“This is known as ghodondi in the Halbi and Gondi languages here. It means horse riding. You can enjoy feeling like you on a horse when walking or running with this stick,” says Gautam Sethiya, a young teacher and resident of Kibaibalenga village (listed as Kivaibalega in the Census).

In the Jhagdahinpara hamlet of this village in Kondagaon block of Kondagaon district in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, pre-teen boys – I’ve not seen any girls playing with ghodondi here – ride the stick on the auspicious day of Hareli Amavasya (around July-August). The rides and games continue until Nayakhani (or Nawakhani in other parts of Chhattisgarh), just after Ganesh Chaturthi in August-September.

Watch video Ghodondi: Bastar’s delightful balancing act

“We too used to play with it a lot,” adds Gautam, about this locally made pogo-stick, also known as gedi in other parts of Chhattisgarh and in Odisha. “We would make it ourselves [usually with sal or kara wood].”

A foot-rest is fitted on the stick at different heights depending on the child’s size and skill – a balancing act they pick up through falls and triumphs, and by observing others, or by watching traditional dancers in local troupes who use these sticks in their performances.

On the second day of Nayakhani here, people worship the symbolic deity of the ghodondi , gather all the sticks in a place and break them as part of the local rituals.

Purusottam Thakur

Purusottam Thakur is a 2015 PARI Fellow. He is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. At present, he is working with the Azim Premji Foundation and writing stories for social change.

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