Polo: it’s Association with Indian Army and Cuban Habanos in India

Polo, celebrating the bond between Man and Animal

One doesn’t need to be a sports lover to enjoy the sport of Polo. It is easily one of the most visually appealing games one would have the fortune of witnessing. The magnificent horses with their coats brushed until they are shining, their tails tied in a neat braid and wrapped in the team colors, the comradery and trust between the horse and the rider, the unspoken bond that has you scratching your heads as to how one could trust such a strong and able beast to be controlled by mere thigh muscles and just a reign in their hands. The truth is that both the horses and the humans are actually quite similar to each other, for most part both show and understand emotions and feel empathy, develop trust, show stress, learn by observation and require social relationships to be healthy. It takes years to form a bond with one’s horse, but once it’s done it is a bond made for life.

Someone said that playing polo is like playing golf during an earthquake and they aren’t wrong. To be a polo player you need your entire body utilized. Abdominal, lower back, hip, glutes and legs for riding and for playing it is the upper back, chest, shoulders, arms not to mention the cognitive and emotional presence you need to maneuver your horse in a game that can get rather chaotic.

The rules of polo seem fairly simple – two teams of four players each ride on horseback and use long-handled mallets to hit a wooden ball down a grass pitch. The aim is to score a goal by hitting the ball between two posts, just like other sports played with a ball. In actuality, there are strict rules based on the safety, wellbeing and welfare of horses and players, in that order. Anything that can endanger the horse, is treated as a foul. The imaginary line in which the ball is travelling or will continue to travel is sacrosanct and cannot be crossed.

Polo comes from Manipur, moved to royalty across the world

The fact that Manipur is the birth place of polo is already supported by the Guinness World Records, by a declaration in the year 1991, as: “Polo can be traced to origins in Manipur state c. 3100 BC, when it was played as Sagol Kangjei. Possibly, this is where it got its title as “Sport of Kings”, as it was the royals from the state of Manipur that generally played a sport that looked an awful lot like Modern Polo. It was from there that the ethnic tribes and tea planters picked up the sport and gave it more popularity allowing Lt. Joseph Ford Sherer of the British Army’s Sylhet Light infantry to formalize the modern Polo in the 18th century. The sport quickly picked up and was often linked with the UK Royal Family and the nobility across the world.

Polo, Habanos and its Association with Cingari

My passion and love for the sport of Polo, originally came as a spectator, smoking my Habanos and watching the game, much as the Spanish do while watching a bullfight. I convinced Cingari, managed by my daughter Ameeta that exclusively represents and distributes Cuban Cigars in India, to look at sponsoring the sport on a long-term basis, especially since it is the only sport which has complete gender parity for the horse and the players.

They started with the Maharaja Hari Singh Cup (of the Kashmir Royal Family) and in 2004, when the Cavalry Gold Cup was instituted, we decided to become their principal sponsor in recognition of the contribution of the 61st Cavalry and the Indian Army to the game of Polo, without which it would not have existed or flourished in India.

Celebrating 25 years of Habanos in India

Best Dressed Man and Woman: Ms. Siggi Spiegelburg, a famous designer from Germany and her husband Wolfgang Holker

This year, we celebrated 25 years of Habanos in India and the finals received a record participation, showing the growing popularity of the game from a spectators’ perspective. We tried to make the whole event different this year with the Chucker’s being interspaced with prizes for the best dressed man and woman, lucky draws for hampers and a fashion experience by JANAVI, now a globally recognized Indian brand for cashmere products who had a demonstration of the many different ways a scarf can be draped around a woman’s neck/shoulders. The models being well-known as Delhi’s women of substance. Before the final match began, world renowned singer Yvonne Ramirez from Cuba sang “Evita,” a song synonymous with Argentina which incidentally happens to be the polo capital of the world. The Army band was also in attendance followed by an exemplary riding display by the most elegant riders of the 61st Cavalry.

The Finals between The Vimal Arion Achievers and Jindal Panthers commenced after the ceremonial throw in by Chief Guest Jose Maria Lopez, The Vice President of Habanos SA, (who specially came to India for this event) and Quarter Master General to the Indian Army, Lt. General Rajinder Dewan. The match was intense and had everyone on the edge of their seats. The Vimal Achievers started with an impressive lead and inspite of the Jindal Panthers’ remarkable defence strategy, were able to maintain that lead with some impressive play by their star player Daniel Otomendi, an 8-handicap player from Argentina.

Post the match, the VIP attendees were invited to High tea where the celebration continued with our hospitality partner CAARA, presenting a delicious chemical – free food and memorable culinary experiences, VIP Cigar lounges where we had on display the newly launched “Pratham India” Edition of the Quai D’Orsay Cigar, courtesy our lifestyle partner, Habanos, and exclusive entertainment featuring renowned Jazz singer Rachel Varghese, ensuring a truly unforgettable experience for all. For the first time, we also showcased an incredible collection of “Cigar Art’ made and curated by Mixed Media Artist, S. Ayesha who expressed her works as: “Cigars are an art form in themselves with each one hand rolled to perfection after a long process of curing the tobacco leaf. This collection of cigar art is similar in that each piece is one of a kind and cannot be replicated even by me! The botanical illustration of the tobacco leaf, so intricate and beautiful in its different stages of curing have appeared in my pieces. Years of collections of original cigar bands a testament of how many cigars have been lit, savored and enjoyed as appear as borders of some of this collection.”

A most memorable celebration of the sport, Habanos in India and Cingari’s association with both polo and the Indian world of cigars.


Chetan Seth is a leading socialite in the capital; as chairman of Chemron Group, he has been the face of the best Cuban cigars in the country. He has a long association as a sponsor for polo in India. His company ‘Cingari’ is known for its life-style promotions.

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