By Shivani Joshi
The mountainous haven of Manipur, India, has given birth to one of the most empowering sports in the world – Polo. Known as Sagol Kangjei in the indigenous language, it is said to have originated here, and today, Manipur proudly boasts the oldest living polo ground in the world. As a polo enthusiast, I was fortunate enough to witness the 6th Annual Women’s International Polo Tournament, organized by the All Manipur Polo Association and Manipur Tourism.
As I entered the grounds of the tournament, the sound of thundering hooves and the clashing of mallets filled my ears, and I knew I was in for a treat. The women players, with their strong will and swift ponies, left the onlookers awe-struck. It was evident that they were there to leave a mark and break down barriers in the sport.
The tournament is part of Manipur’s effort to establish itself as India’s center for women’s polo and showcase the sport as a pioneer. “We believe that we have come a long way towards making Manipur a home for women’s polo,” commented Shri W. Ibohal Singh, Director (Tourism), Manipur.
The players who participated in the tournament shared how significant the event was for them. “The most striking moment of the entire tournament was to participate and represent Manipur Team A (India),” said Lucy L, a polo player. Neelu, another player from Manipur, emphasized the importance of the tournament in empowering female players and promoting the sport of Sagol Kangjei.
The tournament is not only crucial in promoting the sport but also in breaking down stereotypes and encouraging more young girls to take up the sport. “The number of female players is increasing every year,” said Neelu.
This year’s tournament invited ladies from Luxeembourg and South Africa who played alongside local ladies of Manipur and a team from India ( IPA). “We are immensely grateful to the All Manipur Polo Association and everyone involved in making this tournament a reality, including the entire tourism department. It has been a pilgrimage for us to learn about the roots of polo, play on the iconic grounds and legendary ponies, and witness the monumental sculpture at the Marjing Polo Complex. This experience has blown us away, and we will be spreading the word to as many polo players as we can – they must come to Manipur.” commented the winning team South Africa on behalf of South African Polo Association.
Dr. Saratchandra Singh, President of All Manipur Polo Association, added, “The ether of Lord Marjing’s urge for Women’s Power in the world through Polo has now reached South Africa and Luxembourg following the USA, the UK, Argentina, Australia, Kenya, and still the Lord wishes to spread the message to other parts of the planet.”
Rabii Benadada, a scratch polo player & polo enthusiast shared his experience “I strongly believe that Polo is a universal language that creates bonds beyond borders. It’s truly refreshing to see how this sport breaks barriers and brings people from different countries and cultures together. Being a part of this wonderful tournament and representing Luxembourg in India has been an incredible experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity to witness how Polo can unite us all.”
As I left the Women’s International Polo Tournament, I couldn’t help but feel inspired by the power and resilience of the women players. They had become pioneers in the world of modern polo, and I left with a newfound appreciation for the sport and a hope that more young girls around the world would be inspired to take up the mallet and ride with the wind just like these women players.