Sir Edmund Hillary, whose interest in adventure had proved enduring, had found Rajasthan ideal for undertaking a journey on a camel caravan. It was an unusual way to choose to cross the arid Thar desert. Following his footsteps, one can re-live the adventure. One can choose from a number of adventure sports options – relaxing with golf, going vintage, practicing archery, boating in the Chambal river through the gorges of the Vindhayan plateau of Hadoti, or going up in the air for aerial sightseeing of heritage cities by small aircraft or hot air balloons.
The terrain in Rajasthan is tailor-made for most adventure sports, with its Aravalli and Vindhayan hills, the open desert tracts, the vast lakes and rivers, the wildlife parks, and little abandoned villages. Threading these together, a landscape where the paths and trails weave through a history rich with forts and palaces, mansions and a culture that binds these together into a fascinating journey.
Rajputs have been keen equestrians. Their association with polo dates back to the Mughal period and miniature paintings at the Mehrangarh Fort bear testimony to this early introduction to the game. However, polo did not become a passion until the British period.
It was in 1889, when Sir Partap Singh invited the Bengal Lancers to raise the Jodhpur Lancers, polo was introduced to Jodhpur in its current modern form. Three years later Jodhpur raised its polo team, which won many accolades. In 1897, when Singh travelled to London for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, he took his polo team along, amongst the first Indian teams to travel abroad foreign teams to defeat England. Rajasthan produced many renowed polo players, which include Sir Partap Singh, Rao Raja Hanut Singh, Thakur Hari Singh and Maharaja Man Singh II of Jaipur.
This sport still thrives in Rajasthan and has seen a quantum jump in its popularity as a lifestyle sport. Today, polo is not just restricted to the royalty and the Indian Army, many companies and firms too patronise the sport. Polo facilities are on the rise and polo holidays in India too are in vogue, especially in Rajasthan. Rajasthan also gave the game its royal tradition with patronage of the Maharajas, which earns it the nickname ‘The Game of Kings – The King of Games’.
The aristocracy were enamoured of the gentlemen’s game that was popular in British India. Unfortunately, the weather did not permit them creating golf courses in this arid wilderness, and it was only in Jaipur, as a part of the large scale palace renovations undertaken by Maharaja Man Singh that a course was added to the city. That 18-hole course is still the only one in Rajasthan, and though it is not a professional course, it is good for a round of golf.
Vintage Car Rally
When the first motorcars started coming to India, Rajasthan’s princes and aristocracy were amongst the earliest to order them. These, in turn, have become the venue for various rallies. Vintage car rally: an annual event, the Jaipur Vintage Car Rally has become important on the Indian social calendar. Held in January, it invites prestigious entries. Since some of the aristocratic families have still kept their vintage cars in their garages, the turnout too is impressive, with some cars dating back to the early years of the turn of the century. These cars are still in running condition, and are also available to hire for special occasions, rides, incentive parties, or marriages.