The first recorded game of polo was played in 600 B.C. in Persia (modern Iran). Mounted nomads migrating from Central Asia carried the sport with them during their travels. Eventually, the game reached the northeastern state of Manipur, where modern polo originated.
Polo was formalized by British military officers in 1859 at the Silchar Polo Club (formed in 1834). In addition to this historic club, the Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) Polo Club was established in 1862 and is one of the oldest polo clubs still in existence. Shortly after its establishment, the game spread across the globe appearing in England in 1869, Argentina in 1872, and the United States in 1876. This rapid advancement necessitated the formation of the Indian Polo Association (IPA) in 1892.
In the 1950s, the Argentine Polo team was invited to play in tournaments across India by the IPA in an attempt to revive interest in polo. Following these initial matches in Jaipur, Delhi, and Bombay, the Pakistan Army Polo team would also visit India for tournaments in 1955. Many of these early tournaments were held by the Kolkata Polo Club, making it an essential influence on the survival of polo. Today, the club is one of 33 registered under the IPA that produce players that continue to play at the international level.
In 1957, India made its first appearance at the World Championship (not associated with FIP) in Deauville, France and won! The victorious team responsible for this success was composed of four skilled players that all came from the Rajasthan Polo Club (formerly the Jaipur Polo Club). Today, this club continues to support international polo by hosting teams from across the globe such as South Africa, Australia, Brazil, and the United States. The club is a testament to India’s polo legacy and the historic clubs that insured its continuation.
The club also reflects India’s historic commitment to the sport by participating in and hosting India’s most prestigious polo tournament; The Indian Polo Association Polo Championship.
After a lapse of almost 17 years, the tournament came back in 1956 and has been played regularly since. The Rajasthan Polo Club hosted this event and the Indian Polo Masters tournament in 2017 and has consistently competed in the events.
The Indian national polo team has competed in the FIP World Polo Championship four times, in 1995, 2011, 2011, and 2017.
In April of 2023, India was invited to play in the Nedbank International Polo Tournament in Johannesburg, South Africa. Here the team played an incredibly close match against the South Africa team at the beautiful Inanda Polo Club. Although India lost, this was an amazing opportunity to showcase how far India has come through its incredible determination and high standard of play that it has carried across centuries.
Future of Polo in India
HH Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur, commonly known as Pacho, is a current member of the Indian national polo team and is passionate about the growth of polo throughout India. The Maharaja represented India in 2017 at the FIP World Polo Championship and continues to strive for success in the tournament. Pancho would like nothing more than to represent India and take home the trophy that his Grandfather, His Late His Highness Maharaja Bhawani Singh JI, donated to FIP in 1987 when the tournament was first created.
In September of 2023, Pacho competed in the U.S. Polo Assn. Legends Cup held at Jaipur Polo Club. This was the inaugural Legends Cup and Pacho took home the title.
In April of 2023, the IPA announced the first edition of the Indian Arena Polo League. This four-week-long event was held in Delhi and Jaipur and broadcast live on television. The creation of the league was intended to gain a younger and global audience.