Pony, polo & Om Shanti

Few days back , I received very touching photos of ponies roaming around the streets of Imphal city at dawn. The images were sent to me by Salam Bharat Bhushan, the then Editor – Proprietor of Huiyen Lanpao Daily. 

Most of the ponies were apparently skinny and famished. One was lying on the roadside like a dead-horse; I immediately asked Bharat Bhushan ji , whether it was dead or sleeping ! He confirmed that it was sleeping. It is really a hopeless situation and perhaps we are not doing enough for our exotic ponies. 

On behalf of the pony & polo lovers, most respectfully I would like to submit a humble submission to all for reviving our indigenous traditional Polo (Sagol Kangjei) and conserving its integral constituent the ponies. 

People of Manipur always feel proud of their ponies and polo. Therefore, it is pleaded to all to safeguard our dying Indigenous game of polo locally called Sagol Kangjei and its indispensable companion the ponies. Let us do whatever we can do for both pony and polo. I feel proud that some of our friends have started adopting ponies and rearing them at their own cost. 

We need to remind ourselves again and again that the ‘Modern Polo’ is a gift of Manipur to the World. Britannica records that “The English game of Polo was introduced from Manipur where it is a form of great national pastime”. The Guinness Book of Records recorded Manipur as the origin of Polo. It is now accepted globally that the game of present day Polo is the unique present of Manipur to mankind. 

The origin of Sagol Kangjei, (Traditional Manipuri Polo) is obscure as the theories of its genesis are based on mythologies, oral history and Royal Chronicles. It is widely believed that King Nongda Lairen Pakhangba ( 2000 years ago) introduced his consort Laisana to his friends and nobles with an amazing game of Sagol Kangjei. Since then, the game of Sagol Kangjei has been recognized as a popular game of the land. 

T.C. Hodson in his book “The Meitheis“, described Sagol Kangjei (Manipuri polo) as – “To describe the game is beyond the power of any but an imaginative and practiced pen, for, in respect of brilliance of play, constant excitement, rashness, courage, skills and enthusiasm there is no game equal to it”. As per Premborton in his book Eastern Frontier of British India (1835), “There was hardly any Meitei who did not know how to play the game “. 

The Rules of the game have undergone major changes since the time the game turned into an international one. The dresses of the players and the saddlery of the Manipuri Ponies are quite different from the International polo. 

The traditional game being more rural in nature, pairs of enameled leather extended from the saddle guard the leg of the player. The player wears white Dhoti (Pheijom), white Turban (Kokyet) and no footwear. The game is a godly game attributed to the revered Lord Marjing (Lord of Sagol Kangjei). 

As per our pony lover’s estimation the number of surviving ponies in the state is now less than 1000. The indigenous polo game is closely linked with the Manipuri ponies since this traditional game can only be played by riding ponies due to the peculiar nature of the game. 

The Government of Manipur has already declared that the pony is an endangered species but nothing much could be done to protect and promote the ponies due to extreme financial constraints. No sustainable project has been taken up so far for the conservation of the ponies. 

Hence, there is an urgent need to revive the traditional polo i.e. Sagol Kangjei so that the ponies are reared or raised for the continuity of the game. The ponies will be conserved only when the traditional polo game is kept alive. 

The symbiotic relation between the two must be sustained. Doing so the legend of pony and polo will always remain a living heritage of our land. Attractive pony polo tournaments ought to be organized by those who have the resources. 

We are just requesting the Hon. CM to expand the ‘pony home’ at his constituency so that the hapless ponies take shelter there. And if possible the pony habitat may be reinvented in and around the Lamphelpat, their natural habitat – which we have taken over in the name of development . Nobody minds the commercialization of polo and pony as long as they exist healthily and happily. 

Umpteen times we have requested our leaders to kindly initiate viable projects for the conservation and promotion of both Manipuri pony and polo (Sagol Kangjei ) which are the insignias of modern international polo . But the biggest problem is – our ponies are not voters . 

I could not attend the first death anniversary of Shri Moirangthem Shanti (IPS, former IG Police), who was a staunch patron of pony and polo. Just as a heartfelt tribute to him and for all the pony and polo lovers of the land, I have jotted down this piece with tears. Nothing more to say, Cheers Shanti Saab ! (This is Blue Label, genuinely purchased – no bribe maal, not even a gift). 

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