Though rugby originated in England and is not very popular in India, villagers in Uttarakhand's Pauri district have been playing a game similar to it since ages.
Gindi, 'ball' in local dialect, is played during the annual Gindi Mela in villages of Dadamandi and Thal Nadi in Yamkeshwar block and at Bilkhet in Kaljikhal block of Pauri district on Makar Sankranti.
While in rugby the number of players is limited on both sides who follow certain rules and play with protective gears on, in Gindi any number of players can participate, play for either rival pattis (or areas) and try to take control of a leather ball weighing about 2 kg using every trick and muscle power.
This year's match, which was played on the fields around the Bhuvneshwari temple near Bilkhet, was won by the Maniyarsuen Patti which defeated Langoor Patti, the four-time champions.
The ball is traditionally made by the villagers of Langoor Patti and this year the struggle to bring it to their patti lasted for more than three hours.
Satyabhama Devi, a village elder from the western Maniyarsuen, told HT, "At least the occasion provides them the opportunity to socialise with the villagers of other pattis and share their social tidings”.
The fair of Gindi is celebrated to invoke the blessings of Bhuvneshwari Devi for a better crop and prosperity in the area and opens with an offering of the barley corn in the temple.
Gindi is played on the lush green fields of wheat with the hope that the crop which is trampled upon during the match would yield more.