JANUARY   2002
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JANUARY 2002 Contents


 Pakistani Literature
 - Evolution & Trends

 V S Naipaul
His Nobel Lecture

 Visual Arts

 South Asian Art - shared
 cultural frontier
- shared
 cultural frontier

 Rare photographs of Indian
 nobility found at Lafayette


 The Jullundur Brigade


 India & China - major global
 players by 2025

 Foreign Investors in India's 
 IT Industry


 Muzaffar Ali


 Shandur Polo Festival

 Chogan - the original Polo

 Indian Polo turns Blue Chip


 'Knock at Every Alien Door'
 - Serialisation of an
 unpublished novel by
 Joseph Harris


Boston Peace March


the craft shop

the print gallery


Silk Road on Wheels

The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in Bangladesh




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Chogan-f.jpg (55454 bytes) 
"Chogân" by Master Mahmmoud Farshchiyâ



provided by

 Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies 
School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS),

University of London


 “Let other people play other things – the king of game is still the game of kings”


This verse is inscribed on a stone tablet next to a polo ground in Gilgit, north of Kashmir, near the fabled silk route from China to the West.  In one ancient sentence it epitomises the feelings of the players today.

Polo is arguably one of the most complex of games in the world. The precise origin of polo is obscure and undocumented and there is ample evidence of the game's regal place in the history of Asia. No one knows where or when stick first met ball after the horse was domesticated by the ancient Iranian (Aryan) tribes of Central Asia before their migration to Iranian plateau; but it seems likely that as the use of light cavalry spread throughout Iranian plateau, Asia Minor, China and the Indian sub-continent so did this rugged game on horse back. 

Many scholars believe that polo originated among the Iranian tribes sometime before Darius the Great (521-485 BCE) and his cavalry forged the Second Iranian Empire.  Certainly it is Persian literature and art, which give us the richest accounts of polo in antiquity.

Ferdowsi, the most famous of Iran’s poet-historian, gives a number of accounts of royal polo tournaments in his 9th century epic, Shâhnâmeh (the epic of kings). Some believe that the Chinese (the Mongols) were the first to try their hands at the game, but in the earliest account, Ferdowsi romanticises an international match between Turanian force and the followers of Syavoush, a legendary Persian prince from the earliest centuries of the Empire. The poet is eloquent in his praise of Syavoush's skills on the polo field. Ferdowsi also tells of Emperor Sapour-II of Sasanian dynasty of the 4th Century A.D., who learn to play polo when he was only seven years old.

Another 9th century historian, Dinvari, describes polo and its general rules and gives some instructions to players including such advice as 'polo requires a great deal of exercise’, ‘if polo stick breaks during a game it is a sign of inefficiency' and 'a player should strictly avoid using strong language and should be patient and temperate'. During the 10th century the Iranian King Qabus of Ziyarid dynasty, also set down some general rules of polo and especially mentioned the risks and dangers of the game.

The best-known references to polo in Persian poetry are from the Rubâiyâts of Omar Khayyâm. He uses polo to illustrate philosophical points. Also there are many of the Persian manuscripts in which these references appear are beautifully illustrated with miniatures depicting royalty and their best horsemen playing polo.

The 13th century common era, Iranian poet Nezâmi (1126-1180), weaves the love story of the Sasanian Emperor Khosrow Parviz (590AD) and his beautiful consort Shirin, around her ability on the polo field, and describes matches between the Emperor and his courtiers and Shirin and her ladies-in-waiting.

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