Thoda: A Martial Art of Himachal Pradesh

The Him Mahotsav at Dilli Haat is bustling with excitement, and one of the main attractions is the traditional folk sport called Thoda. The festival's goal is to preserve and promote the rich cultural heritage of Himachal Pradesh. Thoda, an enthralling traditional game, is the center of attention, showcasing the essence of Himachali culture.

What is Thoda?

  • Thoda is a martial art style originating from Himachal Pradesh.
  • It is a fusion of archery, dance, and music.
  • The dance form performed by the young artists is inspired by the dance and sports style of the Mahabharata era, known as "Thoda."
  • This dance form might symbolize the battle described in the Mahabharata.
  • The name "Thoda" comes from the circular wooden ball used instead of a lethal arrowhead.

Historical Roots and Mythological Connection

Thoda is a dance form that originates from the Mahabharata, giving it a mythological quality. The dance style embodies the spirit of the legendary Pandavas and Kauravas, and reflects the subtle confluence of ancient tales. As the dance unfolds, spectators are transported to a mythical realm where dance, sport, and folklore converge seamlessly, creating a truly immersive experience.

The Sport of Thoda

Thoda is a unique sport that requires exceptional expertise in archery. The game is played with bows and arrows, and it involves two groups. The majority of the people in one group, about 500, do not participate and are present only to cheer up their team. The competing groups are named Saathi and Pashi, believed to be descendants of Pandavas and Kauravas, respectively. The objective of the game is to hit the opponent's leg below the knee with an arrow, unlike archery.

When the two groups reach the village fairground, they dance on either side of the ground, waving their swords, aglitter in the sun, and sing and dance to the stirring martial music. The Pashi group forms a 'chakravyuh' and blocks the Saathi group, who, in turn, begin to penetrate their defenses. After the initial resistance, the Saathis reach the center of the ground. The two groups stand 10 meters apart and prepare to attack. The defenders shake and kick their legs to and fro with brisk movements to thwart the accurate aim of their adversaries.

The whole concept of the sport is to create a highly energetic atmosphere with non-stop leg kicking on one hand and constant attempts to hit the target on the other. Lightning movements and agility are the sole methods of defense. The competition is conducted to the lively, virile rhythm of war dance, with one side furiously sidestepping and kicking in all directions, and the other side doing its best to place an arrow on the target. Negative points are awarded if a defender is hit on the wrong part of the body. Presently, the game is played in a marked court, which ensures a certain degree of discipline.

Thoda is a sport that requires a combination of skill, precision, agility, and stamina. The game is not just about hitting the target but also defending oneself from the opponent's arrows. Thoda is a demonstration of physical strength, mental focus, and team spirit, making it an exciting and challenging sport to watch and play.


Thoda stands as a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Himachal Pradesh and the enduring legacy of the Mahabharata. This mythical martial art, with its captivating blend of archery, dance, and music, offers a unique spectacle that transcends time and brings ancient tales to life. As the Saathi and Pashi groups engage in the dance of Thoda, they carry forward a tradition that not only entertains but also preserves the cultural tapestry of a region steeped in history and mythology.

HPAS mains,himachal pradesh, art and culture,thoda art,traditional folk sport,himachal general studies

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post