Why is India the Champion in Kabaddi?

R Jayaraman

Author: R Jayaraman

Date: Mon, 2016-10-24 10:15

In the recently concluded World Cup for kabaddi in Ahmedabad, India once again emerged the champion. Iran came in second. This is one game in which the country has shown its calibre. Three years in a row. One reason could be because in kabaddi one has to resort to surgical strikes. And these days such strikes have become much talked about and it has come to notice that Indians are good at it. However, it goes back a long time.

Duryodhana used the surgical technique to occupy the top of the cot position to enable Krishna to sight him first, so that he could get his support for the Kurukshetra war. Arjuna was beaten to the strike, but emerged the eventual winner. But Duryodhana got what he wanted – he was after the Yadava armies and not Krishna himself, who had already declared that he will not take up arms in the war. Should it ever take place, he added carefully. Even in those days quantity was given priority over quality. I wish Boeing had been born many eons before it eventually did – then its slogan “Quantity – we can count, Quality – we can count on" could have been heard by Duryodhana. Maybe the war could have been prevented. But then that would have prevented the declaration of the world’s greatest poem – the Bhagavad Gita.

Kabaddi is a game where one needs to be on one's toes, literally. One's legs carry one to the enemy territory and they should carry one back – only then can one count on points. This is one game where the legs get the highest importance, like in no other game. Not even football where the most famous goal has been credited to the “hand of God”.

Kabaddi is one game where one can – and is called upon to – to pull one's legs. Indians are naturally good at this and this could give them a natural advantage. Pulling legs is an old pastime in India. Yamaraja tried it with Satyavan but Savitri figured it out and pulled her husband out of harm’s way. The story of the poor Brahmin and the tiger which lured him into the pool with the promise of gold bangles told in the Panchatantra, informs us that as soon as the poor Brahmin got into the pool his legs got pulled into the quagmire and the tiger got its meal. It is another point of interest, although not central to our blog , that in all old stories in the Panchatantra or any other Purana the Brahmin is always referred to as the “poor Brahmin”, no wonder that Brahmins in kalyuga are thinking to improve their lot.


Pulling legs is an ancient occupation. When one bathes in a river or a pond one must be very careful. Once I had been to a small agraharam near Tiruchi, where we had gone for a divyanaamam concert with our guruji. We had to go to the Cauvery for a bath and I stepped into the river with a prayer in my mind, but misjudged the current velocity and the sudden drop in the height under water, being totally unaware of the floor profile of the riverbed. My legs got pulled swiftly by the current, had I not held on to the towel thrown in my direction by my guruji, they would have had to pull out only my body. I pulled my legs out in time and escaped certain death. Pulling legs can be serious business.

Is there any relationship between the art of pulling legs and the Indian’s ability to survive the vicissitudes of life? Take the case of that quintessential Indian – the Indian politician. Much maligned he may be but he has learnt the art of pulling legs to a fine point. He can pull himself out of any situation, witness the cases of Raghubir Yadav and Rocky Yadav, of recent news mentions. These are only the small fry; Lalu is perhaps the best example of the survivor politician who has pulled not only legs but everything else to keep himself in power and pelf.

Getting back to kabaddi, I am sure the western countries are now busy plotting how to pull the rugs from under the legs of the Indian teams. Recall that when we were the best in field hockey, they pulled out the field from under us, put in the artificial turf, to suit their style of play – muscle (many times built up through steroids and drugs) and brawn, and then got a thirty years + advantage. Indians were too poor to lay these turfs and practise. It was all done with great finesse. They couldn’t do it in cricket because of the BCCI and our financial strength. So, one way to keep your legs from being pulled is to be strong and mighty. The world is still in the “might is right” mood.


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I would like to congratulate the Indian Kabaddi team for winning the world cup for the third time in succession. Luckily, I got the opportunity to watch this match and I was really thrilled with the way our team fought back in the second half to bring home the trophy. The author in the blog jokingly mentions that we are able to beat others in kabaddi because it involves pulling one’s legs, which we are naturally good at. Jokes apart this game particularly needs the skill of pulling your opponents legs and not let him leave your court until he runs out of breath. The game is mix of skill, strength, swiftness and the ability to hold one’s breath. The game happens to be amongst the most popular ones played especially in the rural parts of India. With the sheer population of our country and kabaddi being amongst the favorite sports, we as a country have been blessed to witness some of the best players in action. The other factor which seems to be helping players is the introduction of the pro kabaddi league – a multi franchise kabaddi league system. This has enabled players to earn a decent amount of money helping them turn to full time professionals. The blog also mentions the after effects of switching to artificial turf in the game of hockey and how India lost from being the best to also rans due to the lack of proper infrastructure. Indians will surely hope that such a thing does not happen with kabaddi. But India should be aware of the fact that other countries are watching us and trying to catch up. Iranians and Koreans at present have some good talent in their teams. These teams also happen to be the ones who gave India a strong fight in the matches when India played against them. Some of the countries have also hired Indian coaches to learn the art of kabaddi. Overall the situation seems favorable for the game in India and the administrators will do a great service to the game if they are proactive and invest sufficient funds back to the game in finding new talent and building the required world class infrastructure.

Dear Sir, The blog stands out for bringing out the humorous side of the Indian team winning the Kabaddi World Cup consecutively and its relation to the leg-pulling attitude of the Indian mind set. While this is true. It would not be completely fair, to not credit the relation that Kabaddi, as a sport, has with India specifically. Kabaddi goes a long way back into the history of India, with some forms of the game also mentioned in Mahabharata. It has been a game of tactics and skills, which help you, as you, mentioned, pull legs of the opponent, sometimes literally. In the state of Haryana, and certain other states in North India, I have witnessed “akhada”, the gyms meant for kabaddi training. I used to hear stories about the training that goes inside these gyms. They break the ears, train like bulls to get that stamina and power that can help you pull the opponent or opponents, if I might say, across the border line. That is why you would have seen, there was no equal for the Indian team in the Kabaddi World Cup, because this is one sport, where the players are prepared as soon as they learn to walk. In the end, I would like to take this opportunity to credit the players and their coaches for their effort in making India unbeatable, in Kabaddi atleast.

Brilliant series of analogies by Prof R Jayaram drawn from extremely rich Indian cultural roots to explain the overwhelming success of the country in the sport. There are numerous reasons for popularity of the sport in India. Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), a venture by Marshal sports has been extremely popular in India. PKL has an unbelievable huge viewership base above 500 million which is second highest after cricket in India. Kabaddi as a sport has reborn in India after the establishment of PKL leading to a growing interest and popularity across demography’s. The prime reason for popularity of Kabaddi in India are: 1. Quick Sport – Kabaddi is a fast-paced game with average time required much shorter as compared to other sports. 2. Low Cost Sport – It does not require fancy equipment and can be played anywhere. It does not cost anything and can be compared to extreme popularity of football in African & South American countries which can be attributed to the low-cost requirement to play the game. 3. Player Involvement – High player involvement makes the game leads to complexities making the game more unpredictable. This unpredictable nature of the game creates excitement and engagement of viewers to a large scale thereby increasing its popularity. Though popularity of the sport has been increasing exponentially in India after the advent of PKL, the sport was not so popular in the country before, even though it was invented in India. The major challenge ahead is many countries are still not aware about the sport and requires to be promoted world-wide to gain popularity and recognition at a global level.

The sport of kabaddi originated in ancient India in the region of what is now called Tamil Nadu, spreading its roots to other neighbouring states and countries to the point that it is now the national sport of Bangladesh. India has perfected the art of sending a ‘raider’ to go into the opponent’s half to collect points by touching opponents and returning to own half while preserving it owns territory when opponents do the same. The perfection is reflected in the gold medals won in the Asian Games (India has won all of them) and the winning the Kabaddi world cup (India has won all of them). But the similarity doesn’t end just on the field. Indians have been travelling to the western world to earn (the brain drain) for ages and have raided the modern countries for jobs, wealth to the point where many modern countries have people of Indian origins as the richest people in the country Indians are known to expertly pull other's leg and it can be seen from the fact that at least 20 million Indians are born every year in a country and each one is expected to get a job by the time they turn 21- lack of opportunity. Add to it the burgeoning hostility of babu system and red tape where a note of clearance unless attached by at least 10 more clearance from other departments is not deemed worthy enough to approve (sometimes currency notes tend to shorten the process)- frustrating processes. These instances tell us how life in India is all about pulling others legs to ensure that one grabs whatever is in sight with a belief that a bird in hand is worth two in a bush and sometimes one has to look outside the box (read find job internationally). The examples from mythology and history also prove the same thing that Indians have been smartened up by the system and pranking one another is a child’s play to them. As rightly pointed out that soon a time will come where other countries will look into what changes have to be made to the system to ensure that they are ready when India or an Indians ‘raid’ again when the opportunity arises with the might of the brain.

The effort put by Prof R Jayaraman of relating the undisputed success of India in kabaddi sport, with ancient stories from the Mahabharata & with the leg pulling Indian mentality is quite remarkable & rejuvenated. India is dominating ruthlessly in both the male & female kabaddi events across the world in all major sports forum & its roots are riveted in ancient history of India. India has history of great warriors & Kabaddi was predominately developed by them to improve physical strength & speed in human being. During its inception kabaddi was played to boost the self-defensive skill & develop quick response to attack. That hereditary skill transferred from generation to generation & we are now the best in business. In globalisation era, kabaddi has worn new cloths & attracting the eyes from all over the world. Pro kabaddi league has taken sports to new heights across the globe. In cricket loving country like India, kabaddi has reinvented itself and became a sport which is closed to everyone’s heart, which was part of everybody’s childhood memory. Being an undisputed for quite a long time can make sport unenthusiastic to rest of world & sport need to promote at international event to create more awareness & involvement of other countries. Kabaddi is national sport of Bangladesh but yet skill difference with India is quite huge. Only Iran, Pakistan & south Korea have some potential to stand in front of India in kabaddi. This wide gap is worst for the game & for the countries who are involved in that. Efforts need to be taken at international level to involve kabaddi in Olympic games & that will open global eye for the game from the untouched territory & world will acquire inherent skill of Indian origin game. Thank you so much sir for refreshing insight of our very own sport “KABADDI”. With regards, Ganesh Rathod.

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