Although most people have heard of the game of polo, a horseback-set up group game, now not a lot of us are aware of the reality that the modern shape of the sport became born in the Northeast Indian kingdom of Manipur. It developed from a traditional Manipuri game referred to as the “Sagol Kangjei” played on Manipuri polo ponies using barefoot riders. Unfortunately, the ponies belong to the arena’s unique polo pony breed are dying, and demise fast. In this text, World Atlas investigates the cutting-edge fame of this pony by way of journeying the world’s oldest polo ground, the Imphal Polo Ground in Imphal, Manipur.
As we entered the spectator gallery of the Imphal Polo Ground wherein a polo game changed into being performed, we ought to hear the roar of the spectators sitting within the stadium as they cheered in a chorus for their favorite team. At the alternative give up of the floor, three billboards were visible. One of them described the venue as “Imphal Polo Ground (Mapal Kangjeibung), the oldest residing polo floor within the international.” Another billboard put up by using the All Manipur Polo Association (AMPA) study “Save Pony Save Polo Save Pologround.” A third one defined the match taking area at that time.
It became the second billboard that grabbed our best attention. It became an instant enchantment to the public to save the polo pony. So, who’s this pony and why does it want to be kept? To understand that, it is crucial to delve into the history of the sport of polo.
Manipur, The Birthplace Of Modern Polo
Polo, as we understand it these days, strains its origins inside the Manipuri sport of Sagol Kangjei. According to a Manipuri legend, the competition has divine origins. The deity king of Manipur, Kangba, is credited with its invention inside the 14th century BC. The first prepared Sagol Kangjei match becomes held in 33 AD beneath the orders of every other Manipuri king, Nongda Pakhangba. For centuries for the reason that then, the game remained an integral part of Manipuri culture. Little changed into acknowledged outdoor of Manipur till the British came to study it with the aid of risk.
Sagol Kangjei turned into discovered using the British inside the mid-nineteenth century once they passed off to watch exiled Manipuri princes play the sport in Silchar in gift-day Assam, India. Wearing turbans and dhotis and with mallets of their palms, these guys rode small, sturdy ponies and performed a sport that regarded as “hockey on horseback.” The game fascinated the British.
In 1853, a member of the East Indian cavalry named Capt. Robert Stewart discovered the sport and participated in a fit with the Manipuris. He changed into so in love with the game that with the assist of other Britishers, he set up the sector’s first polo club in India in 1859. It changed into named the Silchar Kangjei Club. Soon after that, the sport reached England. In 1869, the original polo suit of England became held at Hounslow Heath in London. The relaxation is history. Polo is now played in approximately 70 countries around the sector.
The Manipuri Polo Pony-“The Pride Of Manipur”
Traditionally, the Sagol Kangjei turned into performed on the lower back of the Manipuri pony, a special breed of pony that was used by Manipuris because of historical instances for rituals, wars, and sports activities however never as workhorses. There is lots of confrontation amongst professionals concerning the foundation of these ponies. Some declare that Tibetan ponies were their ancestors while others point out that the breed becomes created by way of crossing the Mongolian wild horse with the Arabian horse.
Whatever be the foundation, the Manipuri ponies became entrenched inside the Manipuri subculture. They had been revered like gods via the human beings of the kingdom. There is even a temple in Manipur, the Marjing temple, in which the primary deity Iboudhou Marjing or the god of horses is visible sitting on the pinnacle of a winged pony. The Manipuri ponies are believed to be the descendants of this divine pony.
When the British came to understand approximately the Sagol Kangjei, additionally they noticed remarkable capability inside the Manipuri ponies used to play the sport. They favorite the ponies for his or her stamina and speed.
With the developing popularity of polo in England inside the late 19th century, the polo ponies have been exported in huge numbers. The British experimented with the ponies and created several new breeds. They also used these ponies to move their troops into Burma at some point of the Second World War. Between 1859 and 1916, Manipur became tired of its ponies and at one factor of time, the export had to be banned from allowing the breed to recover its populace.
The Dying Ponies Of Manipur
While the sector got the game of polo, Manipur becomes at the verge of losing its polo ponies. Since the mass export of the ponies decreased their populace significantly throughout the British Raj, years of tumultuous political adjustments in Manipur after independence further threatened their survival. For an extended period, the ponies and polo have been nearly forgotten because the people of Manipur have been engaged in combating off many evils like inter-ethnic violence and insurgencies that plagued the nation.
Today, even after the healing of peace in Manipur, the polo ponies continue to acquire little attention. Only two international polo tournaments are held in Manipur every yr, and there are pretty much 15 polo clubs inside the nation, down from 60 within the beyond. As a result, the demand for the polo ponies has additionally declined. They seem to have lost their social value.
Another significant hazard to the survival of those animals is the lack of proper grazing grounds, an immediate result of developing urbanization in Manipur. In the absence of sufficient meals resources and secure refuges, the ponies regularly feed on garbage along roadsides. Their new food plan is unhealthy and dangerous and has resulted within the unfolding of multiple sicknesses some of the population. The ponies are also pretty vulnerable to avenge injuries. In 2017 alone, 30 younger colts died because of these reasons.
According to the Quinquennial Livestock Census of India, the Manipuri polo pony populace became located to be most effective 1,011 in 2012 down from 1,898 ponies in 2003.
An Animal That Deserves Global Attention
Although it appears that there’s no desire left for these animals, now not all people have forgotten them. There are certain organizations in Manipur that are striving tough to shield the rich heritage of the country. The Manipuri Pony Society (MPS) and the Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association (MHRPA) are such companies preserving the sport of polo and its unique pony alive. The MPS has installation a breeding center for these ponies. There are about 100 ponies within the center. The MHRPA has been busy carrying out country-level polo matches in view that its establishment in 1977. In a game traditionally ruled by way of men, ladies of Manipur also are allowed to take part these days because the MHRPA organizes a global women’s polo event every year.
Sagol kanji is also promoted by the Manipur tourism branch all through the once a year Sangai festival held in the state every November. The pageant additionally goals to keep the Sangai, some other threatened animal of the country with whom the Manipuris proportion a unique bond.
The country authorities of Manipur additionally devised a policy referred to as the Manipuri Pony Conservation and Development Policy in 2016 to make sure the survival of the polo ponies. Plans are being made to set up a sanctuary for these animals; however investment for the equal is scarce.
In the case, we should take into account that saving the polo ponies of Manipur is ready saving the heritage of the game of polo and that its loss would be a loss for the game and all of the international locations that play the sport. Indeed, the slogan “Save Pony Save Polo” on the hoarding of the Imphal Polo Ground couldn’t be greater right.