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POLO

By Lt Col Prashant Kapoor, SM

Polo in India 1. One clement day in the deepest beyond of Persia (now Iran), someone discovered a real fun thing; hitting a ball whilst riding a horse! Jump ahead 2,500 years and many thanks to the British cavalry, Argentine gauchos and closer home, inputs from Indian tea planters, slapping around a willow root stick has become the international, royal-approved, diamond-dripping, champagne-swirling sport that is polo today. So, word is that you have to be the inheritor of gazillions or at least have a title to play the sport of the kings, Polo. Truth be told, it nearly is. Polo has been very popular in the army since time immemorial and the Indian army still boasts of producing some of the best polo players in the country even today. Considred as the Game of Kings, it remains the King of Games. Let us go down the annals of the history of Polo in India. 2. The modern game of polo, though formalized and popularized by the British, is derived from Manipur (now a state in India) where the game was known as 'Sagol Kangjei', 'Kanjai-bazee', or 'Pulu'. It was the anglicised form of the last, referring to the wooden ball which was used, that was adopted by the sport in its slow spread to the west. The first polo club was established in the town of Silchar in Assam, India, in 1834.There is also a polo ground in chooto jalanga (irongmara/dwarbond). 3. The origins of the game in Manipur are traced to early precursors of Sagol Kangjei. This was one of three forms of hockey in Manipur, the other ones being field hockey (called Khong Kangjei) and wrestling-hockey (called Mukna Kangjei). Local rituals such as those connected to the Marjing, the Winged-Pony God of Polo and the creation-ritual episodes of the Lai Haraoba festival enacting the life of his son, Khori-Phaba, the poloplaying god of sports. These may indicate an origin earlier than the historical records of Manipur, which go back to the 1st Century A.D. Indian Polo Association 4. Indian Polo Association was founded in 1892 to govern and propagate the game of polo. Some of the prominent teams at that time were Alwar, Bikaner, Hyderabad, Patiala, Jodhpur, Kishengarh, Kashmir, Central India Horse, the 15th Lancers, Prince Albert Victors Own Cavalry, the Dragoon Guards, the 10th Royal Hussars and the 17/21st Lancers. By 1900, there were over a 100 affiliated clubs and over 5000 registered houses. Unfortunately post World War II and with the mechanization of the cavalry, the sport faced a severe setback. The burden of reviving the game to its original glory fell on the shoulders of the Indian polo Association. As a first step, to revive the interest in Polo, in 1950, Indian Polo association held exhibition matches with foreign teams in Jaipur, Delhi and Bombay and subsequently invited the Pakistani army Polo team to India. Following this, in 1956, after 17 years, Indian Polo Association re-instituted the Indian Polo Championship. A year

later, A Polo Team was sent to France for the unofficial World Championships. India won the championship beating great players from England, Spain, Argentina, Mexico and France. As a step towards creating a circuit, Indian Polo Association introduced "The Presidents Cup", played in rotation in Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay, Jaipur and Madras. Today Polo is on an upward trend in the country with 26 Polo Clubs registered with the association. 5. With the efforts of the association, Polo has been revived at Leh in Jammu and Kashmir and Hyderabad in South India. Additional Polo grounds are coming up in Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Madras. In 1997, to celebrate 50 years of Indian independence, a cup was held in Delhi, Which was jointly won, by India and Britain. In 2000, for the first time in the history of Indian Polo, Indian Polo Association hosted the Zonal Play Offs in Jaipur for the World Cup 2001, the final of which was held in Australia in March-April 2001. In addition, to creating opportunities for playing the game as a regulated sport, Indian Polo Association has been working extensively with corporates to aid and advance the game in the country. The association has the Chief of Army Staff as its president. Indian Cavalry 6. Once upon a time, the armed might of kings and emperors was assessed in terms of the number of horsed cavalry that they could bring into the field. The Mughal nobility was ranked in terms of the numbers of horses each noble commanded. Thus the title of "Dus Hazari","Tis Hazari", etc.(commander of 10000, 30000 horses respectively.) All Indian military powers gave pride of place to their cavalry. However, it was under the British that the Indian cavalry entered the popular psyche. The very name of the Bengal Lancers of the guides of cavalry conjures, up images of evening campfires under a starry sky on some remote and exotic frontier. 7. However, by the time the Second World War broke out, the last of the horse cavalry in the Indian Army was mechanized. When the British finally departed the shores of India in 1947, the only horses left in the military stables were with the units of some of the Imperial Service (state Forces) troops in the armies of the Indian Princely States. Finally, on integration of the state forces into the Indian Army in 1951 the states horsed cavalry units were reorganized and reconstituted into the Gwalior Lancers, Jodhpur/ Kachhawa horse, Mysore Lancers, and B sqn, 2nd Patiala Lancers. During May 1953 Army headquarters further decided to disband all these separate horsed cavalry units and to raise one " New Horsed Cavalry Regiment" instead, at Gwalior, with the effect from 1st august 1953. Subsequently the date of raising was changed to 1st October 1953. Lt. Col. Phulel Singh of the Jammu and Kashmir State Forces was appointed the first Commandant of the "New Horsed cavalry Regiment" and he assumed command on 19th November 1953. 8. The rather uninspired designation of the Regiment was subsequently changed from "New Horsed cavalry" to "61 Cavalry" in January 1954.. As a result, 61 Cavalry today has the unique distinction of being the only unmechanised mounted cavalry regiment in the world. The regiment recruits Rajput, maharajas and khaimkhanis in equal numbers. It was retained in the present form on Pt Nehru`s instructions. In view of the regiment `s unique

association with the horse, it is perhaps not all that surprising that it has a proud polo playing tradition. The regiment has produced some of the country's most outstanding and inspired polo players. A measure of the outstanding equestrian and polo skills displayed by the regiment can be gauged by the fact that since its raising its personnel have won the Arjuna award the country's highest award for outstanding sportsmen- four times for polo and five times for equestrian events. Polo in IMA 9. The army tried to revive polo in 1950-51 with Indian Military Academy, Dehradun and National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, Pune putting some valiant effort. If 61 Cavalry boasts of producing some of the best riders in the world then IMA can take credit for training most of these riders, or at least it would not be wrong to say that IMA showed the path to many a riders to excel in the sport. 10. Polo has been played at IMA from its very inception in the Doon valley. The Academy boasts of having produced some of the finest polo players. World famous polo players such as Col KS Garcha, Col RS Brar, Col P Sodhi, Col HS Sodhi, Col JS Virk, Col Bhavani Singh, Maj Ajay Ahlawat, Maj Tarun Sirohi, Maj Manoj Diwan, Maj AS Randhawa, Brig VP Singh, Lt Gen DK Palit, Lt Gen Kapil Vij and Lt Gen MS Shergill are just a few to mention out of the in numerous alumni of this cradle. Quite a few of them are Arjuna Award winners as well. I could add my name as well but then people would say I am blowing my own trumpet. Inter Bn Polo Tournament 2011 11. The Inter Bn polo tournament started on 10 Sep 2011 and finally culminated with a exhibition match between the two best teams of Manekshaw battalion and Siachen battalion being held at the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Polo ground on 19 Nov 2011. After rain played a spoil sport, and a host of the various planned activities in the curriculum of the academy, A total of 10 matches were played during the tournament. Played on league basis, the tournament involved all the teams playing all other teams thus giving each team four matches in the tournament. At the end the team with the maximum points was declared as winner. 12. After the league matches, Manekshaw and Siachen Battalion teams emerged as the top two teams with Manekshaw Battalion remaining undefeated in the tournament and Siachen having lost only to Manekshaw battalion. 13. The exhibition match held on 19 Nov 2011 saw much action with Manekshaw battalion trying to prove their supremacy while Siachen fought hard to redeem their honour by winning the exhibition match. The final scores was Manekshaw won 5-4. 14. Based on the performance during the tournament GC PS Pundhir, having scored ten goals was adjudged as the most valuable player.

Lt Col Prashant Kapoor, SM is a second generation offr of the 64th Cavalry. The officer is a good rider and polo player. He is an adventure enthusiast and is a trained Skydiver. He had represented IMA in the Delhi Horse Show in Mar 2011, and stood 7th amongst 189 riders at the National level Show Jumping championship.