Kavade Aata, traditional games of India


As a child I always wanted to grow up very fast but now I yearn for a little hallucination of those wonderful times of innocent bliss that still lingers fresh on my mind and secretly somewhere in the heart of hearts I refuse to grow up.

It still feels like yesterday that I prayed and waited for the evening power cuts which served as a bonus playtime adding a furore of fun in the dark, playing catching the thief under the moonlight. The venue for this sport was a bewildering under construction house in the neighbourhood that worked like a Takeshi’s castle for us with no doors or windows, and just below the uncovered balcony of the first floor was a large mound of sand that was a perfect ground for our adventurous high jumps. No it was not as scary as it sounds today! It was truly fun filled when half a dozen of us jumped on to the sand mounds burying ourselves knee deep to catch the thief. This game was the vice versa of ‘running and catching’ where all and sundry chased one person instead of one person catching all others. So, the thief had to be a good runner _alert, flexible and really quick to trick all and escape but yet follow the boundary limits.

There was another game called four corners that required a minimum of 5 players, we drew 4 circles in four corners to form a large illusory square with a 8feet distance between one circle to another. Each corner is a home to one player, if there is an extra player, two people can stand as one team in one home/circle, but if this team gets out others will have a tough time swapping homes with two dens chasing them. The den is required to stand in the centre and wait for players to swap homes, while they try to swap and are out of their homes, the den has to catch them, the one who is caught first is the new den.

Structured classes had not monopolised our little lives then, toys and gizmos were unheard of, and the evenings were completely at our disposal to explore. Those were the days when natural clay was available in sand heaps and we accumulated our own playdoh and felt as if we had earned it, those were the days when  trees were also part of our games, in fact we played ‘mud or stone’ as ‘mud or tree’, the moment the den said ‘tree’ we quickly clung to the nearest tree around and hung their like monkeys, many houses had their own swings with a rope tied to the tallest tree in their courtyards, parents didn’t have to queue up like guinea pigs with their latest smart phones to swing their little ones high in the air.

Rush hour was quite an unceremonious term then as the only place we rushed to was the bathrooms lest waters would be emptied, heading to school was another sport, kicking a stone the farthest was the goal, as we raced to strike such goals we would have reached school in no time, of course with a brutal bruise on the shoes which often left my mother wondering how could the shoes wear off so fast! Unaware as she was, that we were only perfecting the leg eye coordination by playing golf with our legs!

Fortunately for us, life skills and motor development skills were imbibed naturally in simple everyday interactions with life directly. We were never forced into any classes that didn’t interest us. In fact it was the other way round where we had to pester our parents to put us into a particular class if we so desired. Discarded cigarette packs were our pokemon cards and Giant Robot on Doordarshan was the coolest thing on TV.

Without any structured classes and without meticulous parental pokes we were unknowingly empowered to be imaginative and empathetic, we connected and interacted and most importantly we learnt to take decisions and became more responsible as we relied more on the biological alarm instead of any digital alarm or parental reminders.

Not that life is any lacklustre for children today, in fact they are more smart, bold and inquisitive than we were but certainly they lack the free space and free time to ponder about the different facets of life.

One thing kids are missing out is the fun that traditional games offer in the simplest form, knowingly or unknowingly we pressurise our kids to play only those games that we think adds value ignoring how thoughtfully and cost effectively our traditional games were designed.

One game that I would like to rediscover, reconnect with and pass it on to my kids is the ‘Kavade Aata’ or the game of cowrie shells. It is looked upon as an old fashioned game but it is the most fascinating and fun-filled game that combines interaction, concentration, dexterity of fingers and hand eye coordination.


It is an indoor game that can be played across all ages be it rain or shine. This game is already endangered and will soon become extinct hence I shall quickly run you through the game and its nitty-gritties.

You need 4 kavades or cowrie shells of the same size.


Take them in a fist and toss all four in the air and quickly turn your palm backside up and manoeuvre your hand quickly to have all 4 shells land on the back of your palm.


You might get one, two or three shells on your hand, now toss it in the air again and catch them back intact, each shell caught adds 4points to your score, if you caught all 4, then you have got 16points in one go. Each shell caught is referred to as ‘gicchhi’.

If you drop them while you toss, the turn passes to the next player, if you have caught at least one of them then you continue the game by tossing the shells on the floor.


If you get a ‘chauka’ where all 4 shells open up like this above, then all the players should quickly try to grab as many shells as they can, each shell grabbed gives 4points.

Then the player pitches again.

If you get all 4 shells closing on their back then you score 12 points at one go, it is called ‘Bhaara’.


If you get two shells open and two closed, you have to move aside the open ones without disturbing the other shells. Now strike one shell against the other like in carom, if you strike, you score a point, if you miss, the turn passes to the others.


If one shell opens up and the rest of the three closes on the back then you have to identify and strike the nearest pairs without touching the other shells, one point for every right strike.

If three shells open up and one is closed, then it is called a ‘mooshi’ and you now pass the turn to the other. If you get a mooshi initially itself, then you are duckout!


If you drop the shells while you are tossing them in the air at the beginning of the game then the turn passes to the next player. This is how I played with my grandmother of course there are many other versions to it.

This simple game of sea shells is a soul scintillating one when played with near and dear ones amidst gleeful cackles and the clanking sounds of the cowrie.

This post is written for the #BachpanWithFlinto blogger contest in association with Women’s Web.

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3 comments on “Kavade Aata, traditional games of India

  1. brunda bru says:

    Cool as it may seem, I grimace as I never had an opportunity to play this game, albeit my mother never left any opportunity to pass down the traditional real games,Alas we were glued to mario but reading this made me scavenge for those kavade’s treasured in my mom’s closet…Ohh hoo,the game seems tricky but nevertheless I’ll give it a shot:)
    Oh..awesome post Mayura,I have really fallen in love with your writing:)


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