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Celebration of Kerala's Tradition & Culture

Tug of War

Vadamvali (Tug of War) is a popular entertainment sport seen during Onam celebrations in Kerala where the strength of two groups is tested. When team strength is combined with wit and vigour, a thick rope tugged by two teams in opposite directions, becomes one of the best games that can create much excitement and entertainment for the players as well as the spectators in a short period of time.

Tug of war has its own rules. Two teams of eight members usually participate. As it can become a competitive endeavour rather than a mere pastime, the number of members can increase from 10 to 15. The total weight of team members participating in a professional tug of war cannot exceed the prescribed weight limit.

Each of the teams gets ready in a court which is prepared by a set of rules. The rope used is usually 10 centimetres in diameter. A mark is placed in the middle of the rope. Often a coloured handkerchief is also tied over the mark for identification. From the point of this mark, there are marks on the either side with equal distance which indicate the position of the two teams. Whichever team that pulls the opposing team to their side first with markers on the rope and crosses the middle line on the ground, wins the game. In order to add excitement to the competition, in some professional venues there are heavyweight categories as well.

While it is a major sport played during Onam, tug of war is not an indigenous entertainment sport in Kerala. It is an ancient sport the origin of which is unknown. Across the world, there are traces of tug of war. The famous Konark Sun Temple in Odisha has carvings of a tug-of-war competition. Until 1920, it used to be a sport in the Olympics. It is believed that there are around 400 professional tug-of-war teams in Kerala. Almost all districts in Kerala have their own tug-of-war associations and tournaments. Kerala also has its own professional teams that win tug-of-war tournaments organised at a huge expense, complete with floodlights and high spectatorship.

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