Translated from Kokborok by Hamari Jamatia
At one time, Tengdang used to be one of the most popular games of Tripuri people, similar to gilli-danda from Northern parts of India. Teams of children and young men spent their evenings playing this game. That was until children and adults began to be drawn away by cricket and football in recent times. Madan Kumar Debbarma, a man who has been playing tengdang since childhood, tells us that nowadays he hardly finds anyone to play the game with. Nevertheless, he shares the rules and regulations of the game with us.
Tengdang is played with two tools. One is a stick called “dang” and the other is a smaller stick called a goti. Both are made by cutting down a branch of the tree called peshlam and polishing it. The branches are stripped of the bark and then using a knife they are polished so that the stick is smooth and uniformly sized. Usually the “dang” is made two-three feet in length.
Madan Kumar Debbarma tells us that the game is played in an open field with 11 players in each team. However, in today’s time where players are not available, even a smaller number of people can play. The rules are very simple:
Madhumala Debbarma, another former player, says that she played the game in her younger days. “Nowadays my arms are not strong anymore so I don’t play,” she says. She calls the game tem and says that her rules of playing were different than that explained by Madan Kumar Debbarma. In her childhood, the game was played with three players.
Each player would take turns to hit the goti. The first player who scored 10 points won the game.
Tripura’s tribal villages are home to many such games which are slowly fading away due to the influx of phones and other gadgets and toys in the market. I miss the days when we played these games, I hope we successfully pass down these important parts of our culture to future generations.
Did you ever play a similar game in your childhood? Was it called gilli danda or something else?
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.