Manipur’s female polo players are riding up a typhoon

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On a hill around Heingang village, on the outskirts of Imphal, there’s a pony shrine to Lord Marjing, the god of polo, in which the Meitei (most people ethnic organization of Manipur) come to worship, and in which the nearby polo players visit mild candles before a game. There is mystical energy at the shrine as prayers are provided to Sanamahi, the purchaser god of every Meitei family, who created the Samadon Ayangba—a quick and fierce pony with wings.
The legendary Manipuri Pony is symbolic of a subculture that has struggled in lots of approaches to ride forward. L Some Roy, the grandson of Manipur’s former monarch Maharaja Churachandra, left Manipur for the USA within the ’80s and on his return many years later, located the pony listlessly ambling the streets of Imphal feeding on plastic. Despite its mythological and historical significance, the semi-feral animal’s grazing regions had been lost because of negligent urbanization. Today, the Manipuri Pony is an endangered species with an envisioned population of fewer than 500.

Roy, who’s a conservationist and a custodian of the way of life, realized that the simplest way to preserve the horse alive might be to assist increase Sagol Kangjei (Manipuri polo) with the aid of bringing global interest to it. Manipur is considered the birthplace of current polo—the British later exported the game to the relaxation of the world. Mapal Kangjeibung polo ground, located in the heart of Imphal and surrounded through urban homes, is one of the oldest extant grounds in the world. It dates to the early seventeenth century, with references that pass back to the primary century AD at some point of the reign of King Kangba.
As polo has been male-ruled in Manipur, female gamers were critically lagging in the sport due to lack of possibility and path. That changed with Roy’s projects. Drawing upon his contacts on the United States Polo Association (USPA) in 2013, Roy, along together with his US associate Ed Armstrong, began inviting ladies’ polo groups from overseas to keep a neighborhood tournament in Imphal.
And consequently commenced the Manipur Statehood Day SPECIALWomen’s Polo Tournament, India’s most effective international women’s polo event, in 2016, in partnership with Roy’s Polo Yatra (an enterprise for ladies’ polo in India), the USPA, and Manipur Tourism, with handiest one traveling group: USA. The annual event has grown exponentially since then. The recently-concluded season in January this yr, had four foreign groups—USA, Canada, Kenya, and Argentina—along with the Indian Polo Association (IPA) crew with the assist of Manipur Tourism, Incredible India, and the Bombay Stock Exchange. It became produced by using Polo Yatra and organized by means of the All Manipur Polo Association. In testimony to its growing international standing, Argentina prepares a match referred to as the Manipur Cup in 2018, wherein the winners of the 13 taking part groups got here to play in Manipur.

Daughters Of The Polo God (2018), an award-winning documentary film on the woman polo players of Manipur, which had it’s India most fulfilling on the opening night of the tournament, perfectly captures the spirit at the ground. Roopa Barua, the movie’s director, says, “I had simplest heard tales of civil unrest, terrorists and navy atrocities in Manipur. But once I went to Imphal for the tournament in 2016, I saw that ladies’ polo become a developing tale—the symbiotic courting between ladies’ polo and the endangered Manipuri Pony was a completely unique concept.”

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