjili tree. While rowing the boats, the oarsmen sing songs to cope with exhaustion.

Elephant Polo

Elephant Polo is still played in the Indian state of Rajasthan. In elephant polo, the tuskers are steered by mahouts, who receive instructions from the players sitting on the back—to hit the ball.

The game offers three chances for the players to strike the ball without hooking the sticks. The elephants must not lie down until they reach their goals and are not allowed to pick the ball using their trunks.


This seasonal game is played during the Spring Festival of Assam (Rangoli Bihu). Of all the indigenous sports, Dhopkhel is the most unusual. Earlier, the game was played to entertain the royal members of the Ahom dynasty.

Both teams comprise eleven players each, and the game is played on a field (dimension: 125 m × 80 m). The ball is called ‘Dhop,’ and it is thrown at the players of the opponent team—and if the ball misses the opponent’s court, it needs to be thrown again. The players of the opposing team need to catch the shop, but if they fail, the players of the other team take the throw.

Yubee Lakpee

In Manipuri, Yubee means coconut, and lakpee translates to snatching. This outdoor sport is popular in Manipur, and shares some similarities with rugby. In this game, the coconut is used by the players like a ball. According to mythology, Yubee Lakpee was played on the pichakaree day—on the grounds of the Bijoy Govinda Temple—by players acting as demons and gods. Every year, the game is celebrated, and men re-enact the scene involving the snatching of a vessel of Amrit—from Hindu mythology.


‘Malla’ stands for gymnast, and ‘khamb’ refers to pole—the indigenous sport involves intricate balancing of the body on a tall wooden pole. Mallakhamb originated in the 12th century, and back in the day, wrestlers practised it as a warm-up exercise. This unique sport also has another version that is practised on a rope instead of a pole—and it is popular among youngsters.

In the bygone era, kids eagerly waited to go out with their friends and play some Kith-Kith (Hopscotch) or Pithoo. However, in the current scenario, children rarely engage in such games—as a result—they suffer from many health hazards due to lack of adequate physical exercise. Therefore, bringing back these almost forgotten indigenous games might positively impact your kids’ health.