Sadu-kudu, kabadi, Thina Thanthi newspaper and PMK

Sadu Kudu, Kabadi, Thina Thanthi and PMK

K. Pitchai

TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 2005 (ID. 2005-04-02)
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PMK - Pattali Makkal Katchi (also spelled as, Paattali Makkal Katchi); a political party in Tamil Nadu


Thina Thanthi - A Tamil newspaper. It has the largest circulation in Tamil Nadu.

"Sadu kudu" is a game played in Tamilnadu for ages, possibly as early as the time of the First Tamil Academy (First Tamil Sangam or First Tamil Kazhagam) some 2000 years ago. (The game is played under other names in other regions of South Asia also.) As late as five decades decades ago, it was immensely popular in rural areas of some parts of Tamil Nadu. Unlike many other games, it does not require balls or bats or nets or other types of equipment to play. So even poor people can play the game. It was played in the open spaces of villages in the evenings and in school playgrounds during school recesses. Sadu kudu is played mostly by boys and young men, and seldom, if ever, by females.

The game sadu-kudu is played by two teams of equal numbers of players. Two adjoining rectangle are marked on the ground (in sandy areas the two rectangles are drawn using feet or hands). Each team stands in one rectangle facing the other. One player from Team-A goes into the other team's rectangle saying continuously "sadu kudu, sadu kudu, sadu kudu" or saying a song (more like a rhyming rap song) interspersed with the words "sadu kudu" at the end of each sentence or stanza. The song is one he had heard elsewhere or something he made up. It could be folklore or just a boast about him. This player would try to touch as many players of the other team (Team-B) as possible. If he returns to his rectangle without interrupting his saying sadu kudu or the song, all those whom he touched within the other rectangle are eliminated. When the player is in their rectangle, Team-B players would try to get hold of him and keep him in their rectangle until he interrupts his song or sadu kudu saying. If they succeed, he was eliminated from the game. Of course, if he get out of their hold and returns to his rectangle without interrupting his song, all those Team-B players who touched him would be eliminated. Then a player from Team-B goes into Team-A rectangle. This is repeated until all players of a team are eliminated.

The game was played under its age-old Tamil name "sadu kudu" until the 1950s. Then, some physical education teachers started calling the game "kabadi". This name is from the north; this writer is unable to find out the language or what it means. Quite possibly it is just a meaningless utterance like "sadu kudu". Tamil people have this habit of thinking that anything that comes from outside is superior and using it; for example using Sanskrit and English words instead of Tamil words. Under this same attitude, the outside name "kabadi" has almost replaced the age-old Tamil name "sadu kudu".

Though the physical aspects of the game did not change with the name change, an important aspect of the game, namely the singing (saying) of the song is eliminated. Now the player merely repeated the word "kabadi"; the songs that most players sang along with repeating "sadu kudu" are eliminated. The sadu kudu game is not merely a good physical exercise; it also developed vocal skill (saying or singling the song) and imagination (if one made up a song or modified a song which many did). The game exercised the brain and encouraged some level of imagination and creativity. In fact, just listening to skilled players is as much a pleasure as watching a good game.

Recently a news item in the Tamil newspaper Thina Thanthi said that Thina Thanthi publisher Dr. Sivanthi Athiththan organizes "Kabadi Teams" in many districts of Tamil Nadu so that the age-old game would not become extinct. We are very happy to hear that. However we request that they call the game by the Tamil name "sadu kudu" and also play it the way it was played in Tamil Nadu for centuries. I am sure that it is an oversight on the part of Dr. Sivanthi Athiththan and he would make the necessary changes.

We also learned that Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a political party in Tamil Nadu, would conduct games and tournaments for a week during the Pongal festival, and would popularize classic Tamil games. PMK is a Tamil-oriented party and is doing much for Tamil language and Tamil culture in recent years. We hope that PMK would call the game sadu-kudu instead of kabadi.

Devaneya Pavanar's Tamil book "Thamizh Naddu Vilaiyaaddukkal" describes many classic Tamil games including sadu kudu [Reference 1]. It seems that the book is out of print. Interested readers may look for it at libraries.

(ARTICLE SUMMARY: Sadu-kudu is a game played in Tamil Nadu for millennia. We should not change its name to kabadi but retain the original Tamil name.)


1. G. Deveneyan, "Thamiz Naddu Vilaiyaaddukkal (in Tamil)", Saiva Siddhanta Works Publishing Society, Tamilnadu, 1962.

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