2021 Khelo India Youth Games: Inclusion of indigenous sports to add to colour, diversity

Gatka, Kalaripayattu, Thang-Ta, Mallakhamba included among sporting disciplines for the 2021 edition to be held in Haryana.

By Naveen Peter

In what could prove to be a major boost to India's ancient sports, the sports ministry has included Gatka, Kalaripayattu, Thang-Ta and Mallakhamba in next year’s Khelo India Youth Games, scheduled to be held in Haryana.

The Khelo India Youth Games, which began in 2018, is one of the much-awaited events in the domestic age-group calendar. Over 10,000 athletes took part across 20 disciplines in the last edition held in January this year in Guwahati, Assam.

Conducted in the under-17 age bracket, the Khelo India Youth Games aims to provide rising talents in the country with a national platform to showcase their skills. With their inclusion in Khelo India, the indigenous sporting disciplines will hope to break into the mainstream sporting landscape in the country.

Kalaripayattu is a form of martial art and traces its roots back to Kerala. Photo: SAI

“India has a rich heritage of indigenous sports, and it is a priority for the sports ministry to preserve, promote and popularise these games. There is no better platform than the Khelo India Games where athletes of these games can compete,” sports minister Kiren Rijiju said.

“The Games have huge popularity and I am confident that in the 2021 Khelo India Youth Games these four disciplines, along with Yogasana, will get their much-deserved attention among sports enthusiasts and youth of the country. In the coming years, we will be able to add more indigenous sports at the Khelo Games.”

The four sporting disciplines which will debut at the 2021 Khelo India Youth Games have their roots to different regions of India. While Kalaripayattu originates from Kerala and is a form of martial arts, Mallakhamba is more commonly practised in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. 

Mallakhamba sees gymnasts perform various postures above the ground on a pole, either stationary or hanging from the roof, using a cane or a rope.

Gatka is a traditional fighting style of the Nihang Sikh Warriors from Punjab which was largely used in self-defence in the past. In recent times, it has also been recognised as an art form.

Its inclusion in the Khelo India Youth Games comes on the back of Gatka being listed in Punjab Government’s State Sports Policy in 2015 which allows its practitioners to avail three per cent reserve seats in universities and state government jobs. 

Meanwhile, Thang-Ta is a Manipuri martial art which hopes to bank on Khelo India’s national presence to be relevant again.