Kho Kho is a tag-based game with its origin tracing back to ancient India. The specific origins of the game are difficult to pinpoint, but scholars believe it originated in Maharashtra from a “Run Chase” game similar to traditional tag based games. The word Kho seems to come from the Sanskrit root syu, meaning, “Get up go.” Inspiration for some of the game mechanics comes from the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata. During a battle that featured chariot warfare, a specialized defensive circle maneuver (called the Chakravyuha) was famously used by Kaurava General Guru Dronacharya to defeat Abhimanyu. The game of Kho Kho honors this strategy through “ring play,” which is a defensive tactic of Kho Kho. The zigzag pattern used by the retreating soldiers of the battle created a “chain link;” another defensive tactic in Kho Kho. The first version of Kho Kho, called Rathera, was played on played on “raths” or chariots to symbolize the battle.
Part of the appeal of Kho Kho is that it requires very little equipment, so it is easy and inexpensive to play. This broadened the appeal of the game early on because it was not hampered by the expensive cost of certain materials the way other sports could be. Because the sport requires little to play, the sport features equal access to all; it can be enjoyed by young and old, as well as rich and poor. The fewer restrictions a sport has on who can play, the better its chance that it will be popular among as many people as possible.
Even though the sport does not require much material or equipment, it demands a lot from its participants. The sport requires speed, flexibility, and agility from the individual athletes. Players need both short-term explosiveness, especially when diving for a tag, as well as long term cardiovascular fitness because the game features so much running. To evade a tag, players must be agile and nimble to make quick movements to dodge competitors. Make no mistake however; Kho Kho is truly a team sport. One player can rarely (if ever) win a game by themself; strategy and teamwork are incredibly important if a team wants any chance of being successful.
Kho Kho first appeared in the early 1900’s, but there was no official rule set or playing area. Because of the efforts of Lokmanya Tilak and Bhai Nororkar via the Deccan Gymkhana of Pune, an official rule set was created, which would serve as the sports foundation. In 1959, the Kho Kho federation of India (created in 1955) held a massive championship, and several years’ later individual awards were presented to the best players (similar to an MVP award). The sport was introduced to the world stage in 1936 as an exhibition sport during the Olympic games. While it does not have a large following internationally, it is one of the most popular sports of south Asia. In 1982, Kho Kho was introduced in the Asian games, which is equivalent to the Pan-American Games or the European Games, which follow the Olympic games traditional model. Due to its success soon after the Asian Games, the Kho Kho federation came into being, which held its first major championship almost ten years later. It became an official sport of the South Asian Games in 2016.
To play Kho Kho, there are two teams. One team will start as the “chasing team,” and the other team will start as the “defending team.” They will alternate after the round is over, and there are four rounds to a game. The chasing team positions themselves in a straight-line spread evenly apart in between two poles. Each player alternates the way that they are facing and kneels; the direction they are facing shows the chasing team player which direction they leave the line when they are tagged by a teammate. One chasing team player will start at one of the cones, and that player is the first player to begin chasing the defending players when the whistle is blown. The defending team starts with three players in the playing area, and they are trying to avoid being tagged. If all three defending team players are tagged, then three new defending team players enter the playing area all at once and the game continues. This process repeats until all defending players are tagged or the time for the round is over.
Chasing team and defending team players do not move the same way during the game; each has their advantages. The defending team player can move any way that they want, including running in-between the defending team players that are kneeling. This is a huge advantage because this ability to zigzag in-between the line makes it very hard for the chasing team to tag that player (the chasing team cannot cross the line). The chasing team has two big movement restrictions: they cannot move across the centerline (the way the defending team can), and they cannot change the direction they are running until they get to a pole. To make up for this restricted movement, the chasing team member can tag a teammate who is kneeling on the back and say “kho,” which makes the kneeling team member rise and chase, and the former chaser takes their place kneeling. This ability to switch is paramount when a defending player is going across the centerline because a well-timed switch can neutralize that unique ability.
Once a round is over (everyone is tagged or time is up), then the defending team becomes the chasing team and the chasing team becomes the defending team.At the end of the game, whichever team tagged the most players, or tagged all the players in the shortest time, is the winning team.
History of Kho Kho. Kho Kho Federation of England. 2015. http://khokho.co.uk/about/
History of our Favorite Game Kho Kho. Fairgaze. https://fairgaze.com/Sports/history-of-our-favorite-game-kho-kho_51153.html
History, Origin, and Development of Kho Kho. Physical Education. Akilaavinuty Blogspot. 2017. http://akilaavinuty.blogspot.com/2017/12/history-origin-and-development-of-kho.html
Kho Kho. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2019. https://www.britannica.com/sports/kho-kho
Kho Kho. Wikipedia. Last edited April 15th, 2019. Retrieved May 8th, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kho_kho
Kho Kho Rules and History. Kho Kho Federation of England. YouTube. 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-9Zd5r0FL8