Polo-playing Manipuri ladies shatter limitations, leading a quiet revolution

Imphal (IANS): Polo, often thought of as a game of the wealthy, has also been commonly dominated by way of men. However, a quiet revolution is taking region at the very area in which it all commenced – the northeast Indian country of Manipur, that’s taken into consideration the birthplace of contemporary polo.
While guys were playing this recreation here for hundreds of years, the highlight has now shifted to girls of the kingdom who now discipline five expert polo groups to compete with the world’s pleasant.
These Manipuri women from humble backgrounds aren’t most effective shattering stereotypes that polo is recreation for guys, however additionally that it’s miles the privilege of the wealthy.
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L. Some Roy, conservationist, and companion at Hunter! Equine, has been one of the primary crusaders for ladies’ polo in the country and sees it also as a campaign to keep the iconic Manipuri pony, whose numbers have been declining over time.
He says at the same time as Manipuri women traditionally did not play polo because it turned into an equestrian sport popping out of a martial way of life, nowa days, within the Nineteen Eighties, they got inspired with the aid of their male household.
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“The All Manipur Polo Association endorsed them. About 40-45 in line with the cent of polo gamers in the international are girls.
So we’re just catching up. It’s pretty gender unfastened as a game, so it puts them on the level of men when they play together,” Roy tells IANS.
While Manipur produces one-1/3 of male players and three-fourths of ladies players inside the united states, Roy says most of those players from a remoted, economically-underdeveloped kingdom are not members of the Indian Polo Association.
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Yet, the country has India’s longest polo season — November to March — with two international and four-nation tournaments, which include the Manipur Statehood Day Women’s Polo Tournament, the most effective such tournament in India in which teams from the US, UK, Canada, Kenya, Australia, and Argentina have participated along Manipuri girls.
The matches are held in Imphal’s Mapal Kangjeibung Stadium, the oldest jogging polo floor within the global.
Filmmaker Roopa Barua, who started documenting the tale of girls’ polo in Manipur in 2016, says a younger polo sisterhood is growing in the country that plows on despite adversity and political turmoil.
“Around 2014-15, there was an attempt to bring in worldwide ladies players to play in Manipur.
Part of this effort turned into to create a marketing campaign to shop the Manipuri pony that’s endangered.
I noticed a symbiotic courting developing, and I followed this story for 4 years,” she tells IANS.
This documentation culminated in a film which intends to take the tale of these robust women gamers to the arena.
The documentary film, “Daughters of the Polo God” became showcased in advance this month at the IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival in New Delhi, and could also be screened on the Bombay Stock Exchange on March 26.
“Manipuri gamers are natural horsewomen and extraordinarily athletic. As I stayed on throughout the tournament, I saw that girls’ polo changed into turning into a growing story. The symbiotic courting among women’s polo and the endangered Manipuri pony turned into a totally specific concept,” Barua stated.
Nineteen-12 months-vintage Tanna Thoudam, one of the protagonists of the film, changed into inspired to play polo when she noticed a few ladies gamers gambling in a suit in 2010.
“Their enthusiasm lit a choice in me to play polo. I’ve felt close to horses considering my uncle added them home. But before that, horses roamed about everywhere. My circle of relatives become no longer thoroughly off, and my uncle couldn’t afford to shop for a horse,” she says.
Tanna joined the Assam Rifles Polo Club in 2011 and became the best junior to make it to the final Manipuri team for the 2017 Statehood Day Women’s Polo Tournament. “It becomes the happiest second of my existence.”
Thoinu Thoudum, founding the father of the Chingkhei Hunba Polo Club, says it is good to have a girls’ event because it encourages girls to begin gambling polo while also displaying harmony and respect for ladies gamers.
Jetholia Thongbam started playing polo in 2016 and carried on even after her sister stopped gambling following her marriage.
She believes that Manipuri gamers have become better each yr via playing with worldwide players.
“Playing with the United States Polo Association (USPA) crew changed into a splendid experience. Though their skills are very exclusive from ours, we could research loads,” she says.


N. Ibungochoubi, Secretary of the Manipur Polo Society, says the connection between Manipuris and horses is special.
“Horses for hundreds of years here are owned via people, they’re trained, they’re broken. And then they are set free to graze freely inside the open wetlands of Manipur.”
But lately, the Manipuri ponies have misplaced their domestic to urban blight with their numbers declining from 1,893 in 2003 to just around 500 in 2014.
This is wherein this symbiotic relationship among humans and horses can doubtlessly be a recreation-changer.
“Here is one (polo) community whose welfare is so closely tied with the welfare of the animal on which the sport is performed. We felt that seeing that India did no longer have any girls’ polo event, Manipur could be, and must be, the home of women’s polo in India,” Some Roy says.
He adds that going to play polo in Manipur is like going to Mecca.
“For those who recognize the history of polo, Manipur is a unique place – that is in which all of it got here from. And then we say it will be performed at the original Manipuri pony, and then we tell them that it’s miles on the sector’s oldest residing polo ground. It’s a reasonably irresistible invitation,” Roy adds.

Randy Montgomery

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