India's array of sports stands as a testament to its diverse heritage, where traditions stretch back alive in sports through centuries.
India's legacy in sports spans across epochs, with many games originating from its soil leaving an indelible impression on the global stage. Take Kabaddi, for instance, a sport deeply rooted in Indian culture, which has transcended boundaries to captivate audiences worldwide. This rich heritage of sporting innovation continues to showcase India's profound influence in shaping the athletic landscape on a global scale. However, while most of us know about popular sports like cricket, football, and badminton, there's a fascinating world of lesser-known sports waiting to be discovered. These are the games that often fly under the radar, hidden from the spotlight and boasting their own unique and unusual appeal. From Inbuan to Elephant Polo, these sports offer a whole new level of excitement and intrigue for those willing to explore beyond the familiar. Let’s see some unusual sports in India that are unusual and unaware.
In Mizoram, Inbuan wrestling has been popular since the early 1750s. It takes place in a 15–16 feet circle on carpet or grass. Players aim to lift their opponent off the ground in three rounds that last 30 to 60 seconds each. They have to follow strict rules. Any excursion beyond the ring's confines or even the slightest knee bend stands forbidden. The taut belt or grasp of the rope encircling the waist must persist unyieldingly throughout the match, symbolizing the code of engagement.
For centuries, the time-honoured celebration of Kambala has thrived within Karnataka's bounds. This cherished tradition unfolds primarily along the coastal expanse, cheering the villages nestled in and around Mangalore and Udupi. Each year, this festivity hosts an array of 20 to over 40 exhilarating races. Despite the Supreme Court's prohibition due to concerns about animal welfare, these races persist, navigating through a landscape of strict regulations.
When in Kerala, witnessing the awe-inspiring spectacle of Kalarippayattu is a must. Revered as the foremost martial art form, Keralites cherish this tradition, boasting of its historical precedence. Its practice involves a meticulously crafted sword and shield, incorporating a blend of strikes, kicks, grappling, weaponry, and healing techniques. Mastery of this art takes years, and its performance is nothing short of breathtaking. With appearances in mainstream movies like "Asoka" (2001), "The Myth" (2005), "The Last Legion" (2007), "Commando" (2013), and "Baaghi" (2016), this martial art has garnered global recognition.
On the Nicobar Island, a traditional game unfolds—a thrilling sand canoe race. Crafted from coconut tree branches, these unique vessels set the stage for this exhilarating event. Teams of 15 to 20 participants mimic the canoeing stance, seated within these makeshift canoes. Through coordinated limb movements pressing against the sand, these canoes navigate their way forward, creating a riveting spectacle of skill and teamwork.
Once a favored pursuit among ancient royalty, Elephant Polo, a variant of the classic game played riding on elephants, found its cultural home primarily in Rajasthan. However, this storied sport faces an uncertain future due to mounting concerns regarding the welfare of the elephants involved. Introduced during the British colonial era, this adaptation emerged after the traditional horseback polo took root in India. It extended the sport's reach by positioning players atop majestic elephants. Beyond India, Elephant Polo also found popularity in countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Yet, the ongoing concerns for the well-being of these revered animals cast a shadow over the continuation of this once-celebrated pastime.