Jorhat Races 2018 at Jorhat Gymkhana Club
In aid of Local charities, a horse race event is going was held from 23rd February to 25th February in Jorhat Gymkhana club, Assam
The word “Gymkhana” is being derived from the Hindi word “Gendkhana” which literally means Ball House (gend means Ball and khana means house). It does also refers to a social and sporting club. There are many sports club which is named as Gymkhana club. It does sounds like fitness club but it actually covers the all kinds of sports club. But in English speaking countries it is referred to a multi game equestrian event performed to display the talent of the horses and their riders which is called as jockey. The british has opened various gymkhanas in various countries with this very idea. The first gymkhana club in India was Bombay Gymkhana Club which was established back in the year 1875 and the Jorhat Gymkhana club in the very next year in 1876.
Let’s take a look on the history of the Jorhat Gymkhana club
History of Jorhat Gymkhana-
Jorhat gymkhana was established beck in 1876. Second Gymkhana club of India after Bombay Gymkhana Club. Jorhat is the tea capital of the world and in 1860s and 1870s many tea gardens were sprang up in Jorhat area of Upper Assam. So the Jorhat gymkhana was the idea of many tea planters of this area led by the then superintendent of the jorehaut tea co.- J. Huttman.
In 1876, the original gymkhana club was only a small woodhouse, situated in the middle of the racecourse, situated about 2 km east of the present building. The racecourse also served the purpose of camping and parade ground for the Assam light Infantry Brigade. In 1885, The present clubhouse was built by importing materials, Masons and carpenter from Calcutta which was the British Headquarter. The same attractive building even stands today representing its heritage and colourful history. No modification has been done in the building till now to make it look original.
In 1883 the Jorhat Provincial Railway (J.P.R.) was also opened to public linking kokilamukh Steamer Ghat with Titabar & Mariani via Jorhat & the same railway line ran right in front of the Gymkhana ground. Electricity with own generator was installed at The Gymkhana in 1912. The Club road was the first asphalt road laid in undivided Sibsagar in 1926 to connect the town with The Gymkhana. The work was done by Mr.B.R.Kerkara, a south Indian contractor.
The first airplane, a GI-AA-X, ever to land on North East Indian soil was at the club ground in 1928, when Bernard Leete, the owner-pilot of the plane, came to Jorhat at the request of A.C.Tunstel of the Toclai Tea Experimental Station who wanted to take his ailing wife to Calcutta for treatment. Lord Irvin, the Viceroy of India along with Lady Irvin visited The Gymkhana on January 4, 1931. Framed photographs of their visit are there on The Gymkhana walls. A telephone connection was given to the club on 10 November 1937. It was at this very club that former Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru delivered a stirring speech on 15 December 1937, pleading world leaders to back the movement for independence. Prince Philips, the Duke of Edinburgh, made it a point to visit the club on 16 December 1960. The Gymkhana was out of bounds for the Indians for more than half a Century. In 1929 at the Annual General Meeting, the membership of Indians (that too without voting rights) was passed by a vote of 29 for and 14 against. In the early 1950s, Indians were allowed to become office bearers on the management committee. The Tea Tourism Festival of 2002 was held at Jorhat Gymkhana.
Facilities in Gymkhana Club
The club has started showing movies through establishing a cinema hall. The Club had purchased a cinema projector in 1945 at a cost of Rs.20000 and this was replaced in 1953 at a cost of Rs.12500. As in earlier times cinema rolls still are transported from Howrah Railway station to Mariani Railway Station by train. The latest movies as well as old classics were screened for the members every weekend. The cinemascope projection & the sound system which runs on the old technology of diodes is still in working condition along with the new digital projection & sound system which was added last year.
Bar is always referred as a place where one can chill with a drink after spending time in work. The club has three beautiful teak panel bars with high ceilings & warm fireplaces where one can have a drink. One gets a feel of the old world charm when one enters the bars for the first time. Most of the members of the Gymkhana are Tea Planters & the bar is always buzzing with talk of weather, crop, made tea, tea prices or something else relating to tea. To see the Tea spirit one must visit the Gymkhana. The Club also has a dining restaurant & pantry.
The club also has an Auditorium. There is a big 4000 sq ft. hall on the 1st floor of the building with a beautiful open view of the golf course & race track in front. It is a preferred venue for the Tea Associations to hold their AGMs and other related events. Other Activities-The Club also celebrates various festivals like New Year’s Eve, Bihu, Independence Day, Dewali and Christmas with active participation of all the members. The Club also has a Flower show committee, which organizes a flower, vegetable & cooking competition every spring. The club follows a strict dress code. A tie is necessary on club evening during winter times.
Events in Gymkhana Club
- Jorhat Races
- Cricket & Football
- Billiard and snooker
A short description has been given below about the events held in Gymkhana club
- Jorhat Races
The first horse race of Jorhat was started on 16th January 1877 under the first Hony. Secy C.I.Showers Esq. The club has been a venue for Horse Races every year ever since its inauguration. The governor cup is the main trophy awarded here every year presented by the Assam Governor himself. The Assam Valley Light Horse Trophy presented in 1932 is also on display in the old bar has the winning names of various camps of Assam Light Horse Cavalry.
Jorhat races are described as one of the oldest sporting events of Assam. The idea behind the Races was to display planters’ equestrian skills in a carnival like atmosphere where all levels of workers involved in plantations could be thoroughly entertained.
The Royal Calcutta Turf Club, the organizers of the oldest Horse Races in the country nowadays helps the Jorhat Races by providing technical guidance to further the sport, and ensure the smooth running of this heritage event.
Jorhat Gymkhana Golf course is the second oldest golf course to be made outside the British Islands after the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. India was the first country outside Great Britain to take up the game of golf. Jorhat Gymkhana golf course was made in 1876. Older than the oldest golf course in the United States which was built in 1884. A rare photograph of Gents along with Lady Golfers of 1907 in their full golfing attire can be seen displayed in the club. The 9 holes Golf course was expanded to 18 holes with the help of the Army & the nearby Tea Gardens in 1995.The 6036 yard, par 72 course is affiliated to the Indian Golf Union, the governing body for golf in India. Golfers compete for beautiful silver Golf trophies for tournaments started as early as 1902.One such Cup, The Beg Dunlop Cup is a 2.5kg silver cup with names of all the winning golfers engraved every year from 1903 until 1965 with few gaps thereafter. The Ruston Cup (1954), Craig Cup, Lamprell Cup(1945), Jorhat Open Cup, ONGC Cup, IOC Cup, Rhino Army Cup, ASC Cup, Bokaholla Cup(2000), Jorehaut Cup, ATPA Cup & ABITA Cup are some of the other major tournaments played here where golfer from all over north east compete. Club golfers also compete for Golf medals every month. The Army, Air force & ONGC officers make good use of the course to pick up the game while they are posted at Jorhat. The club is now thinking of adding a golf range where anyone can come & hit a few golf balls & get a feel of the game.
Jorhat gymkhana club was one of the oldest Polo club in the world. In the 1850s, British tea planters discovered the locals playing the game in Manipur on the Burmese border with India. In 1859, they formed the Cachar Club, the the first Polo club in the world, at Silchar, Assam. Other clubs followed, including the Jorhat Gymkhana Club and, in 1862, the Calcutta Polo Club. Polo spread rapidly after a British Army officer stationed in India saw a match early in 1866 and immediately formed a team from among his fellow officers. The first game was played played in England in 1870. Polo continued at Jorhat Gymkhana until the mid-sixties when it was played on alternate days along with Tennis & Golf. Polo has now given a way to Cycle Polo.
Tennis is played on the three grass courts at the club regularly. During the British times, six grass courts were maintained regularly which showed the popularity of the sport tennis at that time in Assam and India as well.
- Cricket & Football-
The club has a beautiful Cricket ground & it is famous for holding a number of matches like the CK Naidu Cricket tournament, Vijay Merchant Trophy, Duleep Trophy & many other interstate tournament matches. To enjoy matches, visit during Winter time where one can watch cricket being played between various clubs every weekend. During 1913-53, all the Football tournaments were held in this Gymkhana club.
- Billiards & Snooker –
The club also has a beautiful and dedicated Billiard room where one can play during leisure time. Even the club also has snooker game facility.
- Swimming pool–
The club has well maintained Swimming pool where one can visit and enjoy swimming during summer time.
The Jorhat Gymkhana Club has three smaller Planters Clubs nearby whose members take active part in all the sporting & cultural events of The Gymkhana. The three Clubs are Seleng Club near Amgoori town, The Dhunsery Polo Club near Numaligarh town & The Mariani Planter’s Club (1880) near Mariani. The Gymkhana is also affiliated to most of the other clubs of Assam. Jorhat Gymkhana has also got the reputation of been featured as one of the top 100 elite clubs of India in the coffee table book ‘100 Elite Clubs of India’. Gymkhana Club rests over a vast expanse of land of 180 bighas. On the anvil is an application for Heritage Status, construction of residential facilities, affiliation to more clubs outside Assam.
Kuldeep Shah ( Born and brought up in Digboi and pursuing MBA (Marketing & Tourism) at NEHU University Tura )