In 1859, while Lt. Joseph Sherer, a British army officer published in colonized India, saw turban-wearing and dhoti-clad nearby guys from the northeast Indian kingdom of Manipur playing a game referred to as sagol kanji, he was involved. In sagol kanji, additionally called pulu, that means “ball” or “ballgame,” players driving ponies chased a ball and hit it with a stick to score an aim. Sherer took a liking to the sport, as did other British squaddies in Silchar, in modern-day-day Assam nation, where they had visible the Manipuri players. Sherer advised his colleague, Capt. Robert Stewart, “We should analyze the sport.” And that’s how a neighborhood recreation of Manipur, a state the size of New Jersey, have become a worldwide juggernaut, and pulu became polo.


Today, the sport is played in as a minimum of 70 countries. It featured in four Olympiads among 1900 and 1936, while the occasion becomes discontinued. Notably, no Indian polo group ever competed in the Olympic Games. But the game as we recognize it could by no means have come approximately had Sherer no longer been assigned to Manipur in the course of his tenure in India.

Sherer and Stewart fashioned the Silchar Kangjai Club in 1859. But when Sherer moved to Kolkata, then referred to as Calcutta and the capital of British India, he couldn’t forestall considering the sport. He and Stewart collaborated on turning sagol kanji right into a “proper game” — i.E., an Anglicized version of what they had visible. So, in 1860, they established the Calcutta Polo Club, the sector’s first company for the (kind of) emblem-new recreation. In the changed model of sagol kanji, there were 4 guys in step with a group as opposed to seven, and purpose posts had been brought to the sphere.

“Modern polo is a barely modified version of our sagol kanji,” says Ranjit Singh Moirangthem, a retired Indian military lieutenant colonel and up of the Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association. But rather than rejecting the changes to its homegrown game, Manipur takes pride in polo.

Every year in past due November, the association organizes an international polo event in which neighborhood groups compete in opposition to those from other countries. The U.S., U.K., Germany, and Morocco all participate. The tournament doesn’t simply convey unique teams collectively, although — it additionally pits unique types of the sport towards every other. Manipur’s polo team retains a number of the characteristics of the conventional sport. For example, Manipuri polo gamers (the team is categorized India B) trip indigenous ponies which might be simply 11 or 12 arms excessive, or much less than fifty two inches tall, while players from the relaxation of India (referred to as India A) and from other nations experience horses that are greater than 15 hands high. Manipuri ponies are recognized for both longevity and agility and are traditionally unshod.

For Manipur, polo has a mythological size too. Folklore inside the 2.Five-million robust kingdom — a formerly independent country that until the 18th century used its own script — is replete with references to sagol kanji, and historical mythological texts consisting of the Thangmeirol and Kangeroo talk over with the game. According to legend, Manipur’s god-king Kangba invented the sport in 14th century B.C., and King Nongda Lairen Pakhangba prepared the primary healthy in AD 33. The god of segol kanji in Manipur, who additionally oversees polo, is Marjing, usually depicted astride a winged pony. During the Lai Haraoba competition in May, locals rejoice the game by visiting the pony-themed Marjing shrine at the outskirts of Imphal, Manipur’s capital.

From Manipur and then Kolkata, polo spread to different parts of the world. It appeared in Malta in 1868, England in 1869, Ireland in 1870, Argentina in 1872 and Australia in 1874. It reached the U.S. In 1876, after James Gordon Bennett, writer of the New York Herald, saw the sport in England and again to New York with a rulebook and the important system. Today, no Indian participant breaks the top 50 on the World Polo Tour’s player scores. But in Manipur’s every year match, India B, the Manipuri team, had been champions in 2017 and 2018.

To make sure, segol kanji isn’t the only ancient sport with claims of having contributed to polo. According to the Polo Museum, in Fort Worth, Florida — which calls the equestrian game “the game of kings” — a version of polo additionally existed in Central Asia. More than a hundred guys played for every group in that version, which, in keeping with the museum, migrated to Persia via nomadic tribes between six hundred B.C. And A.D. One hundred. In Iran, the game soon has become a national sport.

But the museum, at the side of different experts, makes clear that the present day sport originated in Manipur, in which polo remains king. In the game’s global fraternity, the credit for its evolution from a historic interest to a contemporary game that has also spawned billion-dollar clothing corporations like Ralph Lauren and U.S. Polo always goes to Sherer, extensively called the Father of Modern Polo. But to locals in Manipur, it’s miles Marjing, the winged-pony god of polo, who spread the game.