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Polo: The Princely Sport of Rajasthan

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Polo: The Princely Sport of Rajasthan

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Who might have thought of a game to be played atop horses, hitting a ball with a long stick. The roots of Polo go deep in history giving rise to arguments as to its origin. Yet it goes without saying that Polo had its beginning in Gilgit, Manipur and Chitral of India while the sport was supported by Polo veterans like late Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II and Maharaja Sawai Bhawani Singh of Jaipur in Rajasthan (erstwhile Rajputana) making the sport their official game. Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan is famous for adding spice to this game, being the place where Polo is an enthusiastic sport indulged in by its royal and not so royal residents.

Polo the princely sport of Rajasthan

Popular as Sagol Kangjei, Pulu or Kanjal Bazee to the people of Manipur, Polo got its English version from the middle phrase and modified into a notable game by the British much later.  The sport which began as a form of hockey Sagol Kangjei (as it was earlier called and played on horseback) or its advanced version of polo is said to be introduced in by Manipur King Kangba and this game became a regular affair during the reign of King Khagemba of Manipur. Thus Imphal Polo Ground in Manipur state of India is the oldest playground for the sport.  The playground has been visited by father of modern polo Joseph Ford Sherer in 1850s followed by the visit of then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon in 1901.

Polo made its royal entry into the state of Rajasthan in 1887 being played extensively by the royal families and encouraged by them. Till date most of the handicap players in polo qualify from the state of Rajasthan for its undying love and passion for the sport. Teams were formed between 1887 and 1901 on the basis of respective states in Rajasthan; i.e. Jodhpur Polo Team, Jaipur Polo Team, Alwar Polo Team, Kishangarh Polo Team that competed with each other. The teams comprised veteran royal players like His Highness Sir Pratap Singh, Rao Raja Amar Singh, Maharaj Ratan Singh, Thakur Banay Singh, Motilal, Thakur Hari Singh, Thakur Dhonkal Singh and Thakur Hari Singh to name a few.

Although the royal sport of Rajasthan received a setback due to World War 1 it could not diminish the spirit of its players. When the Prince of Wales came down to India in 1922 to attend a polo tournament that was won by the Jodhpur Team (comprising of Rao Raja Hanut Singh, Thakur Dalpat Singh, Thakur Ram Singh and Thakur Prithi Singh) defeating the Patiala Team who were unbeatable for a long time.

Polo the princely sport of Rajasthan

Polo is played across cities of Jaipur, Alwar, Kishangarh, Jodhpur and Bikaner of Rajasthan supported by the royal families and backed by the Indian Polo Association. Since polo is played in Jaipur throughout the year, this royal sport can be played in at clubs in the pink city or in special venues scattered across the city’s stretch.

The game received a fresh dose of energy when the Rajputana Polo Club was established in 1901 with the co-operation of many Rajputana states. Much later due to the reorganization of Rajputana and renaming of the state as Rajasthan in 1949, the name of the club was changed to Rajasthan Polo Club. At present the club continues to function with full enthusiasm and support of Maharaj Sawai Bhavani Singh Ji of Jaipur.

The royal sport of Jaipur and Rajasthan as a whole played with vigor is Horse Polo which can be observed and participated in by experienced and trained players.  The horses bred and trained for this sport in Rajasthan is also part of the 61st Cavalry of India.

Camel Polo is yet another thrilling adventure to be indulged in during a trip to Rajasthan. It is a sight to behold where the majestic ship of the desert moves gracefully with the players in action striking the ball with elegance. Do keep in mind that in order to participate in a game of Camel and Horse Polo requests have to made in advance as these are not regular events being played on a daily basis. An initiative is being undertaken by the state of Rajasthan to introduce Camel Polo in the sand dunes with the desert acting as the playground.

Polo the princely sport of Rajasthan

Elephant Polo is also a rare sport to be toyed with a pack of 3 -4 elephants dressed in colorful costumes along with an umpire. Since elephants have always been symbol of kings and imperial dynasties, elephant polo is played on special occasions. Requests should be made for prior arrangements for hosting a game of Elephant Polo or tourists need to visit Jaipur’s Chaugan arena during months of February and March when Holi is celebrated. It is quite a sight to behold the giant yet gentle creatures move across the ground with their riders on top playing the ball game with elegance.

Bicycle Polo is another princely sport added to the feather of royal families and in order to participate or play a friendly prior arrangements are to be made. This game is extensively played in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan.
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