Traditional Games in Nepal

Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

High up in the Himalayan Mountains, life can be challenging but the people still know how to have fun. This lesson explores the official and unofficial sport of Nepal and an exciting, ancient board game as challenging as chess.

People of the Himalayan Mountains

Named for the Kathmandu Valley, the South Asian country of Nepal rests in the Himalayan Mountains, most known for the world's tallest mountain, Mount Everest. Culturally, Nepali people practice a combination of Hinduism and Buddhism with a heavy influence from their history or trade with and conquest by the peoples of India, Mongolia, and China.

Map of Nepal
Map of Nepal

Homes consist of several generations under one roof and children learn to help with household labor early. For as hard as all members of the family work, the Nepalese people still take time for fun, playing sports and other games.

Dandi Biyo

Throughout the Indian subcontinent in countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal, the game of Dandi Biyo goes by many names. To play, you only need two people or two teams of people, a stick between 2 and 2.5 feet long called a dandi, and a smaller stick about 6 inches long called a biyo with pointed ends.

To start, players or a team representative throw the biyo. The farthest throw decides who will hit first and who will catch first. Players then dig a small hole and lay the small stick across the opening with one tip hovering above the hole. The hitter smacks the hovering end of the biyo with the dandi, the larger stick, sending it into the air where they hit it again to send it into the field.

If the catching team successfully catches the stick before it hits the ground, the hitter is out. If the stick hits the ground, players measure the distance between the starting hole and the biyo, determining points based on how many dandi lengths it traveled. In a two player game, the hitter then returns to strike again until they are finally out and the catcher becomes the hitter for the second half of the game. In a team game, play continues until every hitter takes a turn, then the teams switch. However, some game rules stipulate that a team will continue to play until all their players are out.

Bagh Chal

Resembling chess in strategic difficulty, Bagh Chal requires a board with horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines indicating the placement of pieces and legal moves. As the illustration below shows, not all places connect to every adjoining place, adding an extra challenge.

Bagh Chal
Bagh Chal

The two players begin by choosing their side, the tigers or the goats. In Nepalese, bagh is the word for tiger and chal is the word for move. The four tigers start play in the four corners of the board while the other player places their 20 goats on the other spaces, leaving only one space open for movement. Tigers capture goats by jumping over those pieces into an empty space on the other side. Goats, however, block the tigers by surrounding them in such a way that they cannot move or jump. The game ends when either all four tigers are blocked or when the goats are all captured. Many players shorten games by deciding the tigers win when 5 goats are captured because it is nearly impossible to block all the tigers with only 15 goats or less.

Kabaddi

One of the most popular sports in Southern Asia, Kabaddi teams and leagues hail from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and other countries rapidly adopting the game. Unofficially named the national sport of Nepal, behind the official national sport of Dandi Biyo, children learn to play Kabaddi in all public schools.

Each game requires two teams of twelve players, seven on the field plus five alternates. The standard Kabaddi field measures 13 meters by 10 meters, divided by a white line separating the field into two equal territories, one for each team. These are the only components of the game, making the sport inexpensive and open to anyone.

Kabaddi
Kabaddi

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