Three women’s polo teams are participating in the 13th Women’s Polo Tournament in Manipur, India, this week. The tournament was organized by the All Manipur Polo Association, which has sanctioned two other tournaments currently taking place under the watchful eye of a towering Kangla-sha statue—a dragon with antlers.
"We are at present hosting the women's polo tournament, the three-tournament men's polo tournament, and for the first time, a junior boys’ polo tournament. We are focusing this time on women's polo in the sense that it needs to be promoted in Manipur so that we can compete with the best teams in women’s polo tournaments in other parts of the world,” said Dr. Saratchandra Singh, president of the All Manipur Polo Association.
"Women's polo is lagging behind in Manipur because it is not well advanced and organized as it is in other parts of the world like Argentina, the United States and the United Kingdom. If we want to promote women's polo, we need to organize polo tournaments regularly, and at the same time keep training the women players. We are now taking care of that part of the polo training amongst girls," he added.
In January 2016 and 2017 the United States Polo Association (USPA) sent women from Team USPA to Manipur to compete in the Manipur women's tournament.
The 13th Women’s Polo Tournament was spurred by women polo players in Manipur in an effort to promote the sport and preserve a game that has been an inseparable part of Manipuri culture for centuries. Polo in 21st-century Manipur has redefined itself. Recently the term “polo women power” has become a popular phrase to describe the sport's revival there.
The first Women’s Polo Tournament took place in Manipur in 1992 and was organized by the All Manipur Polo Association. It was the first event of its kind in the state that focused on women’s polo at an international level. It has proven to be a major boost for women polo players and smashed the notion that only men could play the sport.
According to the All Manipur Polo Association, the first polo club was established in Silchar, Assam, in 1833. Initially, as in many other nations, the game was only played by men. Centuries later the introduction of an international polo championship at the Imphal Polo Ground attracted women players.
Photos by the Manipur Department of Tourism