Translated from Kokborok by Manisha Debbarma
Marbles were the staple toy of many children in India in the earlier days. In an era without screens, parents, and grandparents taught children games which they would play for fun and for friendly competitions. The tribal children of Tripura are also very fond of playing games with marbles. These marbles are available for purchase at the local shops. There are primarily four kinds of games played using them. Four players- Orik Debbarma, Ashish Debbarma, Rohan Debbarma, and Asia Debbarma told me all about these games and how they are played.
The game of Arrow is played in all parts of Tripura. In this game, an arrow is drawn on the ground using a stick, as shown in the photo. Orbik Debbarma explains, “First an arrow is marked on the land and then marbles are placed on those markings in a straight line”.
Marbles are placed in a straight line on the arrow
The next part of the game is to stand at a distance and throw marbles at the ‘arrow’ and hit the marbles placed there. If a player is able to hit the marble at the tip of the arrowhead, they wins the game. Otherwise, if they hit any other marble, they will have won just that one marble. Rohan Debbarma, another player says, “We are three players here. Our target is to hit the marble that is placed at the tip of the arrow. If one of us cannot hit even a single marble, then he/she loses the game. In this way, the game of arrow marbles is played in our village”.
Hankush is played in a smaller area than Arrow. The first step is to mark a square ‘house’ on the ground and place the marbles on the lines as shown in the picture. The players can make different patterns. The objective for the first player is to hit the middle marble with enough force to fling it as far as possible without touching the other marbles.
The objective of hankush is to hit the middle marble without touching the others
Orbik Debbarma explains, “You can make the house of hankush in any pattern but the ‘house’ has to be square in shape”.
Ashish Debbarma says, “Players are given three attempts each to hit the middle marble. The marbles in the ‘house’ are placed in such a way as to make it difficult to hit the central marble without touching the rest.”
A different pattern for hankush
Rohan Debbarma adds, “Now after placing the marbles in the markings, it’s time to try and hit the middle one which is known as the king or head.” First, the players will throw three marbles in the air and wait for them to hit the ground at different spots. The marble that falls farthest from the ‘house’ is used as the mark from where the players will try to make their shots.
“After hitting the middle/ king/ head, it will roll away. The next player has to try and hit that marble”, says Orik Debbarma, as they continue the game.
This game is very simple and can be played by children who know how to count. Basically, a rectangle is drawn on the ground and ten small holes are dug out in the shape of a pyramid. Each hole is numbered from 1 to ten in descending order as can be seen in the picture.
A ‘house’ for playing Kargil
The players then draw a margin 10 feet away from this rectangle. After standing behind this margin, the players throw five marbles each into the box. They get the points corresponding with the hole that the marble falls in. For example, our first player, Asia Debbarma, rolls five marbles into the box. Four of the marbles fail to reach any of the holes whereas one marble falls inside the hole marked “10”. In the first round, therefore, he scores 10 points. The next player follows the same rules. The player who earns 50 or 100 points first is declared the winner.
This game can be played with two players or more. First, the players mark a big rectangle on the ground. They then draw a line in the middle thereby dividing the rectangle into two equal square-like shapes. The players then stand 2-3 feet away from the box and each player throws one marble into the box. The player whose marble falls closest to the middle line gets to play first, the player whose marble is second closest to the line plays second and so on and so forth.
A game of gironti is played with a rectangle box divided into two squares
Now starts the second part of the game. The first player will enter the box, place one foot each in the squares, and throw two marbles outside of the box at a distance of a few feet. He will leave the box and the next player will enter and throw two marbles again and so on and so forth. Now after all players have thrown the marbles, one player will collect all the marbles on the ground, barring the marble that fell the farthest. The collected marbles become the “treasure”.
Player Asia Debbarma says, “The first player will have to enter the box again and try to hit the single marble left in front of him. If he manages to hit the marble, he wins the game and the treasure. If not, then the next player gets the chance to try his skill.”
Marbles are fun games to play if you have a terrace or a courtyard. They are non-polluting and affordable games. Earlier many children used to play these games and every village had their champions. These days very few children are seen playing these traditional games, and even their numbers are reducing day by day. I hope we preserve and pass down these fun games to the next generations or they will be lost forever.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.
This article was first published in Youth Ki Awaaz