The Maharaja Pratapsinh Coronation Gymkhana, popularly known as the POLO CLUB of Baroda was the brainchild of the last coronated popular king of the princely state of baroda, Gujarat, GURJAR NARESH Major General Maharaja Sir Pratapsinh Rao Gaekwad, Sena-Khas-Khel, Shamsher Bahaddur, Farazand-I-Khas, Daulat-I-Inglishia, GCIE LLD.
He was the grandson of the legendary visionary monarch, Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad III, who was an epitome of modernization and good governance in all fields of life.
The princely state of Baroda enjoyed special status within the British Empire and was way ahead of all other native rulers in eschewing and endorsing very high living standards for all its subjects.
All rulers encouraged a healthy communion of all gentry of the kingdom from all walks of life. Hence each Taluka HQ in Baroda State was bestowed with a Gymkhana (club) hosting all facilities of western sports and offering a respectable platform to its subjects to interact with different classes of the society and engage in healthy and fruitful pursuits.
Baroda State boasted of a variety of Clubs like Hind Vijay Gymkhana, Yuvraj Fatehsinh Gymkhana, The Camp Club, Navasari Gymkhana, Bilimora Club, Patan Gymkhana, The Royal Dwarka Boating Club, Amreli Gymkhana, Mehsana Club, etc….spread over the fanflung territories of the princely order.
However, after the 1911 incident of the Delhi-Durbar, when Sir Sayaji Rao did not pay obeisance to the Emperor and Empress of India, King George V and Queen Mary, the British were suspicious that all the reputed clubs and gymkhanas of Baroda State were being used to breed Anti-British revolutionaries. Hence, no new club was allowed to come up in the kingdom.
In 1936, Sir Sayaji Rao completed 61 years of his rule and on 9th January 1936, during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, his grandson, Pratapsinh Rao, who was then 28 years of age and the YUVARAJ of Baroda State, went ahead and proclaimed that he was setting up the Polo Club and Equestrian Gymkhana for the benefit of all horse lovers, the Gaekwad army officials and the subjects of Baroda.
Thus Polo Club was born and even today after 75 years, the club day is celebrated with great fan fare by the members on 9th January of every year.
Sir Sayaji Rao passed away on 6th Feb 1939 and his grandson Yuvraj Pratapsinh was coronated as his successor on 26th April, 1939.
The very previous day i.e. 25th April 1939, the foundation stone of Polo Club was laid at the hands of the Chhatrapati Raja Ram Maharaja of Kolhapur. The Polo Club was aptly re-christened as the MAHARAJA PRATAPSINH CORONATION GYMKHANA (MPCG) of Baroda. Click here to read the actual speech.
Then came the second world war in Sept 1939 and there was an acute shortage of construction raw materials. Inspite of that Sir Pratapsinh Rao completed the MPCG by March 1941 and it was thrown open to the August members by his Highness Maharani Shantadevi Gaekwad of Baroda on 2nd March, 1941.
Maharaja Sir Pratapsinhrao was an expert rider and an accomplished Polo Player and several Polo tournaments were played between the Baroda Royal Polo Team and the rival teams of Nizam, Mysore, Travancore, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaiselmer, Kolhapur, Dhar, Dewas, Indore and British India.
Sir Pratapsinhrao initially donated 43 acres of land for the Polo Club and spent Rs 3,43,356/- for its construction.
The Polo Ground has become a landmark for the citizens of Baroda and even during the Royal Order, the ground of the club was used for playing other games like Horse races, Cricket, Indian games and for military drills with equestrian events.
BARODA state had an illustrious Ranji Trophy-Duleep Trophy Cricketing side with the likes of C.S.Naidu, C.K.Naidu, Lala Amarnath, Vijay Hazare, Vijay Merchant, Vinod Mankad, Gulam Mohammad, Nimbalkar brothers and so on who have played on this ground.
Today, the Polo Club of Baroda is one of the elite clubs of India, dating back to the imperial times of the Raj and has many nostalgic memories under its fold.