Polo expert Thakur Moti Singh Solanki’s stint in Rajpipla State a century ago

Thakur Moti Singh Solanki from Sonwa, Jodhpur was a well-known polo player and expert in managing stables of ponies and preparing top-class grounds.

Thakur Moti Singh Solanki.

In 1918, Maharawal Ranjitsinhji of Devgarh Baria in Gujarat invited Thakur Moti Singh to reorganise the Polo and Stables Department in the State. Thakur Moti Singh accompanied the ruler of Devgarh Baria to Bombay for the polo season.

At Bombay, Thakur Moti Singh met Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla. Devgarh Baria is near Rajpipla, and the two royal families are closely related. The Maharaja of Rajpipla invited Thakur Moti Singh to visit his capital Nandod and help manage his new turf polo ground and reorganise the stables. Maharaja Vijaysinhji had built a gymkhana and laid out a polo ground beside, which had been inaugurated by Lord Willingdon, Governor of Bombay Presidency, in February 1917.

Thakur Moti Singh accepted the offer of the Maharaja of Rajpipla. His brief was to bring the polo ground in perfect order to the satisfaction of Maharaja Vijaysinhji. Before starting his work in Rajpipla, Thakur Moti Singh took a sojourn to his home at Jodhpur.

There he met the illustrious Sir Pratap Singh, former Maharaja of Idar and presently regent to the minor ruler of Jodhpur. Sir Pratap Singh had been looking for Thakur Moti Singh for some time, and offered him service in Jodhpur. Thakur Moti Singh, though, explained that he had already accepted assignment in Rajpipla. The gracious Sir Pratap Singh was very pleased that Thakur Moti Singh had been employed in Rajpipla for the improvement of polo, and willingly let him go.

Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla, with Thakur Moti Singh behind at the Rajpipla Polo Ground in 1919-20.

Joining service in Rajpipla in July 1919, Thakur Moti Singh worked diligently to bring the polo ground in perfect order, and reorganised the stables. He played polo alongside Maharaja Vijaysinhji, and other family members and visitors, through the season of 1919-20. By March 1920, Thakur Moti Singh had accomplished everything for which he had been engaged in Rajpipla. He had taken polo to another level in the State.

Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla (centre), Thakur Moti Singh (second from left), and other players at the Rajpipla Polo Ground in 1919-20.

He expressed his desire to leave, which was granted and given a certificate by Maharaja Vijaysinhji lauding his strong personal qualities and sincere service, further stating that:

“The rapid growth of polo in my State and the efficiency with which everything in that connection has evolved within so short a time is entirely due to him. He thoroughly reorganised the polo stables which were put in his charge.”

Thakur Moti Singh then took service with Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, having already served the states of Alwar, Kishengarh and Ratlam, in addition to Devgarh-Baria and Rajpipla.

One of the finest players of his time, Thakur Moti Singh had a big hand in taking polo to a new level in princely India.

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