11 Jun 2024  |   04:11am IST

Bringing back the charm of Goan games

No matter how old a person grows, the games they played in their childhood will always be ingrained in their memory. Understanding the importance of play, the UN and UNICEF will be observing today, June 11, as the first-ever International Day of Play. Goa has a rich heritage of traditional games and this day is excellent to revive those games
Bringing back the charm  of Goan games

Dolcy D’Cruz

Before the technology boom would hit Goa, children enjoyed a healthy lifestyle which involved a lot of outdoor activity and games. Once home from school, children enjoyed a hearty meal before heading out to play in the sun. Any open area or open fields, would transform into a playground for the gathering of children in the evening. The games were quick and kept the children on their feet with the urgency of escaping from the hands of the den or testing their reflexes by catching marbles, cashew nuts, sticks, stones or any easily sourced material. These games kept their minds sharp too.

Ever heard the terms, ‘Godde,’ ‘Bhianim’ ‘Logorio,’ ‘Hutu - tu’, ‘Dorchenim’ ‘Langdi’ ‘Kho - Kho’ or ‘Appa - Lipa’? These are all Konkani names of traditional games once played in Goa. An important factor in the growth of a child, fitness in children, revolves around the amount of time they spend doing physical activity and soaking in Vitamin D.

Playing games on the playground in the company of friends, besides fitness, makes a child more social and improves their socializing skills and self-development. They learn to tackle problems and make more friends and learn how to overcome challenges.

On March 25, 2024, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to hold an annual international awareness day for play which will be observed today, June 11, which marks a significant milestone in efforts to preserve, promote, and prioritize playing. For children in particular, play helps build relationships and improves control, overcome trauma, and problem-solving. It helps children develop the cognitive, physical, creative, social, and emotional skills they need to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

While there were books that documented traditional games in parts in Marathi and Konkani, Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues, who has a Masters in History and Library and Information Science was the first to write an extensive book in English, ‘Games That We Played: Traditional Goan Sports’. The book features 71 Goan games, well-illustrated by noted cartoonist Alexyz, and broadly grouped into indoor and outdoor.

"Now one hardly finds any children playing on the playground. They are playing with tabs and mobiles which is taking away their most important aspect of their childhood, their freedom to play. Earlier, children were called naughty for their playfulness but now they are busy with online games on their gadgets. My grandson in Bangalore who is studying in Class 8 enrolled in football classes and is now passionate about the game as it gives him an opportunity to meet with his friends and play in the evenings. Unfortunately now with urbanisation, they have to hire the court for a few hours of play," says Maria.

A noted paediatrician, Dr Pinky Paliencar, has always advocated the need for children to play outdoors. "Outdoor games expose the child to Vitamin D through sunlight. It improves their breathing and brain function through oxygenation and their health is much better. Even if they play with mud, soil and sand, there are natural microbiotics that help in their growth. The physical activity will make them eat well and sleep well and the good bacteria will strengthen their immunity. However, once home from play, parents should give them a warm water bath and clean their nails well. In the monsoon too, children can play outdoors if it's not raining. They can also indulge in indoor games like board games, aerobics or dancing," advices Dr Pinky.

Play is a fundamental right; it builds resilience, installs confidence and helps children develop. But children need time to play.  Outdoor play is beneficial for children beyond the physical activity it provides. School-aged children need about three hours of outdoor play each day. While this is a lot to add to a daily schedule, the activity will contribute to the physical and emotional health of a child. Most importantly, it gives them a break from screens.

Goa's well-known Festakar, Marius Fernandes, has involved traditional games in most of the fests organised over the years. His upcoming Fest, Ponsachem Fest at Goa College of Pharmacy in Panjim on June 22 won't be any different. "When I started with the first fests almost 15 years back, I noticed that there was very less participation of children and youngsters at the social clubs in different villages. This was prior to the era of social media. The new generation was losing its touch with the games of the previous generation like Carrom, cards, table tennis and even earlier games like seven tiles, Biyaani or hop and skip. They were getting out of fashion. But now when we organise these games for the fests, there is a lot of excitement from the young as well as their parents, as it brings back nostalgic memories. Children are now stuck to their TVs and mobiles and cut off from traditions. We need a revival of these games," says Marius.

At Ancestral Goa, Maendra Alvares, showcases games like hop-scotch, tablau, biyaani for students. “The game of hop-scotch is marked on the floor and people no matter their age find it irresistible to play the game at least once. It is important for the children to understand these games and how they were played. Biyaani is an interesting game as we then roast the same seeds and show them how cashew nuts are prepared. We explain how these games started and they brought people together. These were community games,” explains Maendra.

How can you celebrate the day? You can take part right from home, try out new play ideas with friends and children to enjoy the fun of play. June 11 doesn’t have to be the only day one plays, it can be enjoyed throughout the year. 


Iddhar Udhar