The dying tribal sport 'Kati' is slowly making a come back in the ethnic pockets of Jharkhand and Odisha thanks to efforts by the industry and a tournament is likely to be hosted here early next year.
'Kati' was earlier popular among tribals, particularly Santhal and Bhumij communities of Jharkhand and Orissa, who used to play the game after the harvest season or during the summer when the menfolk were relatively free.
The game is played with pieces of dry wood, preferably of a tamarind tree, shaped like a half moon known as 'Kati' in tribal language and a piece of bamboo. It requires physical prowess and concentration. So popular was it that in earlier times a 'Kati' match would continue for weeks as all male members of rival villages playing it would participate.
Bhushan Sardar, a 'Kati' expert from Potka block in East Singhbhum district who actively played the sport for many years and has now transitioned to a coaching role, said that children must be taught the game so that it continues to exist.
“I played Kati all through my childhood. However, for about the last 30 years children in our tribal communities had stopped playing it. If we do not teach children these sports, it will die once again. Sports like Kati are a part of our culture and we must protect it and pass it on," he said.
"Since the Tata Steel Foundation set up leagues and began classes to teach the game, I see children have once again started playing Kati ... Tribal children are now being encouraged to play exhibition matches and will help them to forge stronger bonds within communities and preserve their way of life and culture," he added.
Tata Steel Foundation(TSF) has taken up the initiative to protect and promote tribal culture and identity, Jiren Topno, head of tribal and urban services of Tata Steel said, TSF has codified the rules of the game after consulting various experts from the wide geography of Santhal dominated Jharkhand and Odisha so that it is played under a unified rule and discipline. . These rules have been passed to the upcoming players and umpires of the game, Toppo told PTI.
The Foundation is also training umpires of the game keeping in view the growing popularity of 'Kati', he said. Sardar is hopeful that with TSF's help the sport will be revived and the tribals must themselves actively work to not let it slip into oblivion again.
To activate and highlight grassroot game, the TSF has been organising small 'Kati' leagues across Jharkhand and Odisha every year from January to March. It has set up about eight centers to teach the game to the children as well as adults and has plans to create at least one permanent 'Kati' training center in a Santhal dominated village, Topno said.
The foundation will host a 'Kati' tournament from January to March next year and will start the process to identify venues and finalise fixtures from December, he said. It is also steadily working to promote other sports including 'sekkor', 'chur', 'bahuchor' and 'ramdel', which are on the verge of extinction, Topno said.
(With PTI inputs)