The origins of carrom are obscure at best. Some say it was the invention of the Maharajahs of India, while many in India believe it may have been introduced by the British. Some books on international games include Burma, Egypt and Ethiopia as possible sources, all of which leads us to conclude that, at this time, no-one knows where carrom originated.
What we do know is that over the past century or so, carrom has become the regional pastime of the Indian subcontinent as well as all other countries where South Asians have migrated. Players often begin at home with family but carry it into their adult lives as a social activity or even to work as a break from the office routine.
Serious carrom tournaments may have begun in Sri Lanka in 1935
but by 1958, both India and Sri Lanka had formed official federations of carrom clubs, sponsoring tournaments and awarding prizes. Rankings of statewide teams in India began in 1956 and the first matches between national teams India v. Sri Lanka) occurred in the 1960s. Regional competitions have also taken place in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and the Republic of the Maldives.
With interest in Eastern culture growing among young Europeans during the 60s, carrom began appearing in homes and clubs. By the 1970s, commercial importation from India had begun and tournaments were being held in Switzerland, Germany and Holland. International competitions were already underway in Europe by 1980 and today, thousands of serious carrom players are spreading it's popularity while boards are now being manufactured in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and Italy.
The movement to form the International Carrom Federation
gained momentum in the 1980s due to energetic promotion by Europeans and Asians
alike. The first Carrom Congress was held in 1988 and their first tournament
in 1989 with India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Germany, Switzerland & Holland
competing for a silver cup. Probably the most important event in unifying carrom
players around the world has been the codification of rules
for tournament play by the ICF. Previously players from various countries
played by different rules, making international competition impossible. With
the creation of the Laws of Carrom teams from all the
carrom-playing countries are now able to agree on rules and 'International
Standard' carrom has been born. Regulations cover the dimensions of the board
and playing pieces as well as every conceivable procedural question.