The game of Polo symbolizes facets of India’s mission to bridge east and west

(Contd from previous issue)

There are several songs and stories describing their deeds, importance helpful and romantic; and British could build up its empire throughout the world due to ships. Writers like W.H.G. Kingston and Joseph Conrad wrote stories on “navalism.” Those stories are still sagas.

Manipur Horse Riding & Polo Association organized the 8th edition of Manipur Polo International 2014 at Mapal Kangjeibung, the oldest polo ground in the world, commemorating the 150th year of historic event where the then British Army Officer Lt. Joshep Ford Sherer had taken one Manipur Polo team to Calcutta on January 30, 1864 for an exhibition match for the first time. The British Officer was honoured as the ‘Father of modern Polo” because he had introduced Manipur SagolKangjei as Polo in the event. His great great great granddaughter, Ms. Susan Ailsa Letitia Booth, England was present as a Guest of Honourat the inaugural function.

Manipur Polo International 2014 was held commencing from November 22 upto 29, 2014. Manipur Chief Minister, O. Ibobi Singh, Chairman Hill Areas Committee, Dr. ChaltonlienAmo, LokSabha M.P. Dr. Th. Meinya, Parliamentary Secretary (YAS/TSM), MairenbamPrithiviraj; MLA Heingang A/C, N. Biren Singh; MLA Khangabok A/C, O. Landhoni Devi graced the opening function as Chief Guest, President and Guests of Honour respectively. General Manager SBI, Network –II, Guwahati, PannaLal Das also attended the function as a special invitee.

Foreign teams from Poland, Thailand, United States, South Africa, England, Mongolia and France participated in the international event. Two Indian teams, India –A representing Indian Polo Association and India –B representing Manipur took part in the tournament along with the seven foreign teams.

The closing ceremony was graced by Governor of Manipur K.K. Paul and Speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly Th. Lokeshwar Singh respectively as Chief Guest and President with Social Welfare Minister AK. Mirabai, Agriculture/Fisheries Minister Abdul Nasir, Parliamentary Secretary VungzaginVaite, MLA L. Nandakumar as guests of honour. Kolkata Zonal Manager HemantBhargava and Silchar Senior Division Manager Debi Prasad Banerjee also attended the function as special invitees.

The gracious speech of his Excellency Governor of Manipur K.K. Paul was short but extensive. Describing Manipur as a shining bright star in the field of sports in the country, he said that the game of Polo would certainly gain momentum on the national scene. He congratulated the Ministry of Communications and Department of Posts, Government of India for bringing out a beautiful stamp on Manipur Polo to mark the 8th Manipur Polo International 2014. The stamp will not only be great interest to the philatelists but will also bring Manipur into sharper national focus, he added.

He put his encouraging words as such, “you will find it interesting that the Manipur Polo International, a tournament approved by the Indian Polo Association is the only one of its kind played on Pony. The tournament is unique not only because it is played on Manipuri Pony but it is also played at the historic oldest polo ground in the world – Mapal Kangjeibung or ImphalPologround. Renewal efforts need to be made to save this breed from extinction. This tournament will help in highlighting this issue and lead to a more concerted effort to save the animal. The initiative taken by the Manipur Government to establish Pony Sanctuary at Heingang and a Pony breeding farm at Lamphelpat in Imphal West District is almost encouraging.”

Now, taking into account Manipur as the birth place of the game of Polo, India should be proud of Polo and present the game of Polo again to the world. It is an undeniable fact that India is a country which gave the world, through Mahatma Gandhi, a message of nonviolence in the first half of the nineteenth century and through Swami Vivekananda, a message of unity of all religions, unity of man in the diversity of man, unity of nature in the diversity of nature; permanent unity of religions, permanent unity of nature, permanent unity of man, in the diversity of man in Chicago’s World Parliament in 1893. The revolution brought by Gandhiji was successful and the message of Swamiji was admired and accepted by the world without exception.

Similarly India has to present, through Manipur, the game of Polo to the world with the opportunities and message for joyful coming together of all countries across the world to promote peace, harmony and compassion in this era of technological development, in this era of guided missiles amidst the world full of disorder, confusion, terrorism and conflict. In fact, the world had not seen each one of these three distinctive kinds before they were discovered.

The opening ceremony of the tournament kicked off with a traditional gift of exchange programme. After a warm welcome with blowing of conch, all the participating teams took out a march post carrying their respective national flags. All the nine captains holding their flags joined the oath taking ceremony. Renowned international polo player, T. Pradeep kumar Singh took the oath representing all the participating teams. It was followed by a theme based on Manipur “Sagol Kangjei” and Manipur pony by young artist Mangka Mayanglambam and cultural programme of dance and martial art of different group artists.

On seeing different colours of flags carried by the participating teams of the different countries during the march past programme, all the spectators of the tournament were enthused to motivate the feelings of equality and oneness and to transmit the message of underlying unity through the game of Polo. In the first match of the tournament. South Africa defeated France by 7-4 goals. Last year’s champion, India –B (Manipur) team lifted the trophy of the 8th Manipur Polo International 2014 defeating South Africa by a margin of 7-5 score to claim the championship title in the final at Mapal Kangjeibung (Imphal Pologround).

Public and private enterprises had contributed in cash for the promotion of the game of Polo. Panna Lal Das, General Manager, SBI Network –II, Guwahati handed over a cheque of Rs. 12 lakh in favour of Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association on the closing of the tournament, LIC, Kolkata and Silchar also contributed handful amount for the tournament.

By the turn of the 20th century and down to the current century India has been taking the most prominent, most significant part in building bridges between the west and the east by cultivating understanding that the circumstances of the modern world do not permit any culture or nation to remain isolated and insulated. India is fortunate in having the means to construct such bridges, the mobility to acquire the learning of other cultures, and the human contact that enhances tolerance of other culture and nations.

However with the approach of the 21st century Indian has witnessed a host of changes and inventions. The most important of these are that those means discovered by Indian to construct such bridges are seeking to find patronage beyond the traditional domain.

The game of polo also needs the same patronage and Manipur should not be left alone in promoting Polo. India has to take big role and sole responsibilities to make the clarion call upon the countries enjoying the game of Polo to come to an international common Polo ground together instead of playing the game on their part individually. If India is to carry on successfully its mission for unity of minds in diversity, peace, non-violence and a prosperous world with a value system derived from its civilization’s heritage, India should take opportunities to rediscover such mission through the game of Polo which Manipur gave to the world in a manner and scale not previously seen. (Concluded)

It is true that Manipur gave the world the game of Polo but the contribution given by Manipur Horse Riding & Polo Association, RIMS Ring Road, Lamphel to the promotion of Manipur Polo at the international level is also so invaluable. Before the inception of international idea, Polo known as Sagol Kangjei in Manipur remained so long absolutely localized in one district or one country. The Manipuri Professional Polo player lived all the time without general international tension. But the effort of Manipur Horse Riding & Polo Association to organize the game of Polo at the international level has certainly given opportunities to the Manipuri professional Polo players to compete their match polo players cutting across the world with the exhibition of their indigenous skills and techniques.

Manipuries were usually warriors because the fundamental tranquility of the kingdom was very rare in its historical course of preserving and protecting its boundaries. They took war as an inevitable instrument of policy. The Manipuri armies were both voluntary and professional. The kingdom did not call its armies ‘defense forces’ nor did it employ them simply for defense. It used its armies to advance their interests as well as to defend itself. The success and achievements of the Manipuri armies were, no doubt, brought with the help of the “Ponies”. The Manipuri royal cavalries were the most astoundingly courageous and adventurous armies. Ponies were so inseparable and important in their duties to protect and ascertain the original boundaries of the ancient Manipur. Every Manipuri still remembers the extension of the then kingdom far and wide. McCullock in his account of the valley of Manipur said, “To the north, east and south the boundary is not well defined, and would much depend upon the extent to which the Manipur Government might spread its directions.” In his ‘My experience in Manipur”, Johnstone said, “The Territories of Manipur varied according to the mettle of its Rulers. Sometimes they held a considerable Territory east of the Chindwin river in subjection, at other times only the Kabo valley,……..” As for the north “In 1835 indeed the forest between the Doyang and Dhunsiri was declared to be boundary between Manipur and Assam.” The treaties with Burmah and Manipur recognize the Patkoi and Burrail ranges of hills running in a continuous line from the sources of the Dehing in the extreme east of Assam to those of the Dhunsiri in North Cachar as the boundary between those countries and British India. “…………….. from the termination of the line of 1842, at a point called the Telizo peak, Eastward the watershed of the main line of hills which divide the affluents of the Brahmaputra from those of the Irrawady as fas as Patkoi Pass was declared to be the limit of Manipur on its northern frontier.” The Manipuri cavalries as big forces were carrying out their task of defending the boundaries of the kingdom from any sortof invasion as well as their duty of ensuring communications of the country.

Equally important with its task of making and keeping invasion impossible was the Navy of the British empire. The British Navy was one of the great conserving forces of the nineteenth century. A map of the communications of the British Empire, such as was often shown in geography text-books or on classroomwalls, had scores of lines crossing from every quarter of the globe, all concentrated on the spot called England. None of the lines ran anywhere overland. They came from America, Australia and New Zealand, the Far East, India, Africa and from all coasts of Continental Europe. They came over the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the North Sea. The British Empire was practically all insular, and was spread about the world in spots and patches with almost exclusively sea communications; the British Empire was a water empire.

There was only one land link in this World –Wide system of inter-empire communications- the place of land between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, between Port Said and Suez. This was in Egypt, under the sovereignty of Turkey. In the eighteen-fifties the peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company was conducting a steamship service between London and Port Said, and another from Suez to Bombay, with an overland donkey service along the hundred miles of sandy plain between Port Said and Suez. It was by this through route that Lord Roberts, as an ensign in the East India Company’s army first went out to India. Previously the regular route between England and India was not through the Mediterranean, but over the Atlantic by way of St. Helena and the Cape of Good Hope into the Indian Ocean. The route continued to be a commonly used alternative to the Mediterranean until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.

The British Isles between 1845 and 1875 became the Chief workshop of the world. With population rapidly increasing, the home-grown grain and other home-produced foods became steadily less sufficient. Ships were full both ways, inward and outward. The outward ships carried manufactured goods and coal, they brought back raw materials and food. Not only did British ships use British coal – there was practically no other available – but the ships of other nations used British coal too. Vast stocks of the fuel were maintained at various points all over or about the oceans, in practically every port, British firms at Lisbon, Cadiz, Marseilles, Port Said, Suez, Bombay, all around India, through the Straits Settlement, in all the Chinese treaty Ports, in the islands of the Pacific in the ports of South America and Canada, earned good money continuously selling coal to all the ships of the world, while the British mercantile marine earned equally good money by carrying it. Yet coal – bulky, heavy, profitable – was just one item in the vast carrying trade of the British. The advent of oil had altered the situation. Today British shippers do not export coal even for themselves; they buy oil abroad and have to carry it home.

Thus Ponies for the kingdom of Manipur and the ships for the British Empire were inevitable forces in carrying on their political or military adventures with the belief in progress as the foundation of the civilization of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in their respective countries. Now Manipur has achieved worldwide recognition due to Ponies.

(To be contd)