Ancient Concept of Sport in Modern Perspective

By S.H. Deshpande
06/14/2016 09:13

Sport is a comprehensive term used commonly at different occasions with different shades of meaning e.g. competitive sport, traditional sport, children’s sport, aqua sport, aero sport, adventure sport, winter sport. A concept of the term ‘sport’ can be formed on the basis of specific characteristics that are common in all these activities.


A critical observation of all these sports reveal that there are three major characteristics found common in all types of sports. They are: 1. Enjoyability;  2. Volunteerism; and  3. Social Acceptability.


Enjoyability:  All sportive activities are enjoyable. Participants participate in sport voluntarily because it gives them pleasure. Similarly, millions of people witness matches in stadia or through electronic media. Why? Because of the inherent principle of pleasure present in it.  Sport may be an individual or a group activity, but remains always enjoyable. So, while formulating the concept of sport, the principle of enjoyability is considered a priority.


Voluntarism: Participation in sport is always a voluntary move. The mind of a child is prepared for play. So, this voluntarism must be nurtured. There cannot be acts of compulsion in it.


Social acceptability: Any activity brought under the banner of ‘Sport” must have social acceptability. Every society has its own culture and socially acceptable practices. Activities going against these conventional practices cannot be accepted by the society as sportive activity.


There is an ancient word: “Krida”.


In view of these three parameters required to be considered while defining and formulating the concept of the term ‘Sport’ it is attempted to project the term “Krida”, which is a Sanskrit word equivalent to the term ‘sport’. Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages developed in India, and most of the ancient literature and texts are in this language. Ancient Vedic literature dates back to at least 5,000 years BC. It is in these texts that the term Krida is found and profusely used to connote the meaning of Sport.


Krida is defined as follows: The physical activities in which people participate and which delight them. The broader sense of the term includes all recreational activities in which one gets pleasure in participation. S`is`u krida is referred to as child sport. Adult play is based on politico-social needs and play activities of cultural significance; Raas Krida is a dancing form of sport, Jala-Krida is water sport, Kanduka Krida is ball sport; S’ailadhirohan krida means rock climbing sport; As’wa Kanduka Krida means Horse Polo sport.


Whatever is the basis of sport, the eternal principle of enjoyment remains the same. The concept formed about sport clearly indicated an inclination towards deriving recreation, fun, enjoyment and pleasure through sporting activity. The term ‘physical exercise’ was separated from the term sport. Exercise in Sanskrit is called ‘Vyayam’. It is aimed at building strength and fitness. A separate chapter is written on the term ‘Vyayam’ in ancient medical texts. An element of enjoyment has little significance in this term.


Pure Joy or Anand: Apart from material pleasure, krida is also viewed in terms of spiritualism. The joy or Anand that one derives from voluntary participation in sport. According to the ancient theory of joy or happiness, there is no distinction of kind between physical good and spiritual good, the two are commensurable in terms of each other. Physical good is itself an aspect of ‘bliss’. The physical bliss, which is the first step for achieving spiritual bliss, is obtainable through the medium of sport - the bliss that is non-polluted, and perfectly pure should be the output of sport. For achieving such a pure bliss sport which is free from competitions, commercialism and brutality should also be of a different type. Sport in which one gets completely engrossed, sport which is of individual type, non-competitive and that makes individuals forget everything around themselves. In this theory of joy, though the emphasis is on ‘Krida’ or sport, equally important is the body or S’arira that has to be swift, firm and strong. Such a type of body is obviously possible only through sport and physical education.


The principles of voluntarism and social acceptability are properly safeguarded as they are inherent in this philosophy. Sport was viewed by ancient Indians from a very different perspective. Not frustration, but pleasure, not hatred, but love, no competition, but cooperation, not materialism, but spiritualism, not commercialism, but amateurism, etc. are the inner characteristics of ‘sport’.


When can we have such type of sport possessing these characteristics available to our younger generation? 


A Special feature on ‘Exercise and Science in Ancient Times’ will be published within the October 2016 Bulletin. It will be edited by Suresh Harir Deshpande, who has also written this opinion piece for the ICSSPE News.


Members are welcome to submit their articles, stories and opinion pieces for inclusion in either the ICSSPE Bulletin or the ICSSPE News.