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Marhdaki, Waqas Ahmad
Published in Khyber.ORG on Wednesday, February 8 2006 (

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Waqas Ahmad

Publishing Date: Wednesday, February 8 2006

Khado Khel; a small town with a population not exceeding more than one Lac, is situated some 90 kilometres away from Peshawar. The town holds historical significance as it is host to numerous archaeological findings dating back to the Buddhist Period (Gandhara Civilization). A unique feature of its people is that modern amenities of life such as televisions have not affected their age-old traditions. Its youth still prefer to stay in the company of their grey-beards in their chowks and hujras instead of wasting their time with television dramas at home. Even in outdoor sports, well-known games such as Cricket and Football which have taken the whole country by storm are sidelined and instead preference is given to a game which not many outsiders are familiar with. This game is called Marhdki (Koda) and it is said to be roughly two hundred years old.

Khado-Khel is divided into four union councils. Of these, the people of Gulo Dheri, Panj Pir, Salim Khan, Maneri, Dagai Buner, Jangdarra, and Kala Darra are especially fond of this game. The game itself is seasonal and is played in Hujras only in Autumn. Each time in the game is made up of three players while a fourth one is kept as a reserve and every member of a team is in possession of two punts which they call Marhdki. There are forty points in a game and whichever team reaches this score first wins. (The points in a game can be increased as well if all teams agree). The total game-length is roughly two hours but it could reach 5-6 hours if the score is high. In a long game, the referees and managers can frequently be seen urging the players to rush up.

To play the game, a pitch is made of fresh sand and gravel just as in the game of Cricket. This pitch is called Koda. The length of this pitch is 2.75 yards whereas its width is 15-16 inches. The pitch is elevated from the ground by at least 3 inches. Usually this pitch is made in corners of a Hujra confinement so it doesn't take up much space. There is a place at one end of the pitch where players can sit. This sitting place is called Pankay. At the other end, a small hole is dug up which is called Kotay.

Before the game commences, both captains of the teams sit on the Pankay and hurl their two punts (Marhdki) towards the Kotay. Whoever's Marhdki is closest to the Kotay wins the toss. This toss session is called Churla.

The winning captain leaves his Marhdkay where it lands and takes the other 5 Marhdki's from the rest of his team-mates. All these 5 Marhdki's are then arranged by him around the Koda in such a manner that the other team cannot make points out of them. This arrangement is called Khwaganai. After this, the game formally commences.

The captain who lost the toss commences play and throws his Marhdkay at the first one thrown by the captain who won the toss. If he is successful in hitting it, he scores a point. If there is no hit, or if his Marhdkay hits any of the others forming the boundary wall around the Koda, no point is recorded and he cannot pick up his Marhdkay. It will remain on the pitch until any other member of the team retains it later by successfully hitting it in their turns. In such a case, the other member will score one point again for the team. If two are hit (both his and any of the others forming the boundary wall), he will score two points. This process will go on until all players have finished their turns. When a turn is finished, the toss (Churla) is made again.

Each Marhdkay lying on the pitch will have a specified boundary area it. If in case there is a hit and the Marhdkay being thrown is not able to get out of this specified boundary area, or if it rolls off the specified boundaries of the pitch, it is termed as Warsara. In such a case, the Marhdkay will become free and the player will have to re-throw from the other end of the Koda (opposite end of Pankay). For this, he will have to place one wrist on the boundary of the pitch and throw the Marhdkay with the other hand. No points will be scored in this throw and the next team will be given an opportunity to play. They will then make their own boundary wall with the remaining five Marhdkay's for the other team.

If a player's aim is correct and he is able to successfully hit all 6 Marhdkay's of the opposite team one-at-a-time, the crowd watching the game gets wild and the supporters dance to the beat of drums and distribute cash prizes to the player. According to a local social worker, a man hailing from the area named Karim Khan or Karimay was the champion in this game. He played with precision and nobody was able to defeat him or his team in this game. He said that this game has evolved over times. Before, the Marhdkay used to be made from rock-stone. Nowadays, people make it from a special kind of marble known as Sang-e Mar Mar. Some new rules have also been incorporated into the game.

This January 2006, a Marhdkay tournament was held in Khado Khel. Twelve teams participated in the tournament which continued for 22 long days. It was organized by well-known local personalities named Namroz Khan, Zuber Ali, Mumtaz Muhammad, Muntaj Khan, Muhammad Alam, Khan Taj, and Ameer Sultan. It was for the first time the game was given the shape of a tournament which was attended by Union Council Nazims as chief-guests and prize money was distributed amongst the winners. Otherwise normally, it would always be played by at-most 2 teams where the losers will always have to host the winners for a big feast. The game has always been used by people as a means of getting together and living together in harmony and good-will. This tournament has been a precedent for others and many are scheduled to be held in the coming months with the aim of inviting as much teams as possible. Lets hope that these playing fields remain lively and attract our youth away from drugs, crimes and other social evils.


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Marhdaki, Waqas Ahmad
Published in Khyber.ORG on Wednesday, February 8 2006 (