Top 4 Traditional Sports in Bangladesh: Preserving Cultural Heritage

From Ha-du-du and Lathi Khela to Kho-kho to Kabaddi, explore Bangladesh’s popular traditional sports and discover how they showcase the country’s cultural heritage

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Top 4 Traditional Sports in Bangladesh: Preserving Cultural Heritage | Sportz Point
Image: UNB

Top 4 Traditional Sports in Bangladesh: Preserving Cultural Heritage

Top 4 Traditional Sports in Bangladesh: Preserving Cultural Heritage | Sportz Point
Image: UNB
From Ha-du-du and Lathi Khela to Kho-kho to Kabaddi, explore Bangladesh’s popular traditional sports and discover how they showcase the country’s cultural heritage

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Sports are an essential part of any culture, and Bangladesh is no exception. Today, the country is home to several global sports like cricket, football, hockey, etc. These mainstream sports are the most popular in the country, as they appeal to a wide range of audiences, especially urban dwellers. For instance, cricket remains the most popular sport in Bangladesh, followed by football, with kabaddi, the country’s national traditional sport trailing behind the two.

However, the country has a rich indigenous sporting culture, with traditional sports played for centuries. While mainstream ones have mostly replaced these sports, they remain integral to the country’s cultural heritage. Thankfully, locals in the rural populace have kept the heritage over the years, organizing festivities where these games are well represented.

This article will explore some of Bangladesh’s traditional sports and their significance in keeping the cultural heritage alive. 

Ha-du-du (Kabaddi)

Known traditionally as ha-du-du, kabaddi is among the most famous indigenous sports in Bangladesh and other Asian subcontinents. It is a contact sport that involves two teams of seven people each. The objective is for the “raider” of one team to cross over to the opposing team’s side, tag one or more opponents and return to his side without being caught. The raider must perform the raid and return to his half within 30 seconds, and he must chant the word “Kabaddi” while holding his breath throughout the raid.

Kabaddi is not just a sport but an essential part of Bangladesh’s cultural heritage. It is believed to have originated in prehistoric India and was popularized by the Mughal Empire. Today, the game is often played in local areas during festivals and religious ceremonies and is an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate. Kabaddi is a physically demanding sport that requires agility, strength, and endurance. Additionally, it promotes teamwork, strategy, and sportsmanship. 

In 1972, kabaddi was named Bangladesh’s national sport. Today, it has gained international recognition with notable tournaments in its name. It also attracts massive betting action, with several Bengalis visiting top sportsbooks like to wager on top kabaddi events. It is also noteworthy that Bangladesh has also made its mark in the international Kabaddi scene, with the national team participating in various tournaments and championships. 

Boli Khela

Boli Khela is Bangladesh’s indigenous form of wrestling. While the modern Boli Khela was introduced in 1909 by Abdul Jabbar Saodagar, the ancient form of the sport is said to have been around since the Mughal Empire. It was said that Saodagar organized Boli Khela matches to train the youth to fight against British colonial rule and that the sport took traction at the end of the first world war. The sport took its name from two words, “Boli,” which in Bangladesh means a “powerful or strong person,” and “Khela,” which translates to “game.” So it can be directly translated into a fighting game between two strong people.

Boli Khela takes place on a circular or square arena, a dirt or sandy floor. Like other wrestling-related sports, it is a full-contact sport requiring skills such as throws and takedowns, joint locks, clinch fighting, pins, and other grappling holds. Today, Boli Khela is popular in the Chittagong region of Bangladesh. It is held around April and attracts thousands of fans worldwide, including Bengals and foreign tourists, thanks to its unique and exciting nature. 

Boli Khela remains an essential part of the Bangladeshi cultural heritage that brings people together. It also demonstrates the country’s indigenous music, like the ‘Sanai’ (folk flute) and Dabor’ (folk drum). The sport is not just about winning but respect, discipline, and sportsmanship.

Read Also: 9 Main Differences Between Traditional Sports And Esports

Lathi Khela

Lathi Khela is a traditional sport in Bangladesh that has been played for centuries. It is a martial art that involves the use of a long bamboo called a Lathi for stick fighting. The person who participates in the sport is called a “Lathial.” The game is played between two individuals or teams, and the objective is to strike the opponents with the Lathi while avoiding being hit. The game requires strength, agility, and skill and is also a test of physical and mental abilities. 

Although its popularity has waned recently, Lathi Khela holds a significant position in Bangladesh’s cultural heritage and needs to be kept alive. Today it is played during festivals, weddings, and other cultural events. Fortunately, the sport has been recognized by the Bangladesh Olympic Association, and efforts are being made to promote it as a national sport.

Kho Kho

Played in Bangladesh for centuries, Kho kho is a fast-paced traditional sport that requires speed, agility, and strategy. Like kabaddi, it is a contact sport involving two teams of nine players each. The “chaser” from one team must tag the opposing team players with their hands while running around the field. Then the player who is tagged becomes the chaser, and the previous chaser returns to their team. The game continues this way until all the players of one team have been tagged, and the other team wins.

Kho-kho is a physically demanding sport that requires endurance and quick reflexes. It is also a strategy game, as players must work together to outmaneuver the other team. The game is often played during festivals and cultural events in Bangladesh, and it is an integral part of the country’s cultural heritage that needs to be preserved.


Traditional sports in Bangladesh are not only a means of entertainment but also a way of keeping the country’s culture alive. These sports have been played for centuries and are integral to the country’s identity. While modern sports have gained nationwide popularity, traditional sports still hold a special place in the hearts of Bengals, especially in rural areas. 

Essentially, it is vital to preserve and promote these sports to ensure that future generations continue to appreciate and understand the rich heritage of Bangladesh. These traditional sports strengthen sportsmanship, unity, and pride in cultural identity, and they continue to bring people together in the spirit of healthy competition and fun.

Below are a few other honourable mentions of Bangladesh’s traditional sports we couldn’t cover in this article:

  • Gollachut
  • Dhopkhel
  • Boat racing
  • Pasha Khela
  • Bullfighting
  • Horse racing

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