I was the reading origins of the ancient Olympics and realized that athletics was not a just part of ancient Greek history but also a part of their religious mythology. I could not find athletics in any Indian mythology and wondered if this had anything to do with the Indian mindset of not valuing any Olympic sport seriously, due to which we cut a sorry figure in every modern Olympic games. The best I could find in India that came close to sport was warriors based activities such as hunting, archery, sword fighting, horse/chariot racing or unarmed fighting to prove who is better than the other in combat skills. I also found games like gambling games and chess etc. This is not what I am looking for. I am looking for proper athletics similar to that of the ancient Olympics given below.

For the first thirteen Olympic Games starting from 776 B.C., the stadion or the 200 metre sprint (192 metres to be precise) was the only sport at the games. In 724 B.C during the 14th Olympiad, a second race called the diaulos was introduced in which athletes had to run from one end of the track to the other and run back to the starting line covering a distance of about 384 metres; roughly equal to the modern 400 metres sprint. Four years later in 15th Olympiad in 720 B.C. a 2,400 metre race called the dolichos was introduced at the Olympic Games. It was only in the 18th Olympiad in 708 B.C. that the first sport other than the foot race was added to the Olympic Games when wrestling and pentathlon were introduced.

Question: What are the various reference in Hindu mythology were athletics and sport competitions where held?


  1. Eusebius. Chronicon (English translation from Latin) at Attalus.org
  2. A Brief History of the Olympic Games, David C. Young

INDIAN ATHLETICS It appears you are only focusing on running as an example, because many of the 'warrior' practices do in fact quality as being athletics. Perhaps you mean to say an athletic focused celebration. http://sports.indianetzone.com/athletics/1/olympics_ancient_india.htm

Because, archery, horsemanship, swimming, hammer throwing, chariot racing, wrestling, weight-lifting, and boxing all are seemed to be recorded in many ancient texts. Those do actually qualify as athletics. And MahaBharata describes that these were large public events. http://www.kreedon.com/indian-sports-history/

As we know Greek have been visiting India since early as 515 BCE https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greece%E2%80%93India_relations

So they did share many ideas at various points in history, but though not in the same way or extent that the Greeks placed much importance, and dedicated much literature to it.

So it appears, that Indian recorded histories such as MahaBharat do speak of games similar to those in the Olympics. And at a certain period of time included even violent gladiator games in Mathura, when it was ruled by King Kamsa. http://bhagavata.org/canto10/chapter44.html

It appears that Greek games had ancient spiritual roots, like ancient sacrifices to Gods similar to those in the Puranas, but these same ceremonies later evolved to focus more on athletic awards and philantrophy, which were similar in status to the Romans but less violent and political. https://blackflaggin.wordpress.com/greek-olympians-vs-roman-gladiators/

  • Yes you are right, I am interested only in non-military/combat based sports such as things similar to running, swimming, football, hockey or tennis of the ancient world. – Swami Factanand Nov 21 '17 at 3:35

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