Traditionally, Indians have enjoyed various sporting activities and games. Sports history of India dates back to the Vedic era. Traces of the earliest sport activities such as hunting, swimming, boating, archery, horse riding, wrestling, martial arts, fishing and board games like chess, snakes and ladders etc can be seen from ancient bronze ware, paintings etc and finds mention in books such as the two great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The origin and development of sports activities are closely related with the work, defence and entertainment of the time. Records says that games like, Chess, Snakes and Ladders, Kabbadi, Kho-Kho, playing cards, martial arts of 'Kalari Payattu' etc had originated as a sport in India. Now the most popular sports in India is Cricket and Football. In fact, Cricket has become a way of life with Indians and India has an impressive track record in cricket. Traditionally a number of games were popular - Kho-Kho, Kabbadi, Gulli- Danda, Wrestling, camel race, Vallamkali (boat race), pachisi are a few amongst them.
India is an active participant in major world sports tournaments such as the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, SAF Games, Wimbledon and many others. The country has hosted the Asian Games twice in 1951 and in 1982 and the World Table tennis championships three times in 1952, 1975 and 1987.
But India's sportspersons have generally performed creditably only at the Asian and Commonwealth games and in quite a few cases at the world level. From the1948 Olympics through to the Athens, India's effort have brought a meager return of eight gold medals in Hockey, six of them successively, three silver medals ( 2 in athletics and 1 in Hockey) and four Bronze medals from the Olympics so far. A few notable performances, those of the triple-jumper Henry Rebello (1948), quarter-miler Milkha Singh (1960), hurdler Gurbachan Singh Randhawa (1964), 800m-runner Sriram Singh (1976) and P.T. Usha (400m hurdles, 1984) etc, Karnam Malleswari (2004). Apart from Hockey, Tennis Doubles, Cricket, Billiards and Kabbadi, India has had relatively little success in these tournaments.
India has produced some players with exceptional skills who have made their presence felt at the international events in individual sports such as Viswanathan Anand in chess, Geeth Sethi in Billiards, Ramanathan Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj, Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and recently Sania Mirza who is making waves in tennis, Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand in badminton; Rajyavardhan Rathore, Jaspal Rana, Mansher Singh (shooting), Anju George (long jump), Narain Karthikeyan in Motor Racing, Chetan P. Baboor in table tennis, Chiranjeev Milkha Singh in golf, and A.Maria Irudayam in carrom etc. All these sportspersons and many others lent prestige and splendour to the Indian sports.
But, in a country having a population of over a billion, these stars represent a microcosm of the stars at the world level. With the introduction of new equipment and techniques of coaching and training, there is hope that India will show a marked improvement in various disciplines of sport.