TRYING A HAND OF DHOPKHEL

This traditional ball game from Assam has been around for years. Matches of the game were traditionally made to observe the spring and New Year festival of Bihu.

WORDS: SANGEETA

SPORTS in India dates back to vedic era. Many of the sports played today are believed to be originated and played in ancient India. Being a vast country with diverse culture one can find diversity in sports too. Apart from a different culture every state in India has its own traditional sports.
The list can be endless but here we are going to talk about a unique game from Assam. Assam is known for various traditional sports like buffalo fight, cock fight etc.

Youth from Assam can be seen playing major sports like football, cricket etc. But at the same time the tribals of the state have tried to keep the traditional sports alive too. Such traditional sports are mostly played during festivals.
So next time when you travel to Assam apart from enjoying the natural beauty of the place don’t forget to watch the local enthusiastic people playing the local traditional games. And if you have the zeal you can also be a part of the game. Watching the traditional games will give you the real feel of the place.

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An ancient game known as Dhop Khel or Dhoop Khel is another popular indigenous game in Assam. It is a traditional Assamese ball game played by both men and women. The game which tests speed, stamina and acrobatic skills is played between two eleven-member teams. In the game ball is thrown at the opponent to knock them out of the game. This game is usually played during spring and New Year festival of Bihu. The game which was also played to amuse Ahom royalty as a spectator game is not played much in the state these days. In fact it is believed that the game became more popular under the kingdom of Ahom. Efforts are on to revive the lovely ancient culture of the state. Since this sport requires absolute physical fitness, it is closely associated with the development of the state as well.
Apart from showcasing Assam culture these sports can help build fitter citizens. The current generation hardly plays such games and is more involved with gadgets and gizmos. And slowly these lovely traditional games were moving towards extinction. But the general curiosity about culture and heritage has helped in reviving interest in traditional sports. These traditional games are unique and if right efforts are made to popularize these games, we will soon see people’s interest back in such games which can even help build a strong state as these games require good stamina and strength.

THE GAME – DHOP KHEL

Playground – The field is 125 m in length and 80 m in breadth with the central point right in the middle of playing area. Two lines called kai are drawn 12 ft away on each side of the point at the center and four flags are placed at four corners called chukor nishan. The central point which is equidistant from the two halves is surrounded by a circle known as gher.
Players – There are two teams comprising 11 players each and it is played using a rubber ball called Dhop. There are two types of Dhop, one played by men and the other by women.
How it is played – The rubber ball is thrown in the air by one of the players to the playing court of the opponents group. The players throw the ball at the competitors to eliminate them out of the game, while they try to get hold of the ball and dodge other players. If they are able to hit any opponent with the ball, that player has to leave the game. This is how the team tries to oust the opponents.

THE RULES

The play begins with the dhop being thrown in the air, by one of the players.
If the ball fails to land in the opponent’s court, it has to be thrown again.
And if it lands, the dhop has to be caught by the opposition team else the other team gets a chance to throw.
The player who catches the throw gets a chance to stand on the gher of the court and throw the dhop to the opposition’s katoni (one standing on the other gher).
If the katoni is not hit they lose the chance.
If the katoni is hit under the waist, it becomes a kota, and the katoni turns into a hoia or a bondha, and is no longer a ghai – a name initially used for all players at the start of the game.
The bondha then has to move to the opposing team and has to try to stop them from catching the dhop; this strategy is called aulia.
If he is successful in catching the dhop, he can cross over to his team’s side without being touched by any of the opponents. This move is known as hora.
He also has to ensure that he does not go out of the field of play i.e. the kais while attempting to re-cross to his own team. If he does this successfully, he becomes a ghai again.
Suppose a team loses ten ghais i.e. they become a bondha, then the only one left in the team will be named ghai katoni. If the opposition manages to perform a kota on him, then it is a piriutha, which means the team has won the game. If both teams have equal number of ghais, the game ends in a draw.