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Polo and Peacocks: British Polo Day in Jodhpur

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By Cosmo Brockway

It was high jinks in Jodhpur last week as His Highness Gaj Singh II The Maharaja of Marwar-Jodhpur welcomed British Polo Day guests to the beautiful blue city for a three-day programme of events. It was in this city where Lord Mountbatten, last viceroy of India first fell in love with polo and described it as “the best sport in the world.” The city’s ruling family, the Rathores have held a long standing passion for the game with the heir to the throne (or ‘gaddi’), Shivraj Singh, a former world class player. Miniature paintings in the Mehrangarh Museum reveal that the Rathores first played polo with the Mughals. In the late 19th century Sir Pratap, younger brother of the Maharaja and Prime Minister of Jodhpur State, invited Col. Stuart Beatson of the Bengal Lancers to help him raise the Jodhpur Lancers. And it was with the Englishman that polo came to Jodhpur in its modern form.

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The polo team to London for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee with Sir Pratap, amongst the very first Indian teams to travel abroad and the alliance between the two nations was forged. British Polo Day has continued this time-honoured tradition with an annual celebration of Polo in Rajasthan every December, a highlight of its sporting and social calender.

Invited guests from all over the world explored and enjoyed Jodhpur’s many delights, staying at the splendid Umaid Bhawan Palace set amidst 26 acres of lush gardens, with its dancing peacocks and subterranean zodiac pool.

The sporting side of things took off on the first day when the Hackett British Army took on the President’s Bodyguard in an exhilarating match at Jodhpur’s polo grounds.  Light entertainment was offered by the Jaeger-LeCoultre bicycle polo while the crowd mingled.

Jodhpur’s 14th Century Mehrangarh Fort came alive in the evening for a grandly memorable celebration.  The opening procession wended its way up to the fort, standing five hundred feet above the skyline, and included fire blowers and local Rajasthani dancers while richly decorated camels escorted guests to dinner and dancing.

Coolage
The following morning was enlivened by the young Maharaja of Jaipur, HH Sawai Padmanabh Singh leading the Mayo College team against Royal Salute British Exiles Team headed up by Lord Tyrone.  The spectacular match which saw some brilliant runs was won by Mayo College to the crowd’s applause.

The final gala dinner, a fundraiser on the lawns of Umaid Bhawan Palace and hosted by HH The Maharaja, included a live auction which raised $28,350 for the Indian Head Injury Foundation, an endowment close to the hearts of the Jodhpur Royal Family with prizes including jewellery from leading designers, Amrapali.

The evening culminated in a fashion show by Mumbai-born designer, Delna Poonawalla, at the palace garden Baradari Pavilion presenting her SS17 collection, Dark Mistress.

British Polo Day has become a leading fixture on the international luxury scene criss- crossing the globe with its unique mixture of sport, philanthropy and serious partying, holding over 54 events in 15 countries since 2009.

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For more information and to request invitations for 2017 visit www.britishpoloday.com // Photo credit: Sam Churchill

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