The most popular indigenous game in the state of Assam is Dhopkhel.
An ancient game, it is closely related with the development of the state
as such. The game requires absolute physical fitness - speed, stamina
and acrobatic skills. Dhop is a seasonal game, played during the state's
Spring Festival, known as Rangoli Bihu. The game really flowered under
the royal patronage of the Ahoms.
There are two types of Dhop, one played by men and the other by
women. The game, which uses a rubber ball, is played by two teams
comprising 11 players each, in an open field, 125 m in length and 80 m
in breadth, with a central point in the right middle of the arena. Two
lines called kai are drawn at a distance of 12 ft on each side of
the point at the centre. At the four points where the kai meets the 125
m lines, four flags are planted. Similarly, four flags are planted in
the four corners, known as chukor nishan.
Parallel to the central point in each half of the field, is one point
each, at a distance of 13'6" from the centre, and circles
surrounding them known as gher. The game begins with the dhop
i.e the ball being thrown in the air, by a player. If the ball does not
fall in the opponent's court, it is to be thrown again. The dhop
has to be caught by the opposing team, and if they fail, then the other
team takes the throw. If caught, the player who takes the catch proceeds
to the gher of the court, and throws it to the katoni, who
stands on the other gher. If the thrower fails on either count,
his team forfeits the chance of a throw at the katoni, and the
guilty player is requested to deliver a high lob to the opposing team,
like the lob which started the game. The opposing team thus gets a
chance once more for a catch and throw, at the opponents' katoni.
If the katoni is hit below the waist, it is considered a kota,
and the katoni becomes a hoia or a bondha, and
automatically loses his status of a ghai - a name initially used
for all the players.
The bondha goes over to the opposing side and tries to prevent
the players of the team from catching the dhop. This move is
known as aulia. If a bondha succeeds in catching the dhop
in the opponents' court and can recross over to his original side
without being touched by any of the opponents, he becomes a ghai,
and this move is known as hora. However, he has to cross both kais
and he cannot leave the court in the process of crossing over, or
catching the dhop in the zone between two kais. If a team
loses ten ghais as hoia or bondha, then the last ghai
will be named ghai katoni, and if a kota can be done to
him, then it is known as piriutha, which signifies victory for
the side. If at the end of the game, there are equal number of ghais,
the game is pronounced a draw.