Nepali Times
Sticks and stones


Nepal has no national game. The closest we come to an indigenous sport is dandi biyo. But due to the popularity of football, cricket and even chungi, dandi biyo is in danger of going the way of the dodo. So in the larger national interest we decided to find out more about Nepal's unofficial official sport.

In rural areas, children still play it and it is known as guli danda in the tarai. And all you need is a big stick and a small stick to play. But no one in Kathmandu seemed to know anything more than that. So we trotted off to the National Sports Council hoping to find someone who did.

Chief of the Sports Development Division, Ramesh Khanal, seemed just as clueless. "I'm sure you'll find someone who knows the rules," he said, sticking his head out the door and yelling, "Eh Chandra, do you know how to play dandi biyo?"

"Yes, sir," came Chandra's voice followed by the man himself. Chandra Rai, the beaming saviour of our quest is a "non-graduate first class staff" at the Sports Council. It is Chandra's thesis that dandi biyo originated in ancient Mohenjodaro. But more importantly for us, Chandra knew 'The Rules'.

But Rameshji warned us: "It's not our national game you know, a game has to have specific rules and regulations for it to be declared a national sport. It must be played at various levels-district, national, international. Dandi biyo is played by village boys and cowherds who make up rules as they go. It can't be called our national sport, it's more of a traditional game."

Ouch. So we prodded Chandra Rai. The game involves two primary objects-dandi (long stick) and biyo (a stump one-fourth the size of the bigger one with pointy ends). You hit the biyo with the dandi, flipping it up by striking the end.

First, the players must bounce the biyo from his dandi. Whoever bounces it the most number of times gets to play first.

You must flick the biyo as far as possible from the base, which is a small groove on the ground. Player then goes to where the biyo is and taps the edge so it leaps up into the air at which the player strikes it with all his might. Players then measure how far the biyo is from the base in dandi length units.

1. If the biyo is hit only once in midair, the distance is measured according to the length of the dandi
2. If the biyo is hit twice, it is measured according to the length of the biyo
3. If the biyo is hit thrice, measuring is done according to the distance between the forefinger and the tiny finger.

Once the measuring is over, the first player calls out the approximate distance his or her biyo travelled. The second player tries to outdo this and the third tries to outdo the second and so on.

Sometimes, other players try to block the biyo with branches and bushes they might have picked, making the game more interesting. Other players try to block the one lifting the biyo out of the hole with his dandi. If they either catch the biyo or hit his dandi with it, the player is out.

From the looks of things, dandi biyo needs some standardisation and the rules seem a bit too improvised for the game to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. The good news is that for now you can make the rules as you go along.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)