Antakshari, literally meaning the last letter (antya meaning the end/last; akshar meaning letter), is(was) a popular parlor game (also a road trip/picnic/anywhere game!) in India. As a child, I recall playing countless rounds of the game with family and friends during parties, when the lights went out due to a power cut and all we had to entertain ourselves was our voices, during trips on the never-ending hours on the bus or the train where playing such games definitely meant that no ‘are-we-there’ questions were ever heard on the trip! And of course, we played at college events, in competitions, and played along with the contestants on the TV show popularizing this game in the 90s…
So, what is this game, you ask? This is a singing game similar to word chain games that can be played by two or more participants (individuals or teams) and the rules were simple (and very often bent or forgotten in the fun of the game!):
- Each participant sings the first verse of a song (usually a Bollywood song) that begins with the last sound (normally consonant, but based on the players, can be either vowels/consonants) on which the previous participant’s song ended.
- Songs are not repeated.
- The verses sung need to be correct
- Participants need to sing their song within a time limit (else the tick-tock-clock of the opponent’s countdown starts to ensure the same!)
Often times, the game was just played for the fun of it with no winners or losers as everyone ended up being part of everyone’s teams and at others, we were in super-competitive mode, mercilessly counting down our opponent’s while they pondered over the song to sing and being overly nit-picky over the verses/lyrics being sung correctly. But no matter how it is(was) played, the end result – FUN!
Each generation had(s) its favorite oft-repeated songs sung during this game and no matter what you might tell yourself, those are the first songs that come to your mind each time you play antakshari. Some of the songs I have always sung (singing might not be the right term here :)) include:
M – Mere saamne wale kidki mein….finally ending with the sound ‘h’
H – humne tumko dekha, tumne humko dekha… ending with ‘s’
S – sun sahibaa sun.. ending with ‘na’
N – noorie, noorie, aaja re…. ending with ‘r’
R – Raat kali ik khwab mein aayi… ending with the vowel ‘I’ (pronounced as the short ‘i’)
I – imli ka boota bairi ka ped…and so on.
Other songs from random letters that made their way invariably into a round of antakshari were:
Y – Yamma yamma
T – Tande tande paani mein (for the ever difficult ‘ta’ sound.. kind of getting the Q or X in word building games)
Ek do teen
Here are a couple of videos:
Q to the reader: So, what are some of your favorite antakshari memories (if you played as a child)? or word-chain/word building game memories..
Or what is one of your favorite childhood games? Let me know in the comments.
I had to add on one (well few more for the letter A)
One big major item – you will find repeated mentions of this in my blog – Amar Chitra Katha – Literally meaning Immortal Picture Stories, these comic books were a delightful introduction for children to mythology, fables, folk takes, freedom fighters, and more. Amar Chitra Kathas have a place of pride in my library here (I bring back a few with each trip to India – either buy them or bring back old favorites that my brother and I fight over:) )
Q to the reader: To pick one favorite from the vast collection is almost impossible, but if you read them growing up (or now), which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments.
As for me, some of my favorites include ‘Krishna’, ‘The Sons of Rama’, ‘Gopal and the Cowherd’, ‘The Pandit & the Milkmaid and other tales told by Sri Ramakrishna’, ‘Tanaji’, ‘Kannagi’, ‘Gopal the Jester’, ‘Raman of Tenali’, ‘The Elusive Kaka’, ‘Kalidasa’, ‘Kacha and Devayani’, ‘Sukhu and Dukhu’, ‘Andher Nagari’, ‘Kesari the Flying Thief’, ‘The Mystery of the Talking Bird’, of course, the many featuring Birbal and the many Panchatantra and Jataka Tales, and well, I think I can go on until I list every one that I have read (and even the ones unread – I realized sadly that I have many to read)..
and some of them pictured in the collage below..