Yubi Lakpi - An indigenous game from Manipur || An evolution of the historic ceremonial enactment of nectar snatching in the Samudra Manthan

The Northeast Dialogue


Northeast India has a rich tradition of indigenous sports, showcasing the notable threads prevailing amid a community, that is carried on from generations. Such ancient traditional games play a significant role in promoting the cultural diversity and historical practices of the regions.

Although several traditional sports have been identified as a key part of respective areas, some also include certain similarities with globally recognized games. One such sport is ‘Yubi Lakpi’, a traditional game from Manipur related to ‘Rugby’, the official game of England. But interestingly one doesn’t use a rugby ball, but rather a coconut as the key component.

Yubi Lakpi is an age-old local game of Manipur. The name when translated means coconut snatching.  ‘Yubi Lakpi’ traces its tale from the ancient era, with episodes narrated in religious text such as – Bhagavata Purana, the Mahabharata, Vishnu Purana. The popular belief is that Yubi Lakpi is an evolution of the historic ceremonial enactment of nectar snatching in the Samudra Manthan.

An official game of Yubi Lakpi is played annually during the Yaoshang festival, the spring festival of Holi, at the palace grounds of the Shree Shree Bijoy Govindaji temple, in the presence of erstwhile royals.  

The field is 45m x 18m and is similar to a smaller-sized rugby pitch. It has no grass. At each end of the field, two lines/boxes measuring 4.5m x 3m are placed in the centre of the line. The players have to aim at crossing this line with the coconut in their hand and offer it to the judges seated behind the line. A great test of fitness and agility, Yubi Lakpi needs to be played in bare foot and bare body with only a pair of shorts. The players and the coconut both need to be thoroughly oiled before the play to make them all slippery. The players cannot carry the ball holding it to their chest. They have to keep it under their arms. They cannot use their hands and legs to kick out a player. To start the game, the referee tosses the coconut in the air. The players spring into action, individually trying to score as many points as possible. Wait, but are these players scoring points for the team? No, though a team sport, the winner is a single player, with each playing for himself. But the annual game’s outcome in terms of team performance still holds significant relevance.

The outcome of the game is significantly important for the land’s future. The result is thought to signify the land’s prosperity for the rest of the year. Along with the coconut, The winner is carried by the rest of the team all the way to the temple, for a holy dip in the temple waters. 


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