the impressive martial art form of Himachal Pradesh, relies on one's
archery prowess, dating back to the days of the Mahabharata, when bows
and arrows were used in the epic battles, between the Pandavas and the
Kauravas, residing in the picturesque valleys of Kulu and Manali. Thus,
this martial art has its origin in Kulu. Thoda, the name is derived,
from the round piece of wood fixed to the head of the arrow, which is
used to blunt its wounding potential.
The equipment required for this game are bows and arrows. Wooden bows
measuring 1.5m to 2m, to suit the height of the archer and wooden arrows
in proportion to the length of the bow, are prepared by skilled and
In Himachal Pradesh, in earlier days, the game of Thoda was organised
in a very interesting way. A handful of village folk would go to another
village, and would throw tree leaves into the village well, before sun
rise. They would, then, hide in the bushes nearby, just outside the
boundary of that village. As soon as the villagers came to draw water,
the youths would shout, and throw challenges to them for a fight. This
would spark the preparations for an encounter.
The competition is a mixture of martial arts, culture and sport, and
is held on Baisakhi Day, April 13 and 14, and community prayers are
organised to invoke the blessings of the principal deities, Goddesses
Mashoo and Durga.
How the game is played
Each group consists of roughly 500 people, but most of them are just
dancers, who come along to boost the morale of their team. The archers
are divided into parties, just before the competition takes place. One
team is called Saathi, and the other Pashi. It is believed that Pashis
and Saathis, are descendants of the Pandavas and Kauravas. The target in
this game is the region of the leg, below the knee, where the opponent
should aim his arrow.
The moment the two contesting groups reach the village fairground,
both the parties dance on either side of the ground, waving their
swords, aglitter in the sun, and sing and dance to the stirring martial
music. The Pashi group forms a 'chakravyuh', and blocks the Saathi
group, who in turn begin to penetrate their defences. After the initial
resistance, the Saathis reach the centre of the ground. Both the
opponents face each other at a distance of about 10 metres, and prepare
to attack. The defenders start shaking, kicking their legs to and fro
with brisk movements, to thwart the accurate aim of their adversaries.
Lightning movements and agility are the sole methods of defence. The
whole competition is conducted to the lively, virile rhythm of war
dance, with one side furiously side-stepping, legs kicking in all
directions, and other side doing its best to place an arrow on the
target. There are minus points for a strike on the wrong parts of the
At present, the game is played in a marked court, which ensures that
a certain degree of discipline is maintained in Thoda - a happy blend of
culture and sport. This game is popular in Theog Division (Shimla
district), Narkanda block, Chopal Division, district Sirmaur and Solan.