Imphal, March 17, 2019: Chingkheihunba Polo Club (CHPC) will be meeting X Polo Club in the 29th Governor’s Cup Polo Tournament 2019 being organized by Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association at Mapal Kangjeibung, on March 19. Chingkheihunba Polo Club secured a narrow 3-2 win against Imphal Riding Club in the first semi-final match of the tournament to ensure their final place. At the same time, X Polo Club overcame MPSC-B by the same margin to complete the fixture.
Chingkheihunba Polo Club and Imphal Riding Polo Club played out a 0-0 draw in the first chukker, but Imphal Riding Club raced ahead in the second chukker to take a 2-0 lead through goals scored by N Ranjan Singh. It was a turn of fate in the third chukker as A Basanta and P Join drew level scoring one goal each for Chingkheihunba Polo Club before Th Kaoba chipped in the winner in the last chukker lately to stun Imphal Riding Club, which could not sustain their attack in the previous two chukkers. The second semi-final match between MPSC-B and X Polo Club was a neck to neck competition as the two sides played out a 1-1 draw in the first chukker before a barren second half followed up.
Kh Nongpoknganba scored for MPSC-B in the first chukker, while P Ajit pulled level a few seconds later. X Polo Club then took the lead through L Atangba’s shot in the third chukker, and Atangba further extended the lead to 3-1 in the last chukker before T Pradeepkumar of MPSC-B pulled back a goal lately to finish the game 2-3.
On a hill around Heingang village, on the outskirts of Imphal, there is a pony shrine to Lord Marking, the god of polo, where the Meitei (the majority ethnic group of Manipur) come to worship, and where the local polo players go to light candles before a game. There is mystical energy at the shrine as prayers are offered to Sanamahi, the patron god of every Meitei household, who created the Samadon Ayangba—a fast and fierce pony with wings.
The legendary Manipuri Pony is symbolic of a culture that has struggled in many ways to ride forward. L Some Roy, the grandson of Manipur’s former monarch Maharaja Churachandra, left Manipur for the USA in the ’80s and found the pony on his return two decades later, listlessly strolling the streets of Imphal feeding on plastic. Despite its mythological and historical importance, the semi-feral animal grazing areas were lost due to negligent urbanization. Today, the Manipuri Pony is an endangered species with an estimated population of fewer than 500.
Roy, a conservationist and a custodian of culture, realized that the only way to keep the pony alive would be to help build up Sagol Kangjei (Manipuri polo) international attention to it. Manipur is considered the birthplace of modern polo—the British later exported the sport to the rest of the world. Mapal Kangjeibung polo ground, situated in the heart of Imphal and surrounded by urban buildings, is one of the oldest existing grounds in the world. It dates to the early 17th century, with references that go back to the first century AD during King Kangba.