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Polo in Rajasthan
Rajputs have been keen equestrian and they take to the horses like a fish takes to water. Their association to polo in big way was only natural. Their passion for polo dates back to the Mughal era where miniature paintings at the Mehrangarh Fort, bears testimony to this early introduction of the game. However, Polo did not become a passion until the British arrived and it became a natural and a marvelous peacetime pursuit.
It was in 1889, when the colorful Prime Minister of Jodhpur Sir Partap Singh invited the Bengal Lancers to raise the Jodhpur Lancers; Polo was introduced to Jodhpur in its current modern form. Three years later Jodhpur raised its Polo Team, which won many accolades home and abroad. In 1897, when Sir Pratap traveled to London for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, he took his polo team along, amongst the very first Indian teams to travel abroad, and for that matter, foreign teams to invade England and create history.
They won many matches there, at Hurlingham and Ranelagh and returned with their reputation enhanced; the finest Indian team during those years. Rajasthan has produced many great Polo players, which include Sir Partap Singh, Rao Raja Hanut Singh, Thakur Hari Singh and the colorful Maharaja Man Singh II of Jaipur, who took over the pride of Jodhpur as an inevitable gift by being the suave son in law of Jodhpur. Thus the best of the players and the finest of the polo ponies were shifted to the royal house of Jaipur and the rest became history.
This super premium category sport still thrives in Rajasthan and has seen a quantum jump in its popularity as a life style sport. It has attracted attention from corporate houses for sponsorship. It has also attracted interest of the Prime Minister of India, many celebrities and the army. Today, polo is not restricted to the royalty and the Indian Army, many companies and firms too patronize the sport. Polo facilities are on the rise and polo holidays in India are in vogue. Rajasthan is the preferred destination.
The superb synchronization between man and his horse, the amazing speed, the brute power, with the backdrop of green arena makes for most exclusive and glorious sport of all. Rajasthan also gave the game its Royal Tradition with patronage of the Maharajas, which earns it the nicknames The Game of Kings-The King of Games. Rajasthan still stages exciting Polo games and is treat for the tourist who come to watch this game that demands extreme physical and mental condition.
The Jaipur Royals were a formidable polo playing family, and the last maharaja of the state literally died with his spurs on, on a polo field. With the glamour of the game, they drew international publicity for India, and the sport has remained one of the most prominent in the elite social circuit. Along with Jaipur, there are also formidable polo teams in Jodhpur and Udaipur, while the 61st Cavalry, also based in Jaipur, has kept it alive in the army.
It is not possible to simply arrive and start playing polo, since the sport needs especially bred horses in large numbers. These are largely maintained by the players themselves, or with the help of their sponsors. You will therefore have to seek out an invitation to play, something you are best advised to do in advance. However, it is possible to send in a special request while planning your trip to Rajasthan, especially if you are a group with polo-playing members. This is important because, in season, when the game is played (September-March), the polo teams are often out (in Delhi, Calcutta or Mumbai) on the circuit, or may even be playing overseas. Of course, there is also the chance of having visiting teams in Rajasthan coinciding with the time of your visit. Even if you do not get the chance to play, there is every chance of being able to watch the sport as an observer – which is almost as good as playing. There is something extremely satisfying about watching men on their horses as they pursue the ball with their sticks with skill and adroitness.
150 meters in length ny 100 meters in width for senior and juniors.
120 meters in length by 80 meters in width for sub junior and women
Goal posts 4 meters apart, 2.5 meters in height and 1.5 meters in width.
Camels are accompanied by their riders who sport brightly coloured safa, representing the two teams.
The Game is best enjoyed with three camels to team and one for the umpire.
The game begins with a throw-in from the center of the field.
A player is permitted to take only three taps / hits at the ball, after which he/she has to surrender possession of the ball.
Hooking of sticks is not allowed.
When the ball goes over the sideline, the team that did not strikes, has a hit-in from where the ball went out.
Penalty hits are to be taken from 20 yards from the goal line and in a penalty the opposition camels must be 15 yards away.
Teams change ends only after each “Chukker”.
Ladies may use two hands to strike the ball, men only one hand.
No camel may lie down between the goal posts.
The decision of umpire is final.
Some Interesting Terms
Chukker : One round of seven minutes.
Mallet : The polo stick made of cane with a wooden head. Its average length is between 72″ – 90″, depending upon the your camel’s height.
Safas : Head gear worn by the rider, which represents the two teams. Essentially these are in two different colours.
Kamar Bandh : A cloth belt worn around the waist, by the rider.