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20 Feb 2024

Modern Polo

Written by
The Logical Indian
Culture and Sport

The Beginnings in Manipur

'Sagol Kangjei,' the precursor to polo, emerged in Manipur with wooden balls and unique rituals. The name 'Pulu,' derived from the wooden ball, eventually became 'polo' in anglicized terms. The game's association with Manipur's rituals, particularly the reverence for God Marjing, suggests an origin predating historical records. King Khagemba's reign in 1605 marked the formalization of polo's rules, laying the groundwork for its evolution.

Traditional Manipuri Polo

The traditional form of Manipuri polo differed significantly from today's version. Played with seven players on each team using local ponies, they lacked goalposts. Instead, scoring involved hitting the ball out of either end of the field. The use of mallets made from cane, bamboo root balls, and a prohibition on carrying the ball made Manipuri polo a distinct and special experience.

Popularity Among Commoners and Royalty

Polo's popularity extended beyond royalty, with commoners participating alongside their ponies. The kings of Manipur even had designated polo grounds within their forts, with the Imphal Polo Ground recognized as the world's oldest. Lieutenant Joseph Ford Sherer's visit in the 1850s marked a historic moment for polo's evolution.

Colonial Era and International Recognition

The British colonial era saw the establishment of the first polo club in India in 1834. Indian teams excelled internationally from the 1800s to the 1910s, with states like Alwar, Jaipur, and Hyderabad dominating tournaments. Despite setbacks from World War II and industrialization, efforts to revive polo persisted post-independence.

Revival and Global Recognition

The Indian Polo Association, founded in 1892, played a pivotal role in the sport's rejuvenation. The President's Cup, inaugurated in 1975, became a prestigious trophy. The IPA's centenary in 1992 and India's World Championship win in 1957 further fueled polo's resurgence. Today, polo has transcended its royal and military confines, finding a place in diverse Indian communities.


Polo's journey from Manipur's fields to international arenas underscores its enduring appeal and cultural significance. Born from indigenous roots, the sport has evolved into a cherished pursuit, reflecting India's rich heritage. With polo clubs registered across the country and its influence spreading to regions like Ladakh and Rajasthan, the legacy of polo continues to thrive. As we celebrate the thundering hooves and galloping ponies, let us acknowledge that the exhilarating sport of polo has its humble beginnings in the enchanting land of Manipur, India.

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IndiaFirst Life & the logical indian

Headquartered in Mumbai, IndiaFirst Life Insurance Company Limited (IndiaFirst Life), is one of the country's youngest life insurance companies. The Logical Indian is an independent and public-spirited digital media platform for Indian Millennials. IndiaFirst Life and The Logical Indian have come together to showcase India’s rich history of innovation in different fields of life which have made a significant mark on humanity and globally. Please note, The Logical Indian (5w1h Media) as an entity is responsible for source validation and fact-checking from credible sources of the articles posted on this page.