The oldest equestrian sport, Polo, was modernised in India. The game was earlier called ‘Pulu’ in Manipur where it evolved into a much faster version to that played in the 19th century. Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur is the youngest Indian to participate in a Polo World Cup. He studied liberal arts at the New York University before moving to Rome to pursue art in 2018.
“I started riding when I was very young; I’d say around four or five years old. I could almost ride a horse before I could even walk. My father and grandfather were polo players, so I grew up around horses all my life,” Singh on how he got introduced to Polo.
The 21-year-old polo prince of India has always admired the sport and turned it into his passion after picking it up from an early age. He was at Mayo College School in Ajmer, Rajasthan for most of the childhood days that shaped him into the person he is today.
“Something inside of me just asked me to go and give it a try when I was in school. Once I did, I could never give it up and wanted more and more of it. Polo is something I have loved doing and is a part of my life.”
Singh is the 303rd descendant of the royal family of Jaipur and played against prince William at the 2017 Maserati Royal Polo Tour in Tetbury, England. His professional polo days started in 2015, and he is also a member of the Guards Polo Club in Windsor, Berkshire.
“It is on its way up, when I talk about it in India, we have so many sponsors because it is an expensive sport and needs a lot of facilities and a regular investment, but you don’t necessarily have to be by yourself,” Singh on the future of Polo in India.
Singh believes that Polo is a gentleman’s sport that demands to be presentable. It shares asymmetrical relation with fashion, which is one of his other passions, something we can find familiar in all the kings.
“It encourages you to dress elegantly and portray yourself in your capability, motivating you to look stylish. We also work with the horse in this sport, which is one of the most elegant animals,” Singh commented.
Travelling and meeting new people inspire Singh to expand his horizon and learn about different cultures. He is very enthusiastic about visiting new places but at the same time mindful of conserving his identity.
“We can learn a lot about the influence of art and history with the help of fashion and its modernisation. One thing I always keep in mind when I pick an outfit is my age and at the same time, my culture and tradition.”
Many young people see Singh as a style icon in India, which can be understood once you watch him walk in fashion shows. He walked the runway at the 2018 Dolce & Gabbana show and attended the 2018 Giorgio Armani men’s fashion week in Milan, Italy.
Singh is also the youngest Indian to win the title for the most stylish man at the GQ awards in 2018 at the age of 20, setting him in a league of his own.
“I am extremely proud of where I come from, and I always make sure that I have an Indian touch even when I’m wearing a suit. Another thing that I love doing is wearing our Bandhgala (traditional Indian suit) while attending events elsewhere in the world because it reflects Indian craftsmanship.”
The 2017 Polo World Cup was held at the Sydney Polo Club in Australia. The top eight teams competed for the prize. Singh was a part of a very young Indian team that played against highly competitive opponents such as Chile who were beaten by Argentina in the final.
“Representing my country has given me a new sense of pride and responsibility because not many people get to wear the Indian flag. It is also a great platform to become an ambassador for the country while travelling around the world for competitions,” Singh told SportyCorner.
Singh aims to replicate his great grandfather, Man Singh II as he led the Indian national team to a polo tour at Hurlingham park in 2017. It was the first time an Indian team visited this venue in seventy years.
“The fact that my great grandfather was the captain of the only Indian team that ever won the Polo World Cup added a special incentive for me to pursue this sport. Being able to repeat that achievement is one of my most important goals and one I’m willing to work very hard for.”
Narendra Singh, the father of Padmanabh Singh, is promoting young polo players in India through The Royal Jaipur Polo Foundation. This venture is directed towards popularisation of the sport and providing talented people with adequate exposure that they probably can’t access.
“The sport only grows if there is a globalisation of players, horses, sponsors and teams which are essential elements to improve the game,” Singh emphasised.
Breaking into the Indian national Polo team and following the footsteps of his great grandfather has always been Singh’s ambition. But after achieving so much at such a young age, Singh may have a chance of bringing the glory days back to India.
“It was one of the highest moments of my life when we were lined up for our first game in Australia with the national anthem pumping the beats. That was some feeling that it is going to be hard to beat.”
The future of Indian polo is in safe hands until there are players like Singh in the squad. Singh likes to dress well no matter the occasion, which is what a young public figure must reflect on being impactful. The reputation as the head of one of the most prestigious royal families in India does not stop Padmanabh Singh to follow his passion and goals. All things in life are meant to be balanced, and it is essential for people like Singh to live for others as well for themselves.