The Best Sports in India: A Look Into the History of Indian Sports

India’s history of sports is vast and diverse, spanning back thousands of years. From wrestling to archery to cricket, Indian culture has always had a competitive edge. It is no wonder then that the country is home to some of the most popular sports in the world.

The Best Sports in India: A Look Into the History of Indian Sports
Cricket ball with bat

Sports have always been an integral part of Indian culture. Ancient games like kabaddi are said to have originated in India, while many modern-day sports were already being played when Europeans first arrived on the subcontinent. With so much history behind it, it’s not surprising that India has managed to 

carve out its own niche in the world of international sporting events.

Ancient Sports

Among the oldest sports in the country are martial arts like kabaddi and wrestling. Kabaddi is a martial arts game that originated in ancient India. The rules vary from region to region, and can even vary between neighboring states. However, one thing is for sure, there is no middle ground. The team that is the first to pick up the flag will win the game.

Games like kabaddi have been played for decades. Kabaddi has been played as a part of both religious and cultural ceremonies. A rousing game between communities can be seen in the neighboring state of Punjab. In Gujarat, kabaddi is practiced as a team game, but in the name of hunting.

A rough translation of kabaddi is ‘wrestling without arms.’ It is a full-body contact sport, fought between two teams of six players.

Games from the European Settlers

Although most of the history of cricket dates back to the British colonialists and cricket teams such as the Prince of Wales’s XI, cricket is as much an Indian game as it is an English one. The rules of cricket were modified to suit the sensibilities of the colonial regime. In one of the most famous examples of cultural diffusion, the rules of the game were tweaked to suit the taste of British spectators.

The playing conditions were altered to reduce the wear and tear on players, by making the batsman rely less on power and more on placement. This essentially meant that batsmen could no longer hit the ball out of the ground, which meant that they had to make use of their footwork to avoid being run out. The bowlers, meanwhile, were granted the privilege of umpiring the match.

The history of sports in india

A little more than two millennia ago, the ancient sport of Kabaddi (or “a gripping game” in Hindi) was not just a fun form of exercise but also a vital form of communication. It was played for political and religious purposes, and was a game of strength that pitted two teams of 10-12 players against each other. Playing a variety of positions, the raider would run towards the goal while the defenders would try to prevent the raider from scoring. The “sadar” or captain would shout instructions to his team while the raider and the defenders would take turns running towards the goal in a “zig-zag” formation to confuse their opponents.

Indian Sports Today

Indians love football, and for good reason. There are so many cities in India that you can find a football (soccer) pitch just about anywhere. India has a total of 19 FIFA-recognized FIFA World Cup titles, and its national team has also been ranked as the no. 2 team in the world for most of the 21st century. But despite all its accomplishments, India is not an easy team to beat when it comes to soccer. When the Brazilian football giants, Corinthians, recently made their way to India, they were defeated, 3-2.

India’s success in international sporting events is a combination of its stunning location and a dedicated army of home-grown talent. For instance, the Indian women’s cricket team has won the World Cup twice. Not bad for a nation that doesn’t play much cricket.

India’s Olympic History

Independence and amateurism have always been hallmarks of India’s approach to sports. In 1948, India joined its cousins in the British Commonwealth, but that didn’t seem to change much. So even though the English might have left the subcontinent, Indians stayed the course.

India competed in just two Olympic Games before independence, with the 1964 Tokyo Summer Games serving as its inaugural appearance. They competed in the Winter Olympics just one year later, the first country to do so in its history.

Before then, Indian athletes had competed as part of the British Empire. The British sent teams to the Olympics every four years, but as India grew in size and strength, this lead to a strain of rivalry between India and its colonial power.


Over the years, India has experienced tremendous growth in terms of infrastructure and outreach. It can now boast of an impressive collection of international sporting events, including the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and the Asian Super Series.

Final Words,

With the government’s plans to boost sports and push the youth into healthy and productive living, we are likely to witness an even greater increase in India’s involvement in global sporting events.

But that’s not all. The government of India recently declared that it would spend over $95 million on the Aamir Khan-hosted Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. This number is less than half of the cost of hosting the next Olympics.

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