Lathi khela

Lathi khela

Lathi Khela
Lathi khela competition in Bangladesh
Lathi khela competition in Bangladesh
Focus Stick fighting
Country of origin Bangladesh
Famous practitioners Pulin Behari Das
Olympic sport No
Meaning Staffplay

Lathi khela (Bengali: লাঠি খেলা) is a traditional Bangladeshi martial art[1][2]—a kind of stick fighting practiced mainly in Bangladesh.[3] A practitioner is known as a lathial.[4]


  • Etymology 1
  • Instruments 2
  • History 3
  • Practice 4
  • Present day 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The word lathi is the Bengali word meaning stick, while khela means a sport or game. Therefore, lathi khela translates as a game of sticks.[5][6]


The lathi is normally made of the male bamboo, and sometimes bound at short intervals with iron rings. A typical lathi measures 6 to 8 feet (2.4 m). Some are shorter and may be wielded like a baton or bludgeon. In the past, sticks could also be paired with shields, as can still be seen in nori bari (mock stick-fight) demonstrations.


Stick fighting has an ancient history in South Asia, tracing back to the region's aboriginal inhabitants. Rich farmers and other eminent people hire lathial for security and as a symbol of their power. Duels were used as a way to protect or take land and other possessions. A proverb in various South Asian languages is: "whoever wields the lathi keeps the cow". Zamindars (feudal lords) sent groups of lathial to forcefully collect taxes from villagers. Lathi training was at one time included in the Bratachari system of education.[7]

Although lathi is still practiced in Indian and Bangladeshi villages, urbanisation has led to its decline as a rural martial art in recent decades. Until 1989, an annual nationwide lathi khela convention was held in Kushtia, Bangladesh, where troupes from all over the country took part.[4] Due to the drop in practitioners and spectators, the convention is now only held once every three years. Even in the districts where lathi troupes once flourished, only several now remain. Today, lathi khela is most often seen during festivals and weddings.[8] Matches are held in West Bengal for certain puja rituals, and a similar sport called chamdi is played during Eid in North Bengal.


Lathial group performed various acts like Baoi Jhak (group fight), Nori Bari (mock fight with sticks), Fala Khela and Dao Khela (mock fight with sharp weapons) and Chhuri dance to music, in the presence of hundreds. These groups may also learn the arts of dao khela (knife fighting) and fara khela (sword fighting), both of which are preserved today in the form of mock-fights. Matches are generally one-on-one, but the art also includes mock-group fights or baoi jhak. In lathi the center of energy is the heart chakra, and practitioners fight in a more upright position.[7][8]

Present day

The popularity of Lathi Khela is waning. Practice of this art form throughout the country can increase its popularity as well as ensure its existence.[9] On the other hand, disuse of this art form throughout the country can decrease its popularity as well as ensure its demise.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Khan, Saleque (2007). Performing the (imagi)nation: A Bangladesh Mise-en-scene. New York University. p. 237.  
  2. ^ Sylhet: History and Heritage, Bangladesh Itihas Samiti, Jan 1, 1999
  3. ^ "Lathi Khela to celebrate Tangail Free Day". Tangail: the daily star. December 13, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "‘Lathi khela’ at Charukala". 27 December 2008. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Three-day cultural fair ended in Barisal". February 26, 2012. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  6. ^ Islam, Sirajul (2012). "Lathial". In  
  7. ^ a b ঈদ উৎসবের নানা রং,সাইমন জাকারিয়া, দৈনিক প্রথম আলো। ঢাকা থেকে প্রকাশের তারিখ: আগস্ট ০২, ২০১৩
  8. ^ a b "Lathi Khela to celebrate Tangail Free Day". December 13, 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Two-day long traditional Lathi Khela ended in Kushtia". December 13, 2010. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 

External links

  • Traditional Bengali martial arts Lathi Khela is performed
  • ‘Lathi khela’ at Charukala
  • Lathi Khela to celebrate Tangail Free Day
  • Two-day long traditional Lathi Khela ended in Kushtia