India’s Brahmaputra Volleyball League: A shining example of the power of volleyball to inspire and transform lives

Over 4,000 children have the opportunity to play volleyball as the community grassroots league inspires hope through sport in Assam, one of India’s poorest states

Abhijit Bhattacharya, a former captain of the India men’s national team, launched the Brahmaputra Volleyball League (BVL) in 2020, and it has since become on the of the biggest community grassroots leagues in the world, with over 4,000 children from across the state of Assam, India, having the opportunity to play volleyball.

The league was born from Abhijit’s desire to give back to his sport and to his home state of Assam. Abhijit himself credits Dibyajyoti Bhagawati, a volleyball coach, who saw his potential, despite never having the opportunity to play volleyball, while searching Assam for players.

“Volleyball changed my life and gave me a lot of opportunities, so I’ve always felt indebted to the game. I always wanted to give back to my state Assam,” said a smiling Abhijit.

“Initially the idea was to collect 100 balls and give them to rural villages that play volleyball. Through friends and well-wishers, we achieved this target within one month and we then had to consider the next objective.”

During COVID-19 pandemic, kids were learning volleyball online using self-made cloth balls

It was not long before Abhijit realised the full power of volleyball to unite and inspire individuals and communities. This is especially true for the youth in Assam, India, where the Brahmaputra Volleyball League (BVL) has become a beacon of hope and opportunity.

“In the few villages we had distributed the balls, kids had started getting interest in volleyball but COVID-19 stopped everything. Assam is famous for tea cultivation and normally the workers in the tea farms are poor so their children don’t have access to basic commodities,” commented Abhijit.

“When information reached me that one of the tea gardens was doing online classes for children for their school course work, I approached them with a view of coming up with a module for teaching volleyball basics online. I started training them online with cloth balls and would send them real balls after seeing their progress.”

Dhemaji Girls Under-21 team pose with the trophy after winning the second edition of Brahmaputra Volleyball League at a remote village in Assam state in India. (Photo credits: BVL)

From here, online competitions began over Zoom - the first being an U12 boys and girls under-arm championship featuring three tea gardens.

“It was really exciting seeing kids play over 2,000 passes live on camera. When other tea gardens heard about it, they asked to join and at some point, we had 35 villages taking part. Every time we had the competition we could set new records. I remember one boy did 4,126 touches non-stop in just over three hours,” recalled a smiling Abhijit.

As soon as lockdown measures eased, Abhijit quickly organised an online meeting with the 35 villages that participated in the online competition with view of setting up a league that would give children an opportunity to play volleyball in the villages. The league was named after the Brahmaputra River which snakes through Assam state dividing it into north and south.

Children from different villages battle it out during a Brahmaputra Volleyball League match at a remote village in Assam state in India. (Photo credits: BVL)

Teams were grouped according to proximity to minimise transport costs, while Abhijit also contacted his friends to adopt teams at a fee of 14,000 Rupees (180 USD). This fee also covered printing of jerseys where the name of the adopter is printed on the front while the name of players is printed on the back of the shirt.

The inaugural edition, which started in December 2020 and was played in a four-aside format, featured around 400 kids, namely 33 boys and 17 girls U16 teams. The second edition was even bigger as an U21 (six-aside) category was introduced in addition to U16 (four-aside). Some 2,200 kids across 209 teams drawn from 93 villages took part in the event that saw around 487 matches broadcasted live through the efforts of Dhatura films and mobile application known as Sportvot.

“One of the well-wishers, Amitabh, offered to livestream our matches. We needed two mobile phones for the live broadcast, one for displaying the scores and the other for shooting the video. The phones are mounted on unique tripods that we make out of bamboo sticks,” Abhijit told

“To make it possible for all matches to be televised we came up with a mobile application which is easily accessible on phone to all our well-wishers. We have now identified two people in every village to do the livestream.”

Young players are being trained to do live broadcasts of Brahmaputra Volleyball League using mobile phones mounted on bamboo tripods at a remote village in Assam state in India

Now in its third edition, the BVL has hit new highs with over 4,000 players taking place and well-wishers from 13 different countries supporting the participating teams. Notably, the ratio of girls to boys teams is 1:1 with a total of 393 teams drawn from 144 villages registered for the third edition which has two categories; U16 (six aside) and U12(four aside).

More partners have come on board with Oil India Limited adopting 75 teams this season and Signify providing lights for all the outdoor courts in the villages. While Dhatura films and Sportvot are still supporting the livestream, Video Intel have provided a volleyball nets for all the 144 villages. 

Perhaps the most important impact of the BVL has been the way it has inspired young people to pursue their dreams. Many of the players in the league come from humble backgrounds, but their passion for volleyball has propelled them to new heights. Mrityunjoy Mahanta from Rangoni, U21 best player in the boys category during the second edition, tried out for the Indian U19 national team in June last year.

Another significant impact of the league has been the way it has brought together communities. The BVL has become a source of pride for the people of Assam, who come out in large numbers to support their teams.

Children from different villages share a meal after a Brahmaputra Volleyball League match at a remote village in Assam state in India. (Photo credits: BVL)

“We are impressed by the impact the league has had on the community since parents have become more united through volleyball. During home matches, you can see them working together to cook food, prepare the courts and cheer their children. Initially competitions only used to take place in town centres but bringing volleyball to the villages has helped parents appreciate that kids don’t have to think about school and work only.

“The excitement among the kids especially when they are travelling to other villages is one of the biggest gains. Initially, children in Assam would grow up into adults without ever leaving their villages but volleyball is giving them good exposure now,” noted Abhijit.

Brahmaputra Volleyball League is a shining example of the power of sports to inspire and transform lives. Through its emphasis on community building and youth development, the league has become a force for positive change in the region. As the league continues to grow and expand, it is sure to touch the lives of many more young people and provide them with the tools they need to succeed in life.

“We want to extend our reach to all villages in Assam for the next edition. We also want to set up centres of excellence where our top players from the league can get quality volleyball training and good education. In future, this team can participate in exchange programmes with children from other countries with similar projects. This aspect of travelling will further encourage more kids to play volleyball,” revealed Abhijit.

FIVB and Volleyball World leadership met with Abhijit Bhattacharya during their recent visit to India