Traditional games were once Malaysian culture

 |Oct 11, 2016
Konda Kondi.
Konda Kondi.

It’s the age of Pokemon Go and video games and many of us have caught on to these; but no matter how popular the latest fad is, there is that one element that seems to be missing from most games conceived by new technology – that physical and personal human interaction.

A recent exhibition on traditional Malaysian games at the Petaling Jaya City Council’s (MBPJ) Museum in Taman Jaya served to remind city folks of a time when games were invented to entertain or interact with friends, family and neighbours.

On display over the whole of September and early October 2016 were some of the traditional games of the Malay, Chinese and Indian communities, and some which are uniquely Malaysian.

In many instances, these games promoted interaction among the races, and inevitably unity and understanding among the diverse societies in Malaysia.

Some of these games which generations of Malaysians grew up playing may not be unfamiliar to the younger generation of Malaysians who are more affluent and thus preoccupied with modern entertainment, distractions and technology to pass their time.

This exhibition did well to re-introduce these games to younger Malaysians, and remind the older generations of how they used to occupy their time, keep fit, stimulate their minds and interact with society in the era before television and smart phones.

Some of the games features included outdoor and indoor games such as:

Teng-Teng or Ketingting or Hopscotch
A game involving boxes drawn on the ground and stones that were thrown to mark the boxes that player must by-pass as they hop from one box to another.

Sack Race.
Sack Race.

Tarik Upih Pinang
This is more of a fun game for children in the villages who use fallen palm leaf sheaths to pull or transport one or two smaller sized kids from one place to another – by pulling the end of the sheath, while the kids sit on the fronds.

Sack Race
This game is believed to have originated in Sabah and is played during festivals like Pesta Kaamataan. Youth in the paddy fields usually play this game to occupy their time while waiting for the rice stalks to dry.

Batu Seremban
This game uses five stones or five small sacs filled with either rice or various types of seeds. This game progresses as players use the stone to pick up the remaining stones with one hand, and towards the end, both hands are used to pick up the stones or sacs.

Galah Panjang
This game calls for participants to get past lines guarded by the opposing team and the first team to get past the guarding team is the winner.

Galah Panjang.
Galah Panjang.

Konda Kondi
Participants of this game use two sticks. The aim is to flick hit the smaller stick with the bigger (mother) stick, while the opponent tries to catch the stick that is airborne. There are a few variations of the game but all are played in an open area and call for good strategy, and a sharp eye and mind.

Sepak Raga
This game has been played for almost 600 years and can be traced back to the Melaka Sultanate. In this game players standing in a circle use a ball weaved from rattan and keep it in the air using only their legs, the game ends when the ball falls to the ground. Players require good skill, balance and concentration to keep the rattan ball in the air and to pass it on to their fellow players. Another variation of this game is the ‘Sepak Bulu Ayam’ where players are required to keep a ball decorated with feathers in the air using their heels and knees. The player which is unable to do so longer than the others will be forfeited and given a ‘fine’ or punishment.

Chinese Chess or Xiang Qi
This game is played by two players and its origins can be traced back to 4AD. It involves movements by warriors, kings and cannons, while movements can be restricted by rivers and palaces.

This games of four players calls for skill, strategy, math and a stroke of luck to win. Altogether there are a total 144 seeds used by players in this game. Older Mahjong sets were made of bamboo and bones but the newer Mahjong sets are made with thick cards and plastic.

Tarik Upih Pinang.
Tarik Upih Pinang.

A game originating from India and which popularity spread to Iran, Japan and South East Asia. This game was also popular among British soldiers stationed in the Far East. It involves a lot of team effort and strategy to build a strong defence to prevent opposing team members from breaching protected lines.

The origins of modern Chess, this game can be traced back to 6AD and is based on wars depicted in the Mahabharatha. This two player board game has 100 boxes or more and requires strong skill, planning and military strategy to win.

Other traditional games featured in the exhibition included Flying Chess, Chinese Chequers, Snakes and Ladders, Playing Cards, Congkak, Marbles, Shells, ‘Baling Selipar, ‘Serak Lidi’, ‘Kerchang’, ‘Minsulung’ and Crown Caps among other.

Maria Angela is a Malaysia Outlook contributor with about 15 years of experience as a journalist. She developed her passion for arts, culture, history and heritage while on the local council beat when she discovered not much emphasis was placed on preserving our past for the benefit of future generations.