Raiders of a Different Arc

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Last week, India became the champions of circle kabaddi, a game that combines the skills of wrestling, judo and athletics, all at once.

In Punjab, IPL cricket took a backseat for the last two weeks. The game of kabaddi was what captured the people’s hearts and minds. The world cup of circle-style kabaddi was happening in the state, and Open was there to experience it all in the heartland of Punjab where the game has enthralled millions of people across generations for years. Here, in dust-choked pits, many a bone has been broken, nose bloodied, and ankle sprained in a game that combined judo, wrestling, grappling and athletics, all at once. Westerners have found it difficult to define the game, sometimes even calling it a ’push-of-war’. In the end, India emerged as the “world champions of circle kabaddi” beating Pakistan. The score read 58-24.

The game of kabaddi, circle style, is different from the traditional one where the raider’s breath and opponent’s teamwork is crucial. In this version, the ’raider’ has 30 seconds to tag a player and return to his territory in a circle divided in two halves. No breath, no chanting of “kabaddi, kabaddi.” It begins when a raider enters the opponent’s territory crossing through a demarcated section on the center line. The radius of the circle is 22 m. There are two points 3 m each apart from the center of the circle. This is the entry and exit area for raiders. Exiting from beyond this section gives the opponent a point.

The scoring increases a single point at a time for either side with each play. The raider meets the stoppers in their half of the circle. The raider must tag one, and only one, of the stoppers and then run back across the dividing line of the circle to receive one team point. If the tagged stopper can tackle the raider, or push the raider out of bounds, the stoppers’ team receives the point. Raids occur alternately between the teams. The moment a raider touches a stopper, it becomes a one-on-one contest. If another stopper touches the raider after that, a point is awarded to the raider’s team. If the stopper engages a raider, he has the remaining of the 30 seconds to get back to his territory. If the raider comes back without touching a stopper or securing a point, a point is awarded to the stopper’s team. In case a player goes out of the circle, a point is awarded to the opponent’s team. The duration of the game is 40 minutes with a 5 minutes break in the middle.

Arindam Mukherjee