This week’s featured polo club is the Calcutta Polo Club in Kolkata, India – otherwise known as the oldest polo club in the world.
PoloWeekly is sitting down with Mr. Keshav Bangur, President of the Calcutta Polo Club, and Ms. Amrita Bangur, Polo Manager and Committee Member of the Club to discuss their incredible history, the oldest polo tournament in the world, and the club’s unique location.
Read on to learn more about Calcutta Polo Club, and don’t forget to check back next week for another featured polo club.
Can you give us a brief introduction to the Calcutta Polo Club’s history?
Polo began in Calcutta in 1853 when two British soldiers, Captain Robert Stewart and Major Gen Joe Sherer, witnessed a game of “Sagol Kangjei” being played by locals of Manipur.
Both officers were so captivated by the experience that they quickly introduced the game to their peers. This was followed by the establishment of the “Calcutta Polo Club” in 1860.
Thereafter the club created the new organized format of the game and set “The first rule book for Modern Polo”.
Polo in Calcutta also enjoyed the patronage of royalty like the Maharaja of Burdwan, Maharaja of Cooch Behar, Nizam of Hyderabad, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales and Sultan of Brunei. They rubbed shoulders with Indian polo stalwarts like Maharaja Sawai Man Singh of Jaipur, Col Maharaj Prem Singh, Rao Raja Hanut Singh among others on the Pat Williamson polo grounds.
Polo in Calcutta was historically the ultimate in entertainment and synonymous with winter. It was the time for commoners to join the Christmas revelry with royalty and top-ranking armymen. Legend has it that the charming Maharani Gayatri Devi fell in love with Maharaja Sawai Man Singh of Jaipur here in the city of joy.
Besides the incredible history, what else makes The Calcutta Polo Club unique?
Well it is the club it’s self, with the tag of the oldest polo club in the world. Besides that, the first ever polo trophy, the Ezra Cup was introduced here in 1880 and named after Sir David Ezra. Ezra was a leading business tycoon in Calcutta who patronized the sport in the city.
The Ezra Cup is one of the oldest tournaments ever played. The Calcutta Polo Club grounds overlook the Victoria memorial on one side and the Hooghly Bridge on the other, making it one of the most breathtaking backgrounds at any polo ground.
Our latest development on the block is the Ezra global tour, which we kick started from Singapore 2017, to UK 2018, and just returned from Dubai 2019.
Do you host tournaments and if so what’s your most important tournament of the year?
Yes, we do host various polo tournaments at the club, they are mostly held once a year as Indian weather does not support round the year polo, therefore December is the season of polo.
Some of the important tournaments are the Carmichael Cup, Stuarts Cup, Ezra Cup and Bangur Polo Masters.
Can members from international clubs come and participate in Calcutta Polo Club’s tournaments?
Yes, recognized as the mecca of polo, making it every player’s wish to once play at the birth place of modern polo. Starting from Maharaja Sawai Man Singh of Jaipur, Col Maharaj Prem Singh, Rao Raja Hanut Singh and prince of wales, have played at the Pat Willimson ground.
During our 150th anniversary tournament, we hosted three international teams – Italy (Rome), United States of America (Carnoustie) and Indonesia (Nusantara), staring Carlos Gracida the then highest goal player. The tournament was the highest polo match in India.
What kind of other tournaments do your members participate in, do any of your members travel to play?
Our members enjoy traveling and playing polo. Though most play within India only. There are many centers where some of the local tournaments catch their interest.
How many polo ponies do you currently have at the Calcutta Polo Club?
We have a string of about 60 polo ponies, so we can mount about 2 teams comfortably. The rest of the ponies are owned by club members and the Calcutta Polo Club ranch.
Are you seeing a lot of new interest in playing polo?
As per-old record, polo can be considered as a non mass sport and once was only played by royals and Defense cavalries. But by subsidizing the sport we have made an initiative to reach out to more and more people – it’s now affordable and accessible.
This was the largest drawback earlier, owning horses etc. But now players can use club horses. So definitely the accessibility has made it easier for people to pursue, and hence help build interest.
If someone is interested in taking lessons at Calcutta Polo Club, what is the best way for them to get started?
They should call or WhatsApp us on 9331005000. You will instantly be given many options to suit your availability and budget. We have many coaching programs short and long. If you have the will to play we are here to make a way.
Where is the best place for people to learn more information about your club?
By checking out our website and social media of course. Plus you can check out our coffee table book, it is running into nearly 155 pages and contains exclusive photos of the players, the match, the crowds, the celebrities and above all the horses which made high quality polo possible.