The traditional Indian sport has been repackaged for the mass media age.

A game that is similar to that of tag, the sport of Kho-Kho has always been assumed to trace its origin in India. It is assumed that the sport existed in India from ancient times in one form or the other. While the exact origin of Kho Kho is hard to determine, it is believed that certain aspects of the game have been mentioned in the ancient Indian epic of Mahabharata, in the iconic Chakravyuha incident to be precise.

How is the game played?

Kho-Kho is played on a rectangular court with a central lane connecting two poles that are on either end of the court. During the game, nine players from the chasing team (the attacking team) are on the field, with eight of them sitting crouched in the central lane, while three “runners” from the defending team run around the court and try to avoid being tagged. Each sitting player on the chasing team sits facing alternate directions from the central lane.

Plenty of chances but no finished product

At any time, one player on the chasing team (the “active chaser” or “attacker”) may run around the court to attempt to tag (touch) members of the defending team, with one point scored per tag, and each tagged defender required to leave the field; however, the active chaser can not cross the central lane to access the other half of the field, and also must only run in the direction (facing either pole) they took their first step in.

The chasing team can get around these restrictions if the active chaser either switches roles with a sitting teammate (by touching them on the back while saying “Kho”) who is facing the other half of the court and therefore has access to it or runs to either pole and then switches direction/half. Each team has two turns to score and two turns to defend, with each turn lasting nine minutes. The team that scores the most points by the end of the game wins.

The culture of the game Kho Kho has many advantages such as enhancing endurance, supporting children’s social and intellectual development and increasing self-esteem and concentration levels. The sport is mainly famous in the South Asian countries of India and Pakistan mainly. However, the sport is also famous in areas other than South Asia like South Africa and England.

Kho-Kho over the years

It is said that the sport originated in the Maharashtra region of India and in the older times, Kho-Kho was played on chariots and was called Rathera (chariot in Hindi). The present version of the game which is followed by individuals on foot originated in 1914 during the first World War. It was Pune’s Deccan Gymkhana club that first came out with formalized rules and regulations for the sport which gave it a much more organized structure. The sport along with other Indian indigenous sports like kabaddi and mallakhamb was a part of the demonstrations in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The first ever All India Kho Kho Championship was held at Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh in 1959-60 while the national championship for women was played in Kolhapur, Maharashtra in 1960-61. The sport was also demonstrated during the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi and the first ever Asian Championship was held in Kolkata in 1996. It was also a medal sport at the South Asian Games 2016 in Guwahati. As of today, almost 25 countries have their national teams in the sport.

Ultimate Kho-Kho

In order to popularize the sport, The Ultimate Kho-Kho, the first league of its kind was unveiled in India in August 2022 and is currently in the league stages with six teams being a part of its first-ever edition. The six teams are named Chennai Quick Guns, Gujarat Giants, Mumbai Khiladis, Odisha Juggernauts, Rajasthan Warriors, and Telugu Yoddhas.

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