Imagine a game like cricket or baseball but without a ball! A game played with a stick and a peg, this outdoor game requires remarkable hand eye co-ordination. This is a team game requiring a good deal of outdoor space.
There are no records of the game’s origin in the south Asian subcontinent or of its existence before the arrival of Europeans. However a similar game known as Lippa has a history of being played in Italy and southern Europe. As it is quite similar to cricket, many people believe that cricket originated from it.
How it is played
Gilli Danda requires two wooden sticks – a ‘Gilli’ and a ‘Danda’. The ‘Gilli’ is a small wooden piece which is about three inches long. The ‘Danda’ – a stick, about 2 feet in length, is used to strike the Gilli.
A small circle about four feet in diameter is drawn on the ground with a small oval-shaped hole in the centre (the hole should be smaller than the gilli). The gilli is placed across the hole.
The gilli becomes airborne after it is struck by Danda. If a player from the fielding team throws the gilli (small, tapered stick) from where it last fell towards the danda in a bid to hit it and succeeds, the batsman does not get any point. If it misses the mark, the batsman gets a point and gets another opportunity to strike. A batsman is declared out if the gilli is caught. If the striker fails to hit gilli in three tries, the striker is out.
The distance from the fielder who caught the gilli to home base with danda is measured. Each length of danda equals one point. The team (or person) with the most points wins the game. And, the team with the highest score is chosen winner.
As an amateur youth sport, gilli-danda has many variations. A common variation is where the striker is allowed to hit the gilli twice, once initially, and then while the gilli is in the air.
There is no official number of players or teams. Gilli-danda can be played where each individual plays for themselves, or between two teams.
Due to India’s cultural influence in the region, the game has also spread in other parts of Asia. In the Philippines, a game with practically the same rules as gilli-danda is called Syatong. A significant new rule is that the losing player is made to shout “syatooong!” while holding his breath and running from the point where the short stick was landed by the winner’s hit back to the hole, from where the short stick was first placed. If he/she loses his breath while running, the winner hits the small stick again from that point, and the loser has to run and shout again.
This outdoor game has been digitalized as a videogame. This might give an introduction for the city kids who are not familiar with the real game, though it could not beat the surrounding nature.