The mythological belief of Manipur Polo
The indigenous game of “Sagol Kangei” carries with itself of being into life since the mythological period till date. Following some belief regarding the game, it has been believed that game has survived in three periods:
● the mythological period,
● the medieval period, and
● the modern period beginning from the British period till date.
As per the mythology of Manipur, the gods celebrated the settlement of the kingdom for seven days that included the game of Sagol Kangjei. Played by two teamed of deities, with seven players to a side, the rules of the game were invented by the deity, Marjing. Keeping this mythology alive, Sagol Kangjei is said by Manipuris to be the first invented as well as played game by their ancestral deities, where after the game was handed down to the next generations to be played on the occasion of Lai Haraoba. The Sagol Kangjei was also played on other customary festivals and on the coronations of the kings.
The teams on the North consisted of the following deity players:
1. Marjing as pan’ngakpa (goal keeper)
2. Khamlangba as pan’ngakchang (back)
3. Irum Ningthou as pallakchang (half-back)
4. Irong Ningthou as pallakchang (forward)
5. Ikop Ningthou as langjei (center half)
6. Nongsaba as panjenchang (forward)
7. Panthoiba as panjanba (scorer)
The team on the South consisted of:
1. Thangjing as pan’ngakpa
2. Khoriphaba as pan’ngakchan
3. Wangbren as pallakchang
4. Yangoi Ningthou as langjei
5. Nabul Lakpa as pallakchang
6. Oknaren as panjengchang
7. Loyalakpa as panjenba
According to the mythological beliefs of the Manipuri scholars called Maichous, the game of Sagol Kangjei was invented by the deities, and holds divine significance. The stick that is known as kang’hu consists of a wooden head with a hole at its center through which is fixed a cane stick about 4 to 5 feet long. This represents the divine union of Lairema, the supreme goddess and Lainingthou the supreme god, resulting in the cosmic creation.
The result of this divine union of the two supreme deities was the sun, the life giver of all beings, which is represented by the kangdrum or ball of the game. As the sun sets in the west, swiftly followed by its rays, so do the ball which represents Korouhanba the Sun is chased by the horse which represents sunlight. It is perhaps because of the seven colors in the sunlight that Marjing, who invented the rules of the game, had it played by two teams each consisting f seven players. So, to do the people of Manipur formed by the Meities and their seven cognate tribes or clans called the Seven Salais. The Sun rises from the East and sets in the West and moves from one direction to another to complete the cycle of the day. So also is Sagol Kangjei played, with the ball made to move from one direction to the other, chased by the horse to complete a cycle of play.
The interpretation underlying Sagol Kangjei is of the two elements of Birth and Death that make the perennial cycle of the lives of all beings created in the cosmos. So also the sagol, the horse, and the kangdrum, the ball, complete the cycle of the play. Death eternally chases and inevitably swallows all beings in the cycle of their lives, like the horse chases the ball and makes it scores a goal to complete the cycle of the game. In other words, the perennial struggle between Birth and Death can be seen in the struggle between the horse and ball in Sagol Kangjei.
In this interpretation “Life is a God-gifted game”, with sorrows and obstructions one must face and overcome in the true spirit of the game and enjoy it amidst all the dangers and obstacles.