Thoda is a martial art form of Himachal Pradesh which originated from Kullu region and has its roots dating back to the period of Mahabharata. The sport is played using wooden bows and arrows and the name of this martial art from is derived from the round piece of wood fixed to the head of the arrow.

Believed to be the descendants of Pandavas and the Kauravas, the archers taking part in the sport are divided into two groups called SHATHI and PASHI. Each group consists of about 500 people; however most of them are dancers which are present for motivating their team.

The objective is to target the opponent but the interesting part is that the competitor has to aim at the region of the defenders leg, below the knee. Negative points are awarded for hitting any other part of the defenders body.

As both the groups reach the fair ground, they start dancing on either side of the ground. Waving their swords and khookries, the groups dance and sing to the thrilling martial music.

The defenders with their agility and quick feet movement keep moving and kicking their legs in all directions to avoid any arrow hitting them. On the other hand the archers try their best to hit the target with their skills and observation.

An impressive combination of martial art, culture and sport, THODA is played in a marked court to maintain a certain degree of discipline. The event is celebrated on Baisakhi Day, April 13 and 14 to beseech the blessing of Goddesses Mashoo and Durga. The sport is popular in Theog, Narkanda, Chopal, Sirmaur and Solan areas of Himachal Pradesh.

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Rahul Bhandari is Editor of TheNewsHimachal and has been part of the digital world for last 15 years.