Kashmir has a rich history of several popular traditional games and sports, some of which have been played for decades. Many of these games do not require much equipment or playing space. Some are only played locally in certain areas, or may be known by different names and played under different rules and regulations in different vicinities. In fact, many of them are similar to the games played in the present times but with different names. The people in the good old days were not so rich. They used to be happy with whatever they would have. Their children used to devise new ways to keep themselves amused and healthily. They usually played different traditional games in open meadows with great fervor. But currently such games seem to have gone into oblivion because of the changed life style of people over the years. No doubt, the standard of living has modernized, yet, those games; children, jubilantly played, are quite often recalled.
The traditional games were harmless and the act of playing them was locally known as Gindun Drakun; Gindun meant ‘playing’ while Drakun involved ‘exercise’. Drakun would physically make kids hungry and unlike present day children who raise a brow before eating anything healthy, the kids then would eat anything been provided.
Indoor games like Athegame (aebsum) and Kharaygur (stick-striker) were mostly played by children. In Athegame a silk thread was entwined within fingers by two hands to form different shapes. I recall, instead of learning in so many attempts from elders, children would often commit mistakes in arranging that thread. My mother would take pains to make me understand how to twist the thread within two hands. Before dinner, women used to be busy with Yender (spinning wheel) but my mom would spare time for me to make me understand Athegame. As for Kharaygur, it was a piece of stick equal to index finger which was scooped off by knife in the middle where strong thread was tied to it. This thread was then pulled out after twisting, and there would come out a Goon Goon… sound which fascinated children.
As far as the outdoor games, there were many. Hide and seek was then locally called Tchapal Chaanjen or Chouri Chupay was mostly played before evening. Others like Katreh Choor (pricking), Saz Loung (hopscotch), Woute Razz or Rasi Tappa (rope skipping), Hakus Bukus, Bundukband (line scribing), Letkejje Lutt (tip cat), , Garam/Santooli (hitting pile of terra), Ready Yes (kho-kho), Wutan (long jumps), Tick Wavij (running fan), Zaangi Taar (jumping game), Gaante Bear (kite flying) , Bante Zaar (game of marbles), Tup Tup (mud game), Gulail (slingshot/catapult), Charkha Koti (see-saw), Tulai Lungur (pulling each others’ arms twisted in opposite direction) and Jula (swing) and Hak Cheche or Hakit Karinn (pair dance), Aario Mario Taario Tich, etc. would start with toss. Like today there was no coin to toss up then. It was done in two ways. One, Dak Dak Kis Ki Dak? (Post, post, whose post?) …, and the other was Teresha Ken Tahf? (Head or tail?) …. For Katreh Choor and Ready Yes games, there were humorous words on every child’s tongue tip and that was Kantun bale nal bale zenjer pama wali kun sa rung? Children, especially females, used to translate this funny sentence in their broken English as Tip tip top one gulabi deya fula kon sa rung? All these thrilling games were played soon after sipping afternoon Nun Chai (salt tea). I am still not able to make out meanings of those funny utterances. Once I asked my mother about the meanings of such strains but, I recall, she was brave enough to tell me that she too in her childhood used them the same way as used by us. Notwithstanding the meanings, she told me that they had mimed their elders doing the same. “Our time was simple. Meanings did never matter. Things were uttered out of joy and innocence”, my mother added.
Some games like Troochen (pebbles also called Truppan or Teekan), Patin (card playing) and Marcha Pepe (top spinning) were partly indoor and partly outdoor. Come winter, children, would remain busy with Sheen Jung (snow fighting), Sheen Rakeinh (snow skiing) and making of Sheen Mohenuv (snow man).
The game that was popular among women then was Hakit Karinn (pair dance) which was played by them after performing “rouf” especially ahead of Eid in the holy month of Ramadhan. They used to hold each others’ hands and dance. While playing Hakit Karinn (also Hak Cheche), they would keep chanting something which would stop after some minutes. In the evening of Eid, women would perform this dance abundantly till the call of Isha (night prayer) was given. Though Hakit Karinn is least played in the rural areas, yet, one question still remains unanswered and that is, ‘didn’t Hakit Karinn make those women feel giddy?’ One important thing about such games was excitement and laughter with which they were played.
Kashmir’s traditional games are an integral part of the region’s rich cultural heritage. While modern technology and video games have taken over, the importance of these games cannot be overlooked. Traditional games not only offer entertainment but also foster social interaction and contribute to child’s overall development. From physical abilities to life skills such as sportsmanship, discipline and teamwork, these games had much to offer. It’s time to revive these traditional games and preserve Kashmir’s unique cultural identity because there is a great difference between the games played on the screen and the ones played in close proximity with natural surroundings.
The author is a teacher by profession.