Manipur may be synonymous with Mary Kom and Irom Sharmila. But, it is also home to the Mapal Kangjeibung grounds, the oldest polo ground in the world.
The modern version of Polo is believed to have originated in Manipur. The British discovered it during the colonial era and brought “hockey on horseback” to the West in the 19th century.
Today, westerners are coming back to Manipur to play Polo! The 2017 USPA-Manipur games just concluded in the capital Imphal.
United States Polo Association (USA) registered easy 9-3 win against Hurlingham Polo Association (UK) today to clinch the title of 2nd Manipur Statehood Day Women’s Polo tournament.
A large sign near the scoreboard reads: No Pony—No Polo.The Manipur pony central to the game of Polo is endangered, its grazing grounds disappearing.
The Manipuri breed, from Manipur in eastern India, is famous for being the original polo pony and is one of the most prestigious of the five Indian equine breeds. The Manipuri originally served as war ponies in the cavalry of the kings of Manipur, who were feared throughout Upper Burma.
The famed ponies central to the game of Polo are critically endangered species. Loss of grazing land, urbanisation and encroachment of wetlands are considered to be among the key reasons for the decline.
Fortunately, efforts are being made to save the breed, the Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association has been formed and they have established a stud farm now housing 130 ponies.
And in a rarity in today’s sports culture,
..the winners and runners up teams have donated the cash rewards for the promotion of Manipuri ponies!