Traditional rural Bengali games

Traditional rural Bengali games

January 11, 2014

There was a time when evening for children meant going out to play outside. It’s not that they don’t do it anymore, but a lot of them in cities are spending time indoors glued to the computer from an early age. Video games, games on mobile phones and other types of electronic games are eating away valuable time of the children. A lot of traditional games are played less and less nowadays.

Choachui, gilli danda, pitto, kumir danga, rumal chor, ekka-dokka, kanamachi and many more have regaled children of earlier generations much more.

Detriments of physical inactivity

Games are designed to provide fun and entertainment. In addition, games help to inculcate physical and mental control among the participants. Games, whether in localities or in schools, offer to the children an opportunity for socialising with the members of various teams. It is also cheap playing these games; no expensive machines are required.

Computer games and other types of video games, on the other hand, involve a lot of expenses, which parents can often ill afford. But they often have to give in to the demands of the children. Peer pressure is a big presence even among small children these days. Children do not understand the value of money, so it is natural for them to demand anything. And by giving in, sometimes too often, parents also become responsible for the state of affairs.

Not playing games together with others means a lot of benefits missed – interaction, sharing, talking, making new friends, learning a lot of new things, etc.

The innocence of childhood linked to playing and enjoying simpler and infinitely more enjoyable games – being played outside, involves vigorous physical activity, which children have a natural inclination to – is also taking a beating.

Traditional games and sports

Ekka-dokka (hopscotch): It is usually played among girls. It is played with a round flat stone. A rectangle about three yards long and two yards wide is drawn. This rectangle is divided into six squares. The fourth and the sixth squares are each subdivided into two and these are crossed diagonally from side to side. The first player stands before the starting line and tosses her stone into the first square. Then she skips the first square, hopping to square number two and continues hopping up to square six. Then she turns around and hops back. She stops in square number two, picks up the stone, hops over square one and comes out. She continues playing by tossing the stone in square number two, and so on till the sixth square. All the hopping is done on one foot, except for those squares that are divided into two and drawn side by side. She puts both her feet down into the two squares with one foot in each of them. The player must hop over or skip the square where the stone has been placed. A player is declared ‘out’ if the stone fails to land in the appropriate (progressively higher) square, or the player steps on a line, or loses her balance while bending to pick up the stone, or puts her other hand or foot down or steps into the square into which the stone has been tossed.

Schoolgirls playing ekka-dokka

Goli (marbles): This game is played with glass balls or marbles. It is played mostly by boys. One can buy cheap beautiful coloured marbles. Each player has to have a goli. On even ground, a little hole is dug with the heel of the foot. The players position themselves about two yards away from the hole. Then they kneel down and try to send the marble into the hole. The marble is held tightly with the forefinger of the left hand. The finger is stretched back like a bow-string by the pressure of the forefinger and thumb of the right hand. When the finger is released, the goli goes forward, often overshooting the hole. One has to strike out of the way the golis thrown by the other boys or, with a gentle blow from one’s goli, push the other golis, so that they drift into the hole. The latter then waits for his turn to strike his peer’s goli. Whoever is the first to get all the golis into the hole, is the winner of all the golis. The game can take takes several hours, and can be very intoxicating; children can spend hours over it.

Playing goli

Lukochuri (hide-and-seek): It is very simple. A group of children often play it. They decide by lots who is to be/are to be, the police and who the thief (chor). The team of thieves is given time to hide themselves. Then it is the duty of the police to catch the chors. It is played from a very young age, first at home and then with friends outside. As soon as a chor is caught, the person who catches him shouts Chor! Chor! to indicate that he has been caught and is out of the game. A version of this game is chor police.

Dariabandha: Dariabandha is another popular game in the villages. In this game a field is equally divided with lines keeping equal distance from each other. Players are divided into two equal teams. One team stands in the starting line outside the field and each of the players of the other team stands on each vertical black line facing at least on opponent player. This player can move towards the horizontal line at a limited range. Players standing outside enter into the field one by one and try to pass across the field to the finishing point and have to return to the starting position. Thus the team wins the game. If any player in the opposite team touches anybody then the game reversed. This is one of the common games of 8-12 years old kinds of rural areas.

A scene from Dariabandha

Chhua-chhui (touch-me-touch-me-not): Two or more boys or girls usually play this game, one chasing the other. The child who leads touches a tree or a wall or any other chosen object. Then they run fast to the next chosen object so that they are not caught by the others. In this way they run from one object to another until they are caught while not in contact with any of the objects. When the chaser catches the chased, they switch roles.

Lattoo (top): When a boy grows up slightly, he learns the skill of the spinning lattoo (top). A lattoo is a beautiful pear-shaped toy of wood top made of wood (plastic ones are also available), with a metal pin at the bottom. This is set into motion by aid of a string, turned around the round surface of the top, with a hard jerk and releasing onto a hard surface to spin. The boy whose lattoo moves the longest wins the game and gets a chance to spin the
lattoo of the loser. This is a game which can also be enjoyed alone for hours.

How a lattoo is held

Rumal chor (hanky thief): Rumal chor can be played with as many members as present. One of them is decided to be the chor (thief). The rest sit facing one another in a circle with their eyes closed or open for some time. Within this period the chor runs behind his friends and suddenly leaves his rumal (hanky) behind one of the sitting players. On some signal from the chor everybody starts looking for the rumal behind them. The one who finds it runs after the chor to catch him. The chor runs around in circle and tries to save himself from being caught and take the vacant seat of the person chasing him or her (with the rumal). If the chor is caught by the person with the rumal, he again becomes the chor; in this way the game continues. The more players, the merrier the game; the more number of players also means that the circle and hence the running area is more. Girls and boys can play this game together.

Rumal chor

Kumir danga (the crocodile and the bank): This is also an outdoor game. It can be played in a park or where part of the ground is higher. The terms used in the game are danga (land) and kumir (crocodile), the person who has to catch the other players. The game requires four or more participants, out of whom one is the kumir. All the participants stay on the danga (a designated area) and the kumir remains in the ‘water’ (the rest of the area). Whereas the members of danga try to roam around in the ‘water’, the kumir would not let the other players cross or stand in his or her area (water). If any of them is caught by the kumir in ‘water’, it is their turn to act as the kumir. The game is simple and enjoyable if the participants do not stick to their places for long and keep moving frequently from ‘land’ to ‘water’ and vice versa. You can help your mates by diverting the kumir’s attention by entering his/her area and teasing him/her while they cross over into each other’s area.

Gulli danda (two sticks)
: It is played with a danda (stick) usually about two feet in length and a smaller piece of stick called gulli, which is about 4 inches. A groove is made in the ground in which is the gulli is kept at an angle. Often a circle is made on the mud around where the gulli is kept. The gulli is hit with a stick and while it is in the air, the striker has to hit it with the danda. If the gulli is caught by the opponents in the air, then the player is out, otherwise the player and his team gets the points  which is equal to the measurement of the distance traversed by the gulli as measured with the danda. While the gulli is in the air, the player can also attempt to toss it a few times with the danda before finally hitting it away. This is a great skill and enables the player to get the points as a multiple of the times he tosses the gulli.

A gulli about to be hit with a danda

Pitto, also called lagori: Children divide themselves into two teams. Both the teams stand at a distance of several yards from each other with seven or nine or eleven stones placed midway on a spot and piled up in the shape of a pyramid. A member of the first team takes a ball and tries to strike the stones to topple the pile. The player has to be given three chances to hit the pile. If the member of the first team fails to do so, the second team gets the ball to try. If the first team member manages to hit the pile but any member of the second team catches the ball before it bounces back to the ground, the ball will again be passed on to the second team for continuing the game. If the members of the second team fail to catch the ball, their aim is to stop the members of the first team from assembling the stones to form a ‘pyramid’ again. To prevent the first team members from doing so, the members of the second team try to hit the members of the other team with the ball. The members of the first team try to avoid contact with the ball. If the first team manages to re-pile the stones without any of its members being hit by the ball, they again retrieve the ball to strike the stones, or else the ball is given to the second team to take their chance. This game inculcates team spirit among the players.

Pitto in full swing

Langdi tang or langdi (crippled leg): It is played amongst a group of children. They divided themselves into two teams of equal number of players. In a defined area one person from the first team hops on one leg (langdi tang) and tries to touch/catch as many players of the second team as possible. After that, a person from the second team tries to do the same to the first team. As a player is touched, he/she has to sit or wait outside. Whichever team loses all its players first loses the game.


Raja-Mantri-Chor-Sipahi (King-Minister-Thief-Soldier): Chits are made for raja (1000 points), mantri (500 points), chor (0 points) and sipahi (100 points). These chits are then thrown in the middle and four players pick one each. The one who gets the chit with ‘raja’ written in it then exclaims ‘Who is my mantri?’ The mantri responds, and he/she is then asked by the raja to identify the chor from the remaining two players. If the mantri guesses correctly, then he/she retains the points; else, the points are surrendered to the chor. Each round continues like this. The player with the highest points wins in the end.

Kanamachi (blind fly): A number of children stand in a circle. One of them becomes the kanamachchi. He/She is called so because a piece of cloth is tied over his eyes and he cannot see. The children then gradually increase the circle, and the kanamachi runs after the others trying to touch one of them, as if buzzing around haphazardly like a fly. The children shout out the rhyme ‘kana machi bho bho, jake pabi take chho’ (trans. from  Bengali: Buzzing fly, catch whoever you can). The person who is touched has to be identified by name. If correctly identified, he/she becomes the new kanamachchi, and it goes on.


Kabaddi, also called ha-du-du: Kabaddi is sport where two teams occupy opposite halves of a small circular or rectangular arena, and take turns sending a ‘raider’ into the other half, to win points by tackling members of the opposing team; then the raider tries to return to his own half. The raider must not cross back to his own half unless he touches any of his opponents. If he does so then he is declared as ‘out’. There is also a bonus line which ensures extra points for the raider if he manages to touch it and return to his side of the field successfully. The word ‘kabaddi’ is derived from a Tamil or Kannada word meaning ‘holding of hand’, which is indeed the crucial aspect of play. It is widely played in rural areas of India and Bangladesh.

Now it has become an international sport, with World Cups being organized. Needless to say, India is the current champion in both the men’s and women’s versions.

A kabaddi match in progress

Benefits – why children must play physical games

These are just some of the more popular ones. There is no end to the number of these types of games and each can have its own variations. Children like to run, play, laugh and enjoy themselves. Hence, playing games comes naturally to them, and they should be proactively motivated to go outside and play, instead of being indoors all the time. Games involving much movement and running satisfy younger and older children’s need to move and so develop their skills. Moving together, paying attention to one another, and adapting themselves to one another are skills that are developed by playing different types of games.

Children play a variety of indoor and outdoor games. These games also have a rich cultural and heritage value. They are an important vehicle for passing on some ancestral knowledge to posterity. According to Edgardo Civallero, “a people’s intangible heritage is composed by the non-material part of its culture: tales and narratives, games and songs, music and all the knowledge usually transmitted by oral or sound means.”

Way to a better person

Thus, we see that games are a source of moderate exercise, either physical or mental or even both, for children, and are essential for their health and development. On top of this, they constitute a source that develops group and family sense necessary for their social well-being.

Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team

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Comments (2)
Arundhati Reply
January 15, 2014
This made me so nostalgic. Am reminiscing about the time I used to enjoy ekka-dokka with my friends every afternoon after school in our backyard.
Johnny Reply
January 15, 2014
Liked the article. These are the games I used to play in my childhood.
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