As an Indian growing up in America, I'm used to the 5 classic Indian stereotypes: spicy food, 7 elevens, tech support, Bollywood, and Cricket. These are things my family and I joke about all the time, and some of them have become matters of personal pride for us. But it seems that there is another item that will soon be added to that list, and it is the sport of Kabaddi.
Kabaddi is popular among both the Indian subcontinent as well as the rest of South Asia. It is a pretty ancient sport that lost traction, but in the past century and past few years specifically, it has regained the ground it lost. It is said that the god Krishna and the Buddha himself played the game as children, and one of the two major Sanskrit epics of India presents Arjuna as displaying the skills associated with the game of Kabaddi.
Kabaddi is a 14 player contact sport, with two teams of 7 players. The game is played on a small 10-meter by 13-meter rectangular field that is split in half to designate the two teams' sides. Each team of seven has a player known as the "raider" whose job is to run onto the opposing team's half of the court and tag as many players as possible in a single breath without being tackled. If a player is tagged or tackled they are considered "out," but they can be "revived" each time their team scores a point. The first team to run out of players loses. The game requires extreme strength, endurance, and competitive energy, but it could not be more fun to watch and it has become the national sport of Bangladesh (where it is known as hadudu). The name of the game actually comes from the Tamil word "kai-pidi," or "to hold hands."
There exists another style of Kabaddi called "Punjabi Kabaddi" in which the rectangular field is replaced with a circular field of diameter 22 meters. This is the more traditional style of the game that is intended for outdoor play, but it has been replaced by the standard rectangular gameplay for the sake of national and international competitions.
There are seven primary leagues in which Kabaddi is played including the Kabaddi World Cup, the Asian Games, the Pro Kabaddi League, the Super Kabaddi League, the Women's Kabaddi Challenge, the Asian Kabaddi Championship, and the Kabaddi Masters. The Kabaddi World Cup and the Pro Kabaddi League are the most respected of the leagues, and the Pro Kabaddi League was only created in 2014. In most Nepali schools, students begin to learn and play Kabaddi in third grade despite the intensity of the game. The game was also adopted by the British Army to recruit soldiers for the British Asian community.
The game of Kabaddi is intense and can get, dare I say, insane. It is one of the most entertaining sports to watch and often to play, and there is no doubt that the traction it is building will continue to grow until it is a recognizable sport in America as well.