7 Traditional Games and Sports in Kerala

Kerala, a state known for its rich cultural heritage and natural beauty, also boasts a vibrant tradition of games and sports that have been played for centuries. These traditional games reflect the social, cultural, and geographical uniqueness of the state. Let’s delve into seven such traditional games and sports that have carved a niche in Kerala’s cultural fabric:

Vallam Kali (Boat Races):

Description: Vallam Kali, commonly known as the snake boat race, is one of the most celebrated water sports in Kerala. Teams compete in long, narrow boats, called ‘Chundan Vallams’, which can accommodate nearly 100 oarsmen.

Significance: These races often coincide with the harvest festival of Onam and are a significant tourist attraction.


Description: Often referred to as the “Mother of All Martial Arts”, Kalaripayattu is an ancient form of martial art that originated in Kerala. It combines strikes, kicks, weaponry, and defensive techniques.

Significance: Besides self-defense, Kalaripayattu is also a spiritual discipline with close ties to Kerala’s cultural practices.

Kuttiyum Kolum:

Description: Kuttiyum Kolum is a traditional game played with a stick and a ball. The objective is to hit the ball as far as possible with the stick.

Significance: Often played during festive occasions, this game promotes physical fitness and coordination.

Kambala Kali:

Description: Resembling the popular game of ‘hopscotch’, Kambala Kali is a game predominantly played by girls, where squares are drawn on the ground, and players hop on one foot.

Significance: This game fosters agility and balance.


Description: Not exactly a game, but a traditional folk dance and ritual art performed in Bhagavathi temples. Participants wear elaborate masks and engage in dances.

Significance: Padayani is a symbol of Kerala’s rich performing arts and is deeply rooted in its folklore and rituals.


Description: A team game played with a ball, it resembles cricket and baseball. Players hit the ball with a stick and run between two points.

Significance: Historically played by soldiers to stay fit, it’s a fun way to promote teamwork.

Pulikali (Tiger Play):

Description: A recreational folk art where participants paint their bodies like tigers and dance to the rhythms of traditional percussion instruments.

Significance: Pulikali, performed during Onam, symbolizes the wild spirit and bravery of Kerala.

    Conclusion: The traditional games and sports of Kerala provide a window into the state’s rich cultural and historical legacy. While modern lifestyles have overshadowed some of these games, efforts are being made to revive and preserve them for future generations. Engaging in these activities offers a nostalgic journey and a deep connection to the state’s ancestral roots.

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