kho kho rules

Kho Kho is a traditional Indian sport dating back to ancient times. It is the second-most popular old-school tag game in the Indian subcontinent after kabaddi. 

The sport is widely played across South Asia and has a strong presence in regions outside South Asia, such as South Africa and England. 

While it might seem like a simple sport, Kho Kho requires agility, teamwork, and quick thinking. 

Its roots trace back to ancient India, and it has evolved into a well-structured sport with clear rules and regulations. 

In this article, we will delve into the fundamental Kho Kho rules that govern the game while shedding some light on the history and development of the sport.

Kho Kho Terminology 

Kho Kho has unique terminology that might be unfamiliar to those new to the sport. Here are some key terms and phrases to help you better understand the game:

  1. Wazir: The Wazir is a special player on the chasing team. Unlike other chasers who must run in a specific direction, the Wazir has the flexibility to run in any direction when chasing the defenders.
  1. Kho: “Kho” is a term chanted by the active chaser while trying to tag a defender. It is a crucial element of the game as it signifies the beginning of the chase.
  1. Active Chaser: The active chaser is the player who initiates the chase in each round. They have to adhere to specific rules and techniques while tagging defenders.
  1. Defenders: Defenders are the players who sit in the rectangles and aim to avoid being tagged by the chasers. They use various dodging techniques to stay in the game.
  1. Pole: A wooden cylindrical structure placed on both sides of the field during the game.
  1. Central Lane: The two lines running in parallel from one pole to the other.
  1. Cross Lane: The lanes that intersect the central line at the middle of the field.

Understanding the Field

The Kho Kho field is a rectangle measuring 27 by 16 meters (89 by 52 feet). 

The two wooden poles are placed 24 meters (79 feet) apart, with a centre lane that’s 30 centimetres (12 inches) wide. 

There are wider lanes, called cross lanes, which run through the areas where the chasers sit. 

These cross lanes are 35 centimetres (14 inches) wide, and they’re spaced about 2.3 meters (7 feet 7 inches) apart. 

There’s a gap of about 2.55 meters (8 feet 4 inches) between each pole and its adjacent cross lane.

The poles are 120 to 125 centimetres (47 to 49 inches) tall and have a diameter of 9 to 10 centimetres (3.5 to 3.9 inches). They are smooth and rounded, with no sharp edges. 

There are also “free zones” extending 1.5 meters (4 feet 11 inches) behind each pole, where chasers can move freely without any restrictions.

Kho Kho Rules 

Kho Kho is played by two teams, each consisting of twelve players. Here are the essential kho kho rules that govern the game:

  • Each team has nine active players and three substitutes. The game starts with a toss, and one side becomes the defending team while the other becomes the chasing team. 
  • Kho Kho is played in two innings, with each team getting a chance to chase and defend. An inning consists of two rounds of play, where each team chases and defends once. The team that tags the most opponents wins the game.
  • The chasing team takes the field first, with eight players sitting in dedicated squares on the central lane facing opposite sidelines. The ninth player, known as the active chaser, chases the first set of three players from the defending team on the court.
  • The active chaser has to follow particular rules while touching the defenders, such as running in one direction until he crosses the poles (except Wazir, who is allowed to run in any course), avoiding contact with the centre line since he is not allowed to cross the centre line as defenders are, switching his position by tapping his nearest sitting teammate with his palm, and mandatory 

Chanting the word “Kho.” 

  • Not following these kho kho rules while tagging defenders can lead to penalties for the active chaser, potentially resulting in foul points being given to the opposing team, as these rules uphold the fairness and structure of the game.
  • Defenders can move in any direction on the court, but they must stay within the boundaries of their rectangle. Once an active chaser touches the defender, the defender has to leave the court and wait for their turn to come again. 
  • The chasing team has to tag all nine defenders within seven minutes. If they fail to do so, they lose their turn, and the defending team becomes the chasing team.
  • After four innings, points are calculated based on how many defenders were tagged by each team. The team with the most points wins.

History and Evolution 

Experts believe Kho Kho originated in the Maharashtra region of India, was played on chariots, and was called Rathera. 

Rath is the Hindi translation for a chariot. The present version of Kho Kho, played by individuals on foot, originated in 1914 during the First World War.

Kho Kho was known by various names like “Chu Kar” and “Run Chase” in ancient days. 

It was a popular pastime among Indian children, who would play it in their villages and neighbourhoods. 

However, Kho Kho evolved from a casual game into an organized sport, thanks to the efforts of various individuals and organizations.

The formalization of Kho Kho as a sport began in the early 20th century. 

In 1914, the first kho kho rules and regulations were framed in Pune, Maharashtra, under the guidance of the Gymkhana Poona. 

It marked a significant step in the sport’s development as it provided a structured framework for the game.

Over the years, Kho Kho continued to gain popularity and spread to other regions of India. It became an official sport. 

In contemporary times, Kho Kho has retained its appeal and adapted to modern sensibilities. 

The sport has found a place in the curricula of schools and colleges, where it helps promote physical fitness, agility, and teamwork among the youth. 

It instils values of discipline and camaraderie, making it an essential component of educational and extracurricular activities.

Kho Kho has also made its way into community sports clubs, where enthusiasts come together to play and compete. 

The establishment of state and national-level Kho Kho tournaments ensures a platform for skilled players to showcase their talent and compete at a higher level.

Kho Kho has witnessed a resurgence, partly due to the efforts to organize and popularize it. 

Various Kho Kho associations and federations are actively working to enhance the sport’s recognition and appeal, both within India and on an international scale.

As Kho Kho rules evolves to adapt to modern preferences, it continue to foster a sense of pride and enthusiasm among players and spectators alike. 

The combination of tradition and modernity makes Kho Kho a dynamic and evolving sport.

Prominent Kho Kho Players 

Kho Kho has witnessed the rise of exceptional players who have made a mark at the national and international levels. 

Sunil Desai, a celebrated Kho Kho player, has garnered widespread recognition. His agility and strategic prowess have led him to numerous victories on the Kho Kho field.

Another notable name in Kho Kho is Sarika Kale, a trailblazing female player who has left an indelible mark on the sport. 

Sarika’s determination and remarkable performance have been an inspiration for many aspiring female Kho Kho players.

These players, with countless others, have contributed significantly to the growth and popularity of the sport. 

Their achievements and dedication motivate new generations of Kho Kho enthusiasts and serve as living examples of the skill and potential that Kho Kho offers as a sport.

Challenges and Future Prospects 

While Kho Kho boasts a rich history and a passionate following, it faces several challenges in the modern sporting landscape. 

One of the primary obstacles is the fierce competition for attention and resources from more popular sports. 

Cricket, in particular, dominates the Indian sporting scene and often overshadows traditional games like Kho Kho. 

This dominance results in limited funding, media exposure, and sponsorship opportunities for Kho Kho.

However, the future of Kho Kho remains promising. Efforts to revitalize the sport are underway, and with increased support from government bodies and sports associations and the advancement of Kho Kho rules can make Kho Kho regain its stature. 

The sport’s inclusive nature, affordability, and minimal equipment requirements make it accessible to participants, especially in rural areas.

Kho Kho, once a regional favourite in South Asia, is steadily gaining international recognition and appeal. 

Countries beyond the Indian subcontinent, such as Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, have embraced the sport, fostering its growth in the region. 

Moreover, Kho Kho’s appeal extends even further. In recent years, it has made strides in countries like South Africa and England, where enthusiasts have enthusiastically adopted the game.

Efforts to elevate Kho Kho’s status on a global scale have been evident. 

Initiatives to establish international Kho Kho championships have been undertaken to provide a platform for players from different countries to compete at the highest level. 

As Kho Kho continues to transcend borders and attract enthusiasts worldwide, it demonstrates its potential to become a truly international sport, cementing its place in the global sporting arena.


Kho Kho, a sport deeply rooted in India’s history, has come a long way from its humble origins as a childhood pastime. 

With the standardized kho kho rules and organized tournaments, it has become a beloved and competitive sport that requires skill, agility, and teamwork. 

The game’s evolution from informal play to structured competitions is a testament to its enduring popularity.

Kho Kho rules are simple yet exhilarating gameplay, where chasers strive to tag defenders, making it a thrilling experience for players and spectators. 

As the sport continues to grow and spread to other countries, its rich history and exciting gameplay make it a unique addition to the world of sports. 

Whether you’re an aspiring player or a sports enthusiast, Kho Kho offers an unforgettable experience, showcasing the true essence of teamwork and strategy.

Also, check out Top 5 Famous Kho Kho Players

About Author