Kabaddi : Origin, History and popularity

Aug 18, 2016 · 8 min read

In India, people are now recognizing kabaddi as a great sport after the advent of Pro Kabaddi League. Here I am trying to have a look back to where it all started and how it all began and how we reached here.

Since prehistoric times sports are the principal means of man’s entertainment. The people of ancient civilizations such as the Chinese, Greek, Indus, Egyptians and Mesopotamia gave importance to sports. In the modern era the importance of sports have reached its zenith.

Kabaddi is also known as Hututu, Do-do and Ghidugudu. It is an ancient mass based group game, which is played in most of the tropical countries of Tities. It is popularly known as Hadudu in Bangladesh, Gudu in Sri Lanka, The Chub in Indonesia, Kabaddi in India and Pakistharaditional outdoor rural sport in Bangladesh.
In their leisure in the afternoon, young men in Gazipur, about 35 kilometers north of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, are having fun through playing traditional outdoor sports called hadudu (ha-du-du). The sport is also popular in Nepal, Bangladesh,Srilanka, Japan and Pakistan.

In our country sports have formed an important part of our culture. In the Vedic texts there is a mention of horse riding, hunting and wrestling. In the epic age, various team games such as hide and seek and kabaddi were popular. In the modern era lezium games have developed. Other games such as cricket, hockey, tennis, volleyball, ring ball, football etc have developed after the advent of western civilization.

Kabaddi is a team sport originally from Tamil Nadu India. Two teams occupy opposite halves of a field and take turns sending a “raider” into the other half, in order to win points by tagging or wrestling members of the opposing team; the raider then tries to return to his own half, holding his breath during the whole raid. The origin of Kabaddi can be traced to pre-historic times when man learned how to defend in groups against animals or attack weaker animals individually or in groups for survival and food. Though Kabaddi is primarily an South Asian game, not much is known about the origin of this game. There is, however, concrete evidence, that the game is 4,000 years old.There is a popular belief that Kabaddi originated in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu. The story of origination of Kabaddi begins by hitting and running of a boy for a candy. The boy who was hit chased the boy who hit him, and hit him back and ran away and it goes on this way. Holding the breath while chasing was an added element when the game evolved. There are various names to this game.

Kabaddi Federations
The Kabaddi Federation of India (KFI) was founded in 1950 , and it compiled a standard set of rules. The Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India was founded in 1973 . The AKFI has given new shape to the rules and it has also the rights of modification in the rules. The Asian Kabaddi Federation was founded under the chairmanship of Sharad Pawar.
Kabaddi is a very popular game in Bangladesh , especially in the villages it is also called the ‘game of rural Bengal’. In some areas Kabaddi is also known as Ha-du-du. But despite its popularity Ha-du-du had no definite rules and it used to be played with different rules in different areas. Ha-du-du was given the name Kabaddi and the status of National Game of Bangladesh in 1972 .
Bangladesh Amateur Kabaddi Federation was formed in 1973 . It framed rules and regulations for the game. Bangladesh first played a Kabaddi test in 1974 with a visiting Indian team, which played test matches with the district teams of Dhaka , Tangail , Dinajpur , Jessore , Faridpur and Comilla . In 1978 , the Asian Amateur Kabaddi Federation was formed at a conference of delegates from Bangladesh , India , Nepal and Pakistan in the Indian town of Villai .
In 1979 , a return test between Bangladesh and India was held at different places of India including Mumbai , Hyderabad , and Punjab . The Asian Kabaddi Championship was successfully arranged in 1980 and India emerged as the champion and Bangladesh as the runners-up. Bangladesh became runners-up again in 1985 in Asian Kabaddi Championship held in Jaipur , India. The other teams included in the tournament were Nepal , Malaysia and Japan.

Kabaddi was played as a demonstration sport at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. The game was included for the first time in Asian Games held in Beijing in 1990 . Eight countries took part including India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Srilanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. India won the medal and has since won at the following three Asian Games in Hiroshima in 1994 , Bangkok in 1998 and Busan in 2002 .
Players at the competitive level are usually well-built, strong and also at the same time need to be swift, agile and have high levels of stamina and endurance to be good at all aspects of the game. There is a lot of strategising which forms part of the game play and the players need to be in prime mental and physical condition to successfully participate in a game of kabaddi, else serious injuries may often result. HA-DU-DU (a form of KABADDI), the national game of Bangladesh — is almost there on the edge of oblivion. Young generation do not practice their national game and are widely attracted by the colonial game “Cricket”. The festivities mode of rural sports has lost by loosing the local and traditional games like “ha-du-du”. The youth are mostly attracted to short and less physical games in Bangladesh. Presently, the new generation among city dwellers don’t even know how to play Ha-du-du — or even, what it is! However, a decade earlier, after the harvest, rural people everywhere in Bangladesh would organize Ha-du-du and Kabaddi game. The thing is, the effects of globalization, open market economy and westernized visions — are changing our cultural behavior — making us indistinguishable and deviating us from our originality. And we are getting used to with it. We are learning to live our lives on copied cultural views! But changes do come — and changes do get replaced again.
Some people may even argue… maybe, like 1000 years ago, there was a different game. And our ancestors replaced it with Ha-du-du. Kabaddi is known by various names, Ha-du-du (Men) and Chu — Kit-Kit (women)


In the ‘Amar’ form of Kabaddi, whenever any player is touched he does not go out of the court, but stays inside, and one point is awarded to the team that touched him. This game is also played on a time basis, i.e the time is fixed. This form of kabaddi is played in Punjab, Canada, England, New Zealand, USA, Pakistan and Australia. In the Amar form of Kabaddi, each team consists of 5–6 stoppers and 4–5 raiders. At one time, only 4 stoppers are allowed to play on the field. Every time a stopper stops the raider from going back to his starting point, that stoppers team gets 1 point. on the other hand, every time the raider tags one of the stoppers and returns to his starting point, his team gets one point. At one time, only one of the stoppers can try to stop the raider. If more than one touch the raider, an automatic point is awarded to the raider’s team. If the stopper is pushed out by the raider or vice versa, then the team whose member is still in the field gets a point. If both the raider and the stopper go out, the result is a common point, where nobody gets a point. The Amar form of kabaddi is also used by the World Kabaddi Federation in its National, Beach and Circle Kabaddi competitions.


‘Surjeevani’ Kabaddi is played under the Kabaddi Federation of India, governed by its rules. In Surjeevani Kabaddi, one player is revived against one player of the opposite team who is out, one out, one in. The duration, the number of players, dimensions of the court, etc. have been fixed by the Kabaddi Federation of India. This form of Kabaddi is the closest to the present game. In this form of Kabaddi, players are put out and revived and the game lasts 40 minutes with a 5-minute break in between. There are nine players on each side. The team that puts out all the players on the opponent’s side scores four extra points for a ‘Iona’. The winning team is the one that scores most points after 40 minutes. The field is bigger in this form of Kabaddi and the ‘cant’ different in various regions. Modern Kabaddi resembles this form of Kabaddi especially with regard to ‘out’.
The game, known as Hu-Tu-Tu in Western India, Ha-Do-Do in Eastern India and Bangladesh, Chedugudu in Southern India and Kaunbada in Northern India, has changed through the ages. Modem Kabaddi is a synthesis of the game played in various forms under different names.

A dramatized version of the Mahabharata has made an analogy of the game to a tight situation faced by a character called “Abhimanyu”, heir of the Pandava kings, when surrounded by the enemy. Buddhist literature speaks of the Gautam Buddha playing Kabaddi.

Kabaddi received international exposure during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, demonstrated by Hanuman Vyayam Prasarak Mandal, Amaravati, Maharashtra. The game was introduced in the Indian Olympic Games at Calcutta in 1938. In 1950 the All India Kabaddi Federation came into existence and compiled standard rules. After formation of the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India, the first men’s nationals were held in Madras while the women’s were in Calcutta in 1955.The AKFI has given new shape to the rules and has the right to modify them. The Asian Kabaddi Federation was founded under the chairmanship of Mr. Janardan Singh Gehlot.
Asian Amateur Kabaddi Federation is now headed By Mr. Janardan Singh Gehlot as President and Mr. Muhammad Sarwar as Secretary General.
Kabaddi was introduced and popularized in Japan in 1979. The Asian Amateur Kabaddi Federation sent Prof. Sundar Ram of India to tour Japan for two months to introduce the game.
In 1979, a return test between Bangladesh and India was held at different places of India including Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Punjab. The Asian Kabaddi Championship was arranged in 1980 and India emerged as champion and Bangladesh runner-up. Bangladesh became runner-up again in 1985 in the Asian Kabaddi Championship held in Jaipur, India. The other teams in the tournament were Nepal, Malaysia and Japan. The game was included for the first time in the Asian Games in Beijing in 1990. India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh took part. India won the gold medal and has won gold at the following three Asian Games in Hiroshima in 1994, Bangkok in 1998 and Busan in 2002. India won the gold medal in the 2006 Asian Games at Doha.
Attempts to popularize kabaddi in Great Britain saw British TV network Channel 4 commission a programme dedicated to the sport. The show, Kabaddi, on Channel 4 in the early 1990s, failed to capture viewers despite fixtures such as West Bengal Police versus the Punjab. Kabaddi was axed in 1992, but not before its presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy suffered a collapsed lung while participating in the sport.
In the 1998 Asian games the Indian Kabaddi team defeated Pakistan in a thrilling final match at Bangkok . The chief coach of the team was former kabaddi player and coach Flt. Lt. S P Singh.

The first World Kabaddi Championship was held in Hamilton, Canada, when 14,000 people at the Copps Coliseum watched top players from India, Pakistan, Canada, England and the United States. The next edition was in Surrey, British Columbia, which hosts the first all-kabaddi stadium. India has remained world champion since it was included in Asian Games and South Asian Federation games. In 2008 Sukhbir Singh Badal mooted a professional world kabbadi league with sponsorship to attract the best players; this league will be based in India with tournaments in Canada as well. The current Kabaddi Championship team consists of several local Indian players, Himanshu Batta, Ravi Venkataya, Harman Dhaliwal, Kapil Singh and Mayank Gauri.

Kabaddi is now a very popular game and is a regular sport in Asian Games, Asian Indoor Games and Asian Beach Games apart from SAF Games. Kabaddi was a demonstration sport during Commonwealth Games 2010 at New Delhi.