UNDERSTANDING PLAY, INDIAN PERSPECTIVE.

Play is of utmost importance as it contributes to the physical, social, cognitive and emotional well being of a child as well as adults too. The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights have recognised play as a right of every child. Looking back at the blogs that have been written, all of it traces the history of play in the western civilisation, and it’s very evident that the westerners did realise the value of play in a child’s life, and going forward play has been recognised as a right by the UN.
Tracing the history of play of western civilisation has been effortless as all the literature is available at a click. Tracing the history of play of Indian civilisation has been a herculean task, and it’s amazing to know that history of play in India can be traced to the 2500 BC, that is during the Indus Valley Civilisation period.
Meera Oka, et al., conducted a study on “A profile of children’s play in urban India”, where inferences can be drawn regarding the value and meaning of play in the Indian context which is a little different from the western context. Play has been described at two levels, one is ‘Bal Leela’, play viewed at a micro level,  is the most important feature and typical of childhood, on a day to day basis. ‘Leela’, at the macro level, is viewed philosophically, to understand the very nature of human existence, which views the entire universe as a creation and play. Analysis of commentaries from scriptures of Madhavananda (1978), Nikhilananda (1987), White(1994), Parthasarthy(1990); as well as poets like Kabir, Tagore, Ramdas and Rahim, suggest that child’s play are the antecedent of philosophy. These eminent authors viewed child’s play from two perspectives. One is appreciating a child’s prudence of getting into and out of play. The second perspective highlights upon the manner in which children engross themselves in play not bothered about their surroundings. Here are few excerpts as taken from the study conducted by Meera Oka, et al to help understand the link between philosophy and play.
Madhavananda’s commentary on ‘Bhagwat’:
As a child does while playing one should be completely absorbed and dedicated to the activity one undertakes and yet have the awareness of its temporary nature, and of life itself.
Nikhilananda’s translation of ‘Atmabodh’:
During childhood one is completely lost in play, during adolescence in studying, and during adulthood in home and responsibility, so where is the time to attend to God!
 Madhavananda’s commentary on ‘Vivekachudamani’ :
A child plays with its toys forgetting hunger and bodily pains…. Exactly so does the man with real knowledge take pleasure in reality, without ideas of ‘I’ or ‘mine’ (as in possession).
Kabir’s poem:
Worship, service, holy fasts and conduct that conforms, to canonical law….
Are like a girls’s play with her dolls,
To give up this make believe will be hard…
Tagore’s poem:
Tempest roams in the pathless sky
Ships get wrecked in the trackless water
Death is abroad and children play.


With this introduction to Indian perspective of play, let’s look at the concept of play during the Indus Valley civilisation in the next blog.

By Dr.Srividya.K