Manipur - The Birthplace of Horse Polo

The Northeast Dialogue


The pompous game of Polo has been an integral part of Manipuri culture While we talk about ancient cultures and their relation with sports we only get reminded of Olympics and the Greek civilization, which is now a dead civilization. But a civilization like Bharat, where all the micro, mini and regional cultures are living and equally contributing in shaping of the future. And one such present day contribution of ancient Meiteis is the sport Polo.

Polo was called Sagol Kangei in Manipuri and lord Marjing is related to it. Kangei, this game bringing together horsemanship and stamina originated in the northeastern state of Manipur in 3100 BC. The Britishers took a keen interest in the game played by the kings and princes of Manipur exporting it to other countries which picked up global popularity in the later years. Polo is one of the three forms of hockey played in Manipur.

The Marjing temple atop a hill in Imphal is dedicated to the God of Horses, Iboudou Marjing perched on a winged pony. Besides, the oldest living Polo ground in the world known as Mapal Kangjeibung is located in Manipur. The genesis of the game is also accepted by the Guinness Book Of Records in its 1991 publication claiming Manipur to be the birthplace of Polo.

Legend has it that King Kangba invented the game way back in 14th century BC, and in 33 AD., the first ever polo match was organized by King Nongda Pakhangba. In popular Manipuri folklore, there is mention of this unique game and the fact that even celestial gods of the Hindu pantheon were delighted by the foundation of this game, which they regarded as the victory to the erstwhile Meitei kingdom of Manipur.

Today, as it was the precedence centuries back, people of Manipur have the belief that the Manipuri Polo rules were crafted by none other than “Marjing – The God of Polo”. Polo is not limited to the elite classes in Manipur. It is rather a commoner’s game with almost every village having a polo ground constructed under royal patronage. The Manipuris bear a close relationship with the hardy ponies with Meitis taming them since time immemorial.

We need to commend our forefathers and remember them for our rich heritage.


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