Jaipur has an unmatched polo tradition with its royal family trying to keep the polo legacy alive. The game conjures up visions of aristocracy, excellence, style and rare athletic power. Jaipur’s Saawa Man Singh II was one of the most famous polo players of 1950s and 60s. And now his great grandson, the young Maharaja of Jaipur, Padmanabh Singh, who has also taken up polo, has been chosen by a polo clothing company to become its brand amabassador, making it a first in the royal family. Rajasthan Post/TWF correspondent R. Pal caught up with him…
Jaipur Polo season is on. But the one man or rather a boy who is making waves on the ground is the young maharaja of Jaipur. He is just 16 but already an accomplished horseman with classic polo skills.
Playing polo comes naturally to him but turning a brand ambassador for the game is a first in the long history of his royal family.
Hailing from a family with an enviable polo pedigree, Jaipurs young maharaja Padmanabh Singh has become the first royal to turn a brand ambassador for the game of polo. Padmanabh Singh of Jaipurs Kachchawa dynasty, also the countrys youngest maharaja, has now become the chosen one for the reputed Argentine family-based polo lifestyle company, La Martina, which is into fashionable polo kit and clothing.
The company which believes it is linked at its very roots to the sport of polo and shares common values of elegance, luxury and expertise, found Padmanabh a very promising player, who has almost all qualities they were looking for to take their brand forward. He is young, just 16 and has a handicap of 2.
Beginning at 13, Padmanabh has managed a handicap of 2 over three years. No other Indian player at such a young age is on the scene right now or playing so well, say polo observers.
His association with La Martina will give him more exposure to play with international players and improve his game. Polo player Ransher Singh Rathore says, Padmanabh is the first royal to be chosen by La Martina and also the first Indian to be signed on by the company.
Polo experts opine La Martina chose him as a brand ambassador more for his royalty, heritage, aristocracy and for his privileged polo ancestry. They say it is not so much about the financial deal because money isnt the only thing going for people from such affluent backgrounds.
What really counts are his ancestors. His great grandfather Sawai Man Singh II, husband of Gayatri Devi was a world-class polo player with a handicap of 10. Man Singh II was a great patron of polo and an agile player himself. His wife and princess of Coochbehar, Gayatri Devi was also an avid horse rider.
As part of the Jaipur Team, Sawai Man Singh II along with Hanut Singh of Jodhpur, another 10 goaler, won the Indian championship from 1932-39.
In 1933, the Jaipur team comprising Prince Prithi Singh, Rao Raja Abhay Singh, Rao Raja Hanut Singh and the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II visited England and won every tournament like the Hurlingham, the Royal Windsor Cup and many others that they played. Their unbeatable achievement prompted English cartoonist The Tout to sketch the Jaipur team mounted on an elephant and the British team running scared. The caption read: A Jaipur Allegory Look Out, the Elephants coming.
Tall and dashing Padmanabh now joins the ranks of other world-class players like Eduardo Novillo Astrada, Nacho Novillo Astrada and George Spencer Churchill, who are also part of La Martinas global brand ambassadors.
Padmanabh says he feels honoured to have got such an endorsement from a leading polo brand. Through an email interview, he said : It is indeed a matter of great pride for me to represent the La Martina as a brand ambassador. Normally, only well known polo players get to become ambassadors of such a reputed brand. The company has, perhaps for the first time, chosen such a young brand ambassador as me. This association with the brand will enhance my reputation in polo.
Like all brand ambassadors, Padmanabh will also don their apparel, their products thereby projecting their company and also participate in their sponsored tournaments in different countries.
About Padmanabhs two-goal handicap, polo player Ransher Singh Rathore says: Padmanabh is just 16 and his ranking is good amongst top Indian polo players, who have handicaps of at the most 4 and 5. Top players from Rajasthan Polo Club like Dhruvpal Godara has a handicap of 5, Vishal Singh handicap 4, Col Bhawani Singh Kalvi 3 and Manupal Godara has a handicap of 3.
Ransher Singh explains: A polo handicap roughly translates into how many goals you are worth to your team. Every player is adjudged on the basis of effective play, stick work and riding ability. The ranking starts from -2 and goes up to +10. It is opposite to golf, where the lower the handicap better the golfer, here a handicap is actually an advantage.
Padmanabh has been associated with polo since a young age. Jaipur, his native place is considered the home of Indian polo. Padmanabhs own grandfather late Brigadier Bhawani Singh continued the endorsement of polo and headed a number of polo teams, which won a lot of tournaments in Indian and abroad. He introduced the Jaipur World Cup Trophy and was also instrumental in formation of Federation of International Polo (FIP) in 1982.
Padmanabhs father Kunwar Narendra Singh first learnt polo at the age of 32 but has now become a name to reckon with in the polo world with a 0 handicap. He has led the Jaipur royal Polo team to Germany, Italy and travelled extensively around the world.
The Indian Polo Association (IPA) has recently chosen Narendra Singh as steward of Rajasthan zone for a term of two years. A polo ambassador of Federation of International Polo (FIP) in India,
his job would be to coordinate with the 9 Polo Clubs in Rajasthan for growth of rising talent in polo and the game itself. He will also formulate strategies along with IPA to develop the game of polo and facilities.
So having grown up amongst horses and polo players, it was only natural for Padmanabh to take up the sports, which signifies power, adventure and tradition. But he started taking it seriously not until he was 13. He has played polo in his Mayo School, Ajmer days and led the team to victory in national championship.
He has participated in the Delhi Horse show and won many awards in equestrian activities including winning the Junior Indian polo championship. He also played in England and Germany recently and awarded the most valuable player award of the tournaments.
This year he has participated in tournaments in Abu Dhabi and UK.
Padmanabh approximately gives 3-4 hours to polo after his school hours. He passed his secondary i.e Xth board from Mayo College, Ajmer in 2014. He took admission in Millfield the same year.
His grandfather Bhawani Singh, who studied in Harrow, had wanted him to go there but he picked Millfield as it has great sporting facilities and permits him to play outside school campus as well.
Millfield also offers vast range of equestrian activities for its students including polo. It is a school, which provides option of 28 different sports and has at least five Olympian sportsperson as coaches. The school is set in Somerset countryside across two campuses. It has stabling for horses, staff accommodation for supervision of horses, specialist coaching in polo, horse walker. Padmanabh has bought some horses there too.
The school, he says, apart from the regular studies allows him to focus on polo seriously. Its other famous Indian alumni is Arun Nayar.
Padmanabbh says : I play polo in Vaux Park Polo Club and the Guards Polo Club, patronised by the British royals. Here I get to play with top notch British players, which has helped me to learn the nuances of the game.
But it is not just polo for him for his final years, Padmanabh has opted for history, politics and business studies and is hoping to get into Oxford or Cambridge for his college.
Being a royal himself and studying in a country where the royal family is a revered British institution, Padmanabh says he has never been overawed by his royal lineage.
His mother Princess Diya Kumari is a first time BJP MLA from Sawai Madhopur. Although being famous is a part of and parcel of royal family, Padmanabh prefers keeping a low-profile.
After his grandfather Brigadier Bhawani Singh died in 2011, Padmanabh, whom Bhawani Singh had adopted as his son and heir became the maharaja of Jaipur although the title is not recognised by the government of India since it was abolished in the 1970s.
But along with the unofficial royal title and a Rs 1,000 crore worth of property, which includes palaces, forts, treasury and priceless jewels, Padmanabh has also inherited a number of lawsuits by his extended family members.
Politics interests him but for now he wants to keep his eyes fixed on polo.