India is a home to many cultures, many languages and many religions. India has also been a cradle to many games. Kabaddi, Jalli Kattu, Silambam, Elephant Polo, Gatka, Thoda; the list is as huge as India itself. Being an avid cricket fan, the game that captured my imagination was “Gilli-Danda”, a cricket-like game played traditionally in the Indian villages. Just like many Indian traditions, this Indian sport too is losing its battle with westernization.
Gilli-Danda is played with two wooden sticks. A Gilli is a small stick with a length of around 3 inches. A Danda is a two feet long stick that is tapered at the ends, which serves as a bat. The sticks can be home made or can be made with the help of a carpenter. The game is generally played in the streets or any open spaces and a ground is not a necessity.
How the game is played
Being an amateur game, the rules for Gilli-Danda varies across different parts of South Asia. This Indian sport is a poor man’s sport, since it doesn’t need expensive equipment. It is played by people of all ages and creed.
The general rules for Gilli Danda is as follows:
This can be played as a team sport or as an individual sport.
During team games, players are split into two teams. The team that wins the toss will choose either to bat first or field first.
A circle of around four metre diameter is drawn on the ground and an oval shaped hole is dug in the Centre of the circle. The 3 inch long Gilli is placed across the hole. Another variation, is placing the gilli in between two stones. The striker then uses the Danda to lob the Gilli up in the air, and then strikes the gilli while it’s in the air. If a fielder catches the gilli, the striker is ruled out. Should it fall safely, then the distance between the Gilli and the Centre of the circle is measured using the Danda. The length of Danda is equal to one run. So the striker scores as many runs as the number of times it takes to cover the distance with the Danda.
A striker is out if he misses to hit the Gilli in three successive attempts. In certain parts of India, the points are doubled if the striker succeeds in hitting the Gilli in two consecutive attempts.
The first innings continues till all strikers get out and the second innings begins with the chase.
This traditional Indian game requires exceptional hand-eye coordination, ability to catch and strong wrists.
The Current State
As it is the case with many Indian traditions, Gilli-Danda is slowly evaporating off India. The advent of Cricket, busy lifestyle and the sedentary modern life have all lead to the decline of the game that was once a popular childhood game in India.
The Hindi writer Premchand in his short story “Gilli-Danda” used this very game as a tool to dwell into the stark differences between old and modern times and also to portray the caste inequality in India.
Variation across the globe
Games are similar to Gilli-Danda are played in England, Italy, South Korea and Poland with different names. In England, a game called Tip-Cat which is very similar to Gilli-Danda is played. Jachigi in South Korea is also very similar to Gilli-Danda.