The Rise And Acceptance Of Kabaddi In The Mainstream: A Ray Of Hope For Indigenous Sports

Posted on August 6, 2014 in Sports

By Parul Assudaney:

Though no concrete evidence has been found, but Kabaddi is thought to be originated from very early Indian civilizations. The game is 4000 years old. It is a combination of characteristics of rugby and wresting, and is a spectator sport.


Kabaddi had its official footing in India in the 1950’s when an official committee, All India Kabaddi Federation, came into existence and Kabaddi rules were formalised. Then in 1955, the first Kabaddi Indian National Championships was held in Calcutta. It was here that women played competitively for the first time. The game garnered some huge popularity when it was included in the Asian Games in Beijing in 1990 in which India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh took part. And since then, it has had its regular occurrence at the Asian Games.

On the international level, a Circle-Style Kabaddi World Cup has been organized since 2010. 2013 saw the fourth edition held in Punjab, India, with 11 participating nations in the men’s tournament and 9 nations in women’s tournament, of which India emerged as the winner in both tournaments. India has been the unbeaten champion of this format of the game since its unveiling.

Though cricket is the most watched and most played sport in the country, India has been very strong in Kabaddi at the international level and retains its popularity because of its simplicity. It requires nothing more than a patch of land and no specific weather conditions, and has fairly easy rules. Kabaddi can be played anywhere in the outdoors. Sukhbir Singh Badal, deputy chief minister of Punjab, claimed that the first Circle-Style Kabaddi World Cup in 2010 drew higher TRPs in Punjab than the third season of the IPL, which was on at the same time.

Now, Kabaddi is being played in formats very similar to that of IPL and in more professional background, it’s also getting regular coverage on television and making headlines in newspapers. This will help the game in getting substantial funding, promote talent and make a regular base of viewers among the audience. Rarely did Kabaddi get any live coverage on television, but Pro Kabaddi League got picked up by Star Sports for live-viewing on Prime TV.

Pro Kabaddi League was introduced in 2014 in India, modelled on the Indian Premier League. The first edition of the tournament began on 26 July 2014 with eight franchises based in eight different cities of India, consisting of players from all over the world. The inaugural match of the Pro Kabaddi League played between hosts U Mumba and the Jaipur Pink Panthers, which is owned by Bollywood celebrity Abhishek Bachchan, got underway at Mumbai’s National Sports Club of India. The match saw a huge attendance by many celebrities from Bollywood like Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Sachin Tendulkar among many others, who came to support Abhishek Bachchan’s team, and an audience of over 3000 people was in attendance.

Like the Pro Kabaddi League at domestic level, World Kabaddi League was inaugurated at an international level. The league follows the Formula 1 touring sports format and will be played across four continents. The league has a strong connection with Bollywood. Indian rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh bought a team and named in Yo Yo Tigers. Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha also bought teams in the league. It is scheduled to be played in August-December 2014.

With all these leagues scheduled to take place, Kabaddi is having its try at a more formal structure. All these leagues not only promote the game and bring it in the front and for all of us to enjoy, but also promotes talent from the interiors of our country and from all sorts of background and provides for more visibility, publicity and acknowledgement for these players and opportunity to make a name for themselves. Bollywood and sports also go a long way. Celebrities buying teams in various leagues also helps the cause of the game and makes it all the more popular and helps get more coverage in the media.

As Abhishek Bachchan said, “..the sport being indigenous to India whereas football, hockey and cricket all are inherited from the British..”, people connect more with the sport and take pride in the game.