Saving Manipuri pony & polo

Today we can’t revive the Manipur Royal Cavalry which was once feared by the Burmese (Awas) and other neighboring countries including Takhels and Ahoms. But we can still maintain and promote our ponies (horses) and Sagol Kangjei (traditional Manipuri Polo).

A few days back we had a serious discussion on the subject with ‘Teachers’. Then we came to the conclusion that the Central Government may be requested to do the needful because the State has limited resources.

Reviving the Indigenous game of Manipuri traditional Polo (Sagol Kangjei) and conserving its integral constituent, the Manipuri pony is not that easy. Because today both cater no pecuniary/material benefit to the pony keepers or polo players. Then how to make them relevant and attractive, if not lucrative is a million-dollar question.

Our pony is declared an endangered species but nothing substantial could be done due to want of resources. No sustainable project has been taken up so far for the conservation of the ponies. Hon. Chief Minister Biren has taken up a pony project at Marjing, that is very encouraging.

Some Polo Clubs and Associations are keeping and maintaining some ponies with great difficulty. But a big impetus or push is required to save both the pony and traditional polo.

We all know that the game of present-day Polo is a gift of Manipur to the World. Encyclopedia Britannica records and The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes Manipur as the origin of Polo in the World. The origin of Sagol Kangjei, (Manipuri Polo) is obscure as the theories in most of the cases are based on mythologies, oral history and Royal Chronicles.

In a widely accepted ancient scripture, it is mentioned that King Pakhangba introduced his consort Laisana to his friends and chieftains or lords with an agile game of Sagol Kangjei (33 AD) . Since then, the game of Sagol Kangjei had been widely played in the region, particularly in the valley.

One of the recorded Polo exhibition matches played by the Manipuri players outside the state was at Silchar, Assam in 1859 under the aegis of the British.

Later it was introduced into England and subsequently to the rest of the World. That was the beginning of the modern international Polo skillfully refined from Sagol Kangjei (Traditional Manipuri Polo). The Rules of the game have changed since the time the game turned into an international one.

As per the latest estimate, 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 game is played only riding ponies. It had its own rules and norms.These days all the polo activities in the state are now run on the basis of the International norms.

All paraphernalia of the modern polo are readily available whereas the same are not readily available for the indigenous polo, Sagol Kangjei (now almost extinct). There is serious apprehension of the extinction of the traditional indigenous polo game (Sagol Kangjei) of Manipur along with the ponies.

This is bound to happen because today there is hardly any patronage and material support from anywhere for both Sagol Kangjei and the pony.

Every police battalion of the State may be asked to maintain ponies for pony polo tournaments. The tournaments should be sponsored by the State or by the affluent section of the society. Rather the rich must come out and organize polo tournaments played on ponies.

The International Polo festival is only one such event. This is not enough. We must have district level and State level tournaments. Here local MLAs should play the role of patrons. The polo players and pony keepers must be given jobs or incentives in both public and private sectors of the State (may be legally mandated).

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 popular. Or the present game is played on ponies. The symbiotic relation between the two must be sustained.

Doing so the legend of pony and polo will always remain a living national heritage of the proud Manipuris. People should also come out and do whatever little they can do to preserve and promote our proud tradition & heritage of pony and polo.

When Thang Ta is included in the National games, we are happy. Rijiju ji, we will be more happy if pony polo is also included in the National games or Khelo India Khelo.

While discussing about preserving and promoting Manipuri pony and traditional polo, our Hon. MP RK Ranjan said he is taking the matter to the Hon Prime Minister to take special care of our pony and polo, and also initiate a plan to conserve both which were the harbingers of modern international polo.

It is not a humongous task to organize every year, a Governor’s Cup for pony polo (with international rules) & a Chief Minister’s Trophy for pony polo (Sagol kangjei rules), and the winning team will be inducted in Manipur Police without taking any tips. Please consider.

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