The sport has a history dating to pre-historic times. It was probably invented to ward off group attacks. The game was popular in southern Asia in different forms under different names. A dramatized version of the Mahabharata has made an analogy of the game to a tight situation faced by a character called "Abhimaneu", heir of the Pandava kings, when surrounded by the enemy. Buddhist literature speaks of the Gautam Buddha playing Kabaddi. History reveals that princes played to display their strength. The game, known as Hu-Tu-Tu in Western India, Ha-Do-Do in Eastern India and Bangladesh, Chedugudu in Southern India and Kaunbada in Northern India, has changed through the ages. Modem Kabaddi is a synthesis of the game played in various forms under different names.
Kabaddi received international exposure during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, demonstrated by Hanuman Vyayam Prasarak Mandal, Amaravati, Maharashtra. The game was introduced in the Indian Olympic Games at Calcutta in 1938. In 1950 the All India Kabaddi Federation came into existence and compiled standard rules. The Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) was founded in 1973. After formation of the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India, the first men's nationals were held in Madras (re-named Chennai), while the women's were in Calcutta in 1955.The AKFI has given new shape to the rules and has the right to modify them. The Asian Kabaddi Federation was founded under the chairmanship ofSharad Pawar.
Asian Amateur Kabaddi Federation is now Headed By Mr. Janardan Singh Gehlot as President and Mr. Muhammad Sarwar as Secretary General.
Kabaddi was introduced and popularized in Japan in 1979. The Asian Amateur Kabaddi Federation sent Prof. Sundar Ram of India to tour Japan for two months to introduce the game.
In 1979, a return test between Bangladesh and India was held at different places of India including Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Punjab. The Asian Kabaddi Championship was arranged in 1980 and India emerged as champion and Bangladesh runner-up. Bangladesh became runner-up again in 1985 in the Asian Kabaddi Championship held in Jaipur, India. The other teams in the tournament were Nepal, Malaysia and Japan. The game was included for the first time in the Asian Games in Beijing in 1990. India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh took part. India won the gold medal and has won gold at the following three Asian Games in Hiroshima in 1994, Bangkok in 1998 and Busan in 2002. India won the gold medal in the 2006 Asian Games at Doha.
Attempts to popularize kabaddi in Great Britain saw British TV network Channel 4commission a programme dedicated to the sport. The show, Kabaddi, on Channel 4 in the early 1990s, failed to capture viewers despite fixtures such as West Bengal Police versus the Punjab. Kabaddi was axed in 1992, but not before its presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthysuffered a collapsed lung while participating in the sport.
In the 1998 Asian games the Indian Kabaddi team defeated Pakistan in a thrilling final match at Bangkok (Thailand). The chief coach of the team was former kabaddi player and coach Flt. Lt. S P Singh.
The first World Kabaddi Championship, was in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, when 14,000 at the Copps Coliseum watched top players from India, Pakistan, Canada, England and the United States. The next edition was in Surrey, British Columbia, which hosts the first all-kabaddi stadium. India has remained world champion since it was included in Asian Games and South Asian Federation games. In 2008 Sukhbir Singh Badal mooted a professional world kabbadi league with sponsorship to attract the best players; this league will be based in India with tournaments in Canada as well. The current Kabaddi Championship team consists of several local Indian players, Himanshu Batta, Ravi Venkataya, Harman Dhaliwal, Kapil Singh and Mayank Gauri.
Kabaddi is now a very popular game and is a regular sport in Asian Games, Asian Indoor Games and Asian Beach Games apart from SAF Games. Kabaddi will be a demonstration sport during Commonwealth Games 2010 at New Delhi.
The current world Kabaddi phenom is Siddhartha Kapoor, the talented Indian captain from Bihar state, and olympic gold medalist.