Kho kho

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Kho Kho
Kho kho playing in Govt middle school, Nallambal, Karaikal
First playedIndia
Team members15 players per side, 12 in the field in 4 batches and 3 extra
EquipmentNone (except the two poles on the court)
GlossaryGlossary of kho kho terms
Country or regionIndian subcontinent
OlympicDemonstration sport: 1936

Kho kho is a traditional South Asian sport that dates to ancient India.[1][2] It is the second-most popular traditional tag game in the Indian subcontinent after kabaddi.[3] Kho kho is played on a rectangular court with a central lane connecting two poles which are at either end of the court. During the game, nine players from the chasing team (attacking team) are on the field, with eight of them sitting (crouched) in the central lane, while three runners from the defending team run around the court and try to avoid being touched.[2] Each sitting player on the chasing team faces the opposite half of the field that their adjacent teammates are facing.

At any time, one player from the chasing team (the 'active chaser'/'attacker') may run around the court to attempt to tag (touch) members of the defending team, with one point scored per tag, and each tagged defender required to leave the field; however, the active chaser cannot cross the central lane to access the other half of the field, and cannot change direction once they start running toward either pole. The chasing team can get around these restrictions if the active chaser either switches roles with a sitting teammate (by touching them on the back while saying "Kho") who is facing the other half of the court and therefore has access to it, or runs to the area behind either pole and then switches direction/half. Each team has two turns to score and two turns to defend, with each turn lasting nine minutes. The team that scores the most points by the end of the game wins.[4]

The sport is widely played across South Asia, and also has a strong presence in the regions outside South Asia, such as South Africa and England. It is played most often by school children, and is also a competitive sport.[5] The first league of its kind called Ultimate Kho Kho was unveiled in India in August 2022.[6]


The name comes from Marathi: खोखो (khō-khō),[7] the word kho is an onomatopoeia of the sound invoked while playing the game.[8]


A depiction of an Indian chariot from ancient times. Kho-kho was first played on chariot before transitioning to its modern form.

Kho kho has been played since at least the fourth century BC.[9] Certain aspects of kho kho's gameplay may have been mentioned in the Mahabharata. In pre-modern times, it is believed that a version of kho kho known as Rathera was played on chariots (ratha meaning "chariot" in Sanskrit). The game was also known in ancient times as "Kho-dhwani krida", translating as "a game where the sound 'kho' is made".[10]

The modern form of the game was standardised in 1914, with its rules and formalised structure being given by Pune's Deccan Gymkhana club. Kho-kho was demonstrated at the 1936 Berlin Olympics alongside other traditional Indian games. It is now a medal sport in the South Asian Games, having first been played in the 2016 edition.[4] Other international kho kho competitions, such as the Asian Kho Kho Championship, have been held with the collaboration of organisations such as the Kho Kho Federation of India and the Kho Kho Federation of England,[11][12] with the sport having been spread overseas by the South Asian diaspora.[13] Within South Asia, it has been accepted into major sports events such as Khelo India and the National Games of India,[14] with its growth supported by its simplicity and affordability.[15]

Kho kho's rules and appearance have changed over time; it was generally played on muddy surfaces in the past, but today is often professionally played on matted surfaces.[16][17] This transition has altered the game, as more energy is required to run on a matted surface, with injuries also increasing to some extent.[18][19][20] Various other aspects of the game, such as the poles and the dimensions of the playing field, were also added over time.[21]

In July 2022, the player draft for Ultimate Kho Kho was completed, which is a six-team franchise-based Indian Kho Kho tournament. Its inaugural season ran from August 14 to September 4, 2022.[22]

Kho Kho Federation of India conducts the National Championships for men, women and juniors every year and the latest edition, the 56 edition, 2024 National kho kho championship (India) concluded in Delhi on 1 April 2024 with Maharashtra winning both the men's and women's National titles.[23]

Rules and field[edit]

The field is 27 by 16 metres (89 by 52 ft), with a distance of 24 metres (79 ft) between the two poles, and the central lane having a width of 30 centimetres (12 in). Each of the cross lanes (which pass through the sitting areas that the chasers sit in, and go from one side of the court to the other) has a width of 35 centimetres (14 in), with adjacent cross lanes 2.3 metres (7 ft 7 in) apart, and a separation of 2.55 metres (8 ft 4 in) between each pole and its adjacent cross lane. Each pole is 120 to 125 centimetres (47 to 49 in) high and 9 to 10 centimetres (3.5 to 3.9 in) in diameter. The poles are smooth and round, with no sharp edges. There are 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in)-long extensions of the court behind each of the poles known as "free zones", in which there are no restrictions on chasers' movements.[4][24]

Game play[edit]

A depiction of the start of the game: the active chaser (far right arrow) stands next to the pole in the free zone, with the eight other chasers sitting in the central lane, and the three defenders (in blue) scattered throughout the field.

At the start of play, the active chaser starts off in one of the free zones, and can run into either half of the court to tag the three defenders. Once all three defenders have been tagged out or otherwise "dismissed", the next "batch" of three defenders comes onto the court.[24]

The active chaser can switch roles with a sitting teammate by touching them on the back and shouting "kho"; this is known as the active chaser "giving a kho" to the sitting teammate. One kho must be given by the active chaser upon the dismissal of a batch before the chasing team can tag any players in the next batch.[4] For the kho to be valid, it must be given before the active chaser has gone past the cross lane that the teammate is sitting within, with the sitting teammate not moving/rising before receiving the kho. Once a sitting chaser becomes active, they may only enter the half of the court which they were facing while they were sitting; additionally, once the newly active chaser steps to the left or right of the cross lane they were sitting in (or turns in such a way that their shoulders face towards either pole), they must continue in that direction until they have reached the free zone. Also, once the newly active chaser steps out of the central lane, they cannot step back into the central lane while tagging a defender.[24]

Violating any of these rules results in a "foul", in which case the chasing team can no longer attempt to tag any defenders. In order to clear the foul, the active chaser must move in the opposite direction of the one they were running in (i.e. away from the defenders they were chasing) until they have either given a kho to a teammate, or reached the appropriate free zone.[24]

The chasing team scores points each time a defender is ruled "out" (dismissed), which happens either when a chaser tags a defender without breaking any rules, when a defender steps out of the court (with no part of the body remaining grounded within), or when a defender is late to enter the court as part of a new batch after the dismissal of the previous batch.[24][25]

In the case of a tie, some matches have a tiebreaker known as a "minimum chase", in which each team is allotted an additional turn to score. Each team's turn ends once they have scored one point, with the team that is faster at scoring a point during their minimum chase turn winning the match.[24]


Shortest time wins[edit]

In one variation of kho-kho, a team is no longer allowed to chase once it has tagged all the players on the other team. The team that tags all of its opponents in the shortest amount of time wins.[26]

Circle kho-kho[edit]

In this variant, the field is modified so that it is simply a 5 m (16 ft) inner circle and a 7 m (23 ft) outer circle, with the outer circle acting as the boundary of the field. Instead of sitting, eight of the nine chasers stand in positions evenly spaced around the perimeter of the inner circle, with each alternate chaser facing into or away from the inner circle; when a chaser is given a kho, they can only run in the inside or outside of the inner circle depending on which way they were facing while inactive.[27]

Standing kho-kho[edit]

This variant is played on a circular field, with an inner circle and outer boundary being demarcated. At the start of the game, two of the players become a cat and mouse respectively, with all other players becoming pitchers. All of the pitchers pair off and stand around the perimeter of the inner circle, with each pair holding each other by the elbow. The cat's goal is to tag the mouse; if the mouse links their elbow with one of the pitchers, then the pitcher who is not connected to the mouse disconnects from the pairing and swaps roles with the mouse. If the cat catches the mouse, then they swap roles.[28][29]

In one variation of elbow tag, when a mouse links their elbow with one of the pitchers, the pitcher who disconnects from the pairing becomes a cat, and the previous cat becomes a mouse.[30]

The same game is known as 'standing kho-kho' in South Asia, a variation of the Indian tag variant kho-kho.[31] In the 'standing kho-kho' variant, players simply stand in front of or behind each other as opposed to hooking their elbows together.[32][33]


Ultimate Kho Kho[edit]

Logo of Ultimate Kho Kho

Ultimate Kho Kho (UKK) is an Indian kho kho competition, and its first season took place in 2022.


UKK rules follow the standard rules of Kho Kho with the following exceptions:[34][35][36]

  • Only 7 players from the attacking (chasing) team are on the field.[37][38][39]
  • The playing field is only 22 meters long and 16 meters wide.[37][38][39]
  • 2 points are scored per tag.[40]
  • A 30-second break is taken between the dismissal of one batch and the entry of the next batch.[41][a]
  • If a batch of defenders can avoid being completely dismissed for at least 3 minutes (known as a "Dream Run"), they earn 1 point, and then an extra point for every 30 seconds survived afterwards.[42][43]
  • One attacking player (known as the wazir) may run in any direction when acting as the active attacker.[34][35][36]
  • The attacking team can take a powerplay in each of their attacking turns during which they have two wazirs. Each powerplay lasts until all 3 defenders of the current batch are out.[37][38][39]
  • Each team's turn to score/defend lasts 7 minutes, with the break time between turns also shortened.[34][35][36]
  • Tiebreaker (named "Minimum Chase"): Each team gets one additional turn to score (with the powerplay being active), and the team that scores its first point the fastest wins.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hard Bound Lab Manual Health and Physical Education, p. 41
  2. ^ a b "kho-kho | Indian sport | Britannica". Retrieved 16 July 2022.
  3. ^ Peter A Hastie (2010). Student-Designed Games: Strategies for Promoting Creativity, Cooperation, and Skill Development. Human Kinetics. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-7360-8590-8.
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  5. ^ ahmed, usman (14 August 2011). "Trip down memory lane: The games we play…". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  6. ^ Scroll Staff. "Ultimate Kho Kho: Squads, format, fixtures – all you need to know about latest Indian sports league". Retrieved 18 August 2022.
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  8. ^ Molesworth, J. T. (James Thomas) (1857). "A dictionary, Marathi and English. 2d ed., rev. and enl". Retrieved 27 April 2020.
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  10. ^ Satyam, Amitabh; Goswami, Sangeeta (18 April 2022). The Games India Plays: Indian Sports Simplified. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-93-5435-256-0.
  11. ^ Indigenous kho kho goes international Vinayak Padmadeo
  12. ^ Karmakar, Rahul (23 March 2023). "Indian men, women bag 4th Asian Kho Kho titles". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 6 October 2023.
  13. ^ "British Indians fall in love with 'Kho Kho', reconnect with roots". The Indian Express. 30 January 2017. Retrieved 4 October 2023.
  14. ^ Kalpana, Kommi; Cherian, Keren Susan; Khanna, Gulshan Lal (30 August 2022). "Energy availability and RED-S risk assessment among Kho-Kho players in India". Sport Sciences for Health. doi:10.1007/s11332-022-00996-z. ISSN 1824-7490. PMC 9425793. PMID 36061453.
  16. ^ Taneja, Nidhima (27 January 2023). "Pro kabaddi, kho-kho leagues chase IPL viewership. India rediscovering regional sports". ThePrint. Retrieved 29 August 2023.
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  18. ^ "Ground reality: Change of turf threatens to put Indian kho kho on the mat". The Indian Express. 24 January 2020. Retrieved 29 January 2024.
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  25. ^ Chhabria, Vinay. "Scoring, fouls & more - All the rules of Kho Kho you need to know before Ultimate Kho Kho 2022". Retrieved 3 November 2022.
  26. ^ "Kho Kho: How to Play and Rules". Gone Outdoors | Your Adventure Awaits. Retrieved 3 November 2022.
  27. ^ Enjoy Health and Physical Education Text Cum Workbook Std.3. Jeevandeep Prakashan Pvt Ltd. ISBN 978-81-7744-543-5.
  28. ^ Muñoz-Arroyave, Verónica; Pic, Miguel; Luchoro-Parrilla, Rafael; Serna, Jorge; Salas-Santandreu, Cristòfol; Damian-Silva, Sabrine; Machado, Leonardo; Rodríguez-Arregi, Rosa; Prat, Queralt; Duran-Delgado, Conxita; Lavega-Burgués, Pere (2021). "Promoting Interpersonal Relationships through Elbow Tag, a Traditional Sporting Game. A Multidimensional Approach". Sustainability. 13 (14): 7887. doi:10.3390/su13147887. ISSN 2071-1050.
  29. ^ Parlebas, Pierre (2020). "The Universals of Games and Sports". Frontiers in Psychology. 11. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.593877. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 7609522. PMID 33192937.
  30. ^ Luvmour, Sambhava; Luvmour, Josette (1 February 2002). Win-Win Games for All Ages: Co-operative Activities for Building Social Skills. New Society Publishers. ISBN 978-0-86571-441-0.
  31. ^ "Doing it with 'pao' meet in Mumbai". The Goan EveryDay. Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  32. ^ "Bharatiya Khel". Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  33. ^ Satyam, Amitabh; Goswami, Sangeeta (18 April 2022). The Games India Plays: Indian Sports Simplified. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-93-5435-256-0.
  34. ^ a b c "Ultimate Kho Kho: Shorter duration, more points for acrobatic tags among new rules for the league". 17 May 2019. Retrieved 17 July 2022.
  35. ^ a b c Understanding The Game Play - KHO-KHO, retrieved 15 July 2022
  36. ^ a b c "Ultimate Kho Kho Rules | Update New rules of Kho Kho". KHO KHO. Retrieved 16 July 2022.
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  40. ^ Upadhyay, Maanas (24 January 2024). ""If I'm worried about whether he got two or three points, then I'll miss out on that"- UKK CEO Tenzing Niyogi divulges reason for scoring rule changes". Retrieved 7 February 2024.
  41. ^ a b "rules-season1.pdf". Google Docs. Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  42. ^ "Ultimate Kho Kho revolutionises traditional sport: Expanding, innovating and inspiring". Sakshi Post. 24 December 2023. Retrieved 24 December 2023.
  43. ^ "Ultimate Kho Kho Season 2: All your FAQs answered". Ultimate Kho Kho. 2023. Retrieved 24 December 2023.
  1. ^ The attacking team can select any of its on-court players to be the active attacker at the start of the new batch. A kho does not need to be given by the attacker after the break.