Did you know that India does not have a national game! 

India may have won eight Olympic gold medals in hockey, multiple World Cups in kabaddi and numero uno in cricket but the nation doesn't have a game that it can call its own.

By Aarish Ansari
Picture by Lukas Schulze

The government of India has chosen several elements as symbols that define the nation’s identity, legacy and heritage.

For instance, the tiger is the national animal of India, the peacock is the national bird and the lotus, the national flower. All this is common knowledge and most Indians can easily relate to these. 

Similarly, when asked about India’s national sport, the most probable answer will be hockey, given the unprecedented success and honour the sport has brought to India.

The national game of India: What is it?

The Indian hockey team is the most successful side in the history of the Olympics, having won eight gold, one silver and three bronze medals. The golden years, from 1928 to 1956, saw them clinch six successive gold medals.

India have also produced some of the best field hockey players in the world, including the legendary Dhyan Chand, Balbir Singh Sr, and Dhanraj Pillai.

Led by Balbir Singh, India won their fifth Olympic hockey gold medal at the 1952 Helsinki Games.
Picture by Getty Images

However, in contrast to common perception, hockey is not the national game of India.

The next best answer, kabaddi, is also incorrect. Though, like hockey, the Indian kabaddi team has also reigned supreme at the world stage, winning all World Cup events to date and a whopping seven gold medals at the Asian Games. 

And those siding with the currently popular cricket are also mistaken.

As a matter of fact, India does not have a national game.

Why is there no national game in India?

In 2020, a school teacher from Dhule district from the state of Maharashtra filed a Right to Information (RTI) query with the government, seeking to know when hockey was declared as India’s national game.

"The government has not declared any sport/game as the national game of the country, as the objective of the government is to encourage/promote all popular sports disciplines," the ministry of youth affairs and sports replied.

However, following India’s splendid showing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, calls for declaring hockey the national game have been growing louder.

The men’s team won the bronze medal (first hockey medal in 41 years), while the women’s side came within touching distance of a medal, narrowly losing the third-place clash.

A lawyer even filed a public interest litigation (PIL), urging the Supreme Court to issue directions to the Indian government to make hockey the national sport and help return to its former glory.

The petition was, however, dismissed by the apex court. And until the government officially designates the title to hockey or any other sport, India does not have a national game.


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