Fact or Fiction: Hockey Is The National Game Of India
Every Indian child is taught in school about the national anthem, national tree, national animal, and such. You must have also heard about the national sport. If field hockey is what comes to mind, you are not alone.
Hockey is an essential part of India’s legacy, and the country has won numerous accolades in the sport as well. From Major Dhyanchand’s legendary performance in the 1936 Berlin Olympics to India’s glorious return to form in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, hockey holds a special place in every Indian’s heart.
But is hockey really the national game of India? You will be surprised to learn the answer.
What is a national game?
A national game is a sport that is synonymous with a particular country’s culture and is officially recognised by the government. For instance, when you think of a sumo wrestler, your brain automatically associates it with Japan. Similarly, Brazil is known for its martial arts like jiu-jitsu and capoeira. The aforementioned games are also the national sports of their countries.
Is hockey the national game of India?
Hockey is not the national game of India. Yes, you read that right. Hockey is not the national game of India. In fact, India doesn’t have an officially recognised national game or sport.
Hockey, being so historically relevant, was deemed the national game by everyone except the government. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case. Hockey, cricket, and Kabaddi are often confused with national games, but they are not. The government of India acknowledges all games equally and doesn’t encourage one over the other.
Why doesn’t India have a national game?
In 2020, Mayuresh Agrawal, a school teacher from the Dhule district of Maharashtra filed an RTI (Right to Information) query with the government to know when hockey was declared the national game of India. The official reply of the Union Ministry of Youth read:
"The government has not declared any sport/game as the National Game of the country, as the objective of the government is to encourage/promote all popular sports disciplines."
Should India have a national game?
India is home to a billion people and is arguably the most culturally diverse country in the world. There is no national language in India either. While imposing a single language over an entire nation is a matter of contention, no such division occurs in sports.
Sports are known for uniting people, which is evident in the national cricket and hockey teams. Players from all corners of the country participate with equal fervour. Thus, the argument arises: should India declare a national game?
India is not the only country without an officially recognised sport. China doesn’t have a national sport either, though table tennis functions as the unofficial one. But seeing the growing popularity of sports these days and India’s rich cultural history, there should be a national game in India.
Which sport should be the national game of India?
If India were to have a national game, there is no better contender than field hockey. There are several reasons why hockey should be the national game of India.
India has won the most Olympic gold medals in hockey and was nearly invincible from 1928 to 1956. At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, in Hitler’s backyard, India only conceded one goal in the entire tournament and completely dominated the competition, including France, the USA, and Germany in the finals. After a brief decline, team India is resurging and won their first Olympic field hockey medal since 1980 at the 2020 Olympics.
On the other hand, cricket is the most popular sport in India. People tend to take holidays during important cricket matches. Cricketers have become celebrities nowadays thanks to their numerous sponsors and fans’ love.
Kabaddi is another sport that’s quickly rising in popularity. It was already a famous folk sport in India and has also been an Asian Games event since 1990. The government is pushing to include it in the 2024 Olympics as well.
There is no national sport in India because the government doesn’t want to give special status to one sport over others. There are upsides and downsides to this reasoning, but for now, we’ll have to make do without a national game.
Hockey, cricket, and Kabaddi are the top choices for the national game of India, and if the government chooses to declare a national sport or game in the future, chances are it will be either of these three.