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Here’s How Tripura’s Tribal Communities Play Tengdang, A Popular Traditional Game

Translated from Kokborok by Hamari Jamatia

At one time, Tengdang used to be one of the most popular games of Tripuri people, similar to gilli-danda from Northern parts of India. Teams of children and young men spent their evenings playing this game. That was until children and adults began to be drawn away by cricket and football in recent times. Madan Kumar Debbarma, a man who has been playing tengdang since childhood, tells us that nowadays he hardly finds anyone to play the game with. Nevertheless, he shares the rules and regulations of the game with us.

How To Make The Stick And “Goti

Tengdang is played with two tools. One is a stick called “dang” and the other is a smaller stick called a goti. Both are made by cutting down a branch of the tree called peshlam and polishing it. The branches are stripped of the bark and then using a knife they are polished so that the stick is smooth and uniformly sized. Usually the “dang” is made two-three feet in length.

How The Game Is Played

Madan Kumar Debbarma tells us that the game is played in an open field with 11 players in each team. However, in today’s time where players are not available, even a smaller number of people can play. The rules are very simple:

  • The team makes a small trench in the ground. It is just a couple of inches deep. At the edge of the trench, the goti is placed. The player, let’s call him the “striker,” then takes the “dang” in his hand, hits one end of the goti and catapults it into the air near his arm. Then he hits at it as hard as possible so that the goti flies off far into the distance.

  • When the goti is flying in the air, if any player of the opposing team catches it, then the striker gets “out” and the next player comes in for his turn.

  • If no one catches the goti before it hits the ground then the team calculates the runs by measuring the distance between the spot where the goti has fallen and the spot where the ‘batting’ trench has been dug. The length of the “dang” is considered one run. The striker makes as many runs as it takes to cover the distance with the “dang”. For example, if it takes 15 measurements of “dang” from the trench to the place where the goti falls, then the striker makes 15 runs.

  • This way the game is played till the striker gets out.

Madhumala Debbarma, another former player, says that she played the game in her younger days. “Nowadays my arms are not strong anymore so I don’t play,” she says. She calls the game tem and says that her rules of playing were different than that explained by Madan Kumar Debbarma. In her childhood, the game was played with three players.

Each player would take turns to hit the goti. The first player who scored 10 points won the game.

Tripura’s tribal villages are home to many such games which are slowly fading away due to the influx of phones and other gadgets and toys in the market. I miss the days when we played these games, I hope we successfully pass down these important parts of our culture to future generations.

Did you ever play a similar game in your childhood? Was it called gilli danda or something else?

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


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