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Thoda : The Martial Art of Himachal Pradesh

Thoda, the impressive martial art form of Himachal Pradesh, relies on one's archery prowess, dating back to the days of the Mahabharata, when bows and arrows were used in the epic battles, between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, residing in the picturesque valleys of Kulu and Manali. Thus, this martial art has its origin in Kulu. Thoda, the name is derived, from the round piece of wood fixed to the head of the arrow, which is used to blunt its wounding potential.

The equipment required for this game are bows and arrows. Wooden bows measuring 1.5m to 2m, to suit the height of the archer and wooden arrows in proportion to the length of the bow, are prepared by skilled and traditional artisans.

Today its a sport.

In Himachal Pradesh, in earlier days, the game of Thoda was organized in a very interesting way. A handful of village folk would go to another village, and would throw tree leaves into the village well, before sun rise. They would, then, hide in the bushes nearby, just outside the boundary of that village. As soon as the villagers came to draw water, the awaiting youths would shout, and throw challenges to them for a fight. This would spark the preparations for an encounter.

The competition is a mixture of martial arts, culture and sport, and is held on Baisakhi Day, April 13 and 14, and community prayers are organized to invoke the blessings of the principal deities, Goddesses Mashoo and Durga.