The famous psychologist Jerome Singer had conducted research studies on play along with his colleagues. While reviewing his research studies, I came across a very intriguing question he asks the readers, and the same question I am putting across.
Close your eyes for a minute and focus on the immediate thoughts or visualizations that comes across when you hear the word 'play'. For most of us it would have been visualizations of children running, tumbling, skipping, jumping and so on. Visualizations of a child painting, involved in block or simply being an onlooker or pretend play never crosses the mind. Jerome Singer argues that physical play is important, but having physical activities does not help in the all round development of a child. Singer's research throws light upon the fact that pretend play is also equally important as this is where the enhancement of emotional, social, cognitive and language development takes place.
So far the literature on history of play that I had been reading up has only highlighted upon play in terms of being physically engaging. This may also be due to the lack of literature available on other forms of play. Most of the Indian Perspective of play highlights upon play which is physically engaging. Right from the Indus valley, to Ramayana and Mahabharata period or also called as the vedic period the various kinds of games and sports people involved in has been very interesting. Now let's know more about what happened in the later periods.
The Vedic Period is followed by the Buddhist period. It's believed that Gautama Buddha himself was a pro in archery, chariot racing, equitation and hammer throwing. The famous universities Nalanda and Taxila were formed during this period, and is believed that sports like Swimming, sword - fighting (fencing, as we know it today), running, wrestling and ball games were immensely popular among the students. The famous Mauryan period also followed similar sports activities and its also believed that children played with toys made of wood and clay. The Jataka tales are the best literature which depicts the above mentioned sports in it's stories.
The Mughals are also said to have encouraged sports and it's believed that the Agra fort and Red fort were famous venues for wrestling. During the 16th century a Portuguese ambassador was very impressed with the big sporting venues of Krishnanagara, during the Krishnadevaraya Period.
Our ancient Indian history, starting from 2500 BC to 16th century AD, has a rich heritage of sports and games which as we Indians have to be proud of and also on a serious note, care has to be taken that the games that originated here and its originality must never fade away.
By Dr Srividya K.