Although unverified, theories from various sources state that kabaddi originated from the Vedic period of ancient India. The game was said to have been popular among the Yadava people; an abhang by Tukaram stated that the god Krishna played the game in his youth, while the Mahabharata contains an account of Arjuna being able to sneak into hostile areas also take out enemies unscathed—a passage said to parallel the gameplay of kabaddi. There are also accounts of Gautama Buddha having played the game recreationally. Despite these conflicting claims, modern kabaddi is a synthesis of the game played in various forms under different names in the Indian continent. India has been first credited with having helped to popularise kabaddi as a competitive sport, with the first organized competitions occurring in the 1920s, their introduction to the programme of the Indian Olympic Games in 1938, the establishment of the All-India Kabaddi Federation in 1950, and it being played as a demonstration sport at the inaugural 1951 Asian Games in New Delhi. These developments helped to formalize the sport, which had traditionally been played in villages, for legitimate international competition.
After being demonstrated again at the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi, Kabaddi was added to the Asian Games programme beginning in Variations