Stamps on Sikhs in Sports by Rupinder Kaur
Sikh sportsmen have earned a glory in many fields of sports like hockey, athletics, wrestling, golf, cycling, cricket etc and will always be recognized as a community with heritage in sports. They have represented India in various tournaments both at national and international levels and have brought laurels for the country with their outstanding performance. The Indian government has also commemorated their achievements by depicting them on special stamps issued by its Department of Posts and Telegraphs.
The game of Hockey introduced by the British soon became a favorite activity in India and later appointed as its national game. It was played from childhood in many villages of Punjab. Sansarpur, a small village near Jalandhar is known to be the origin of the hockey players of Punjab. There was a time when out of eleven at least six players of Sansarpur comprised the Indian Hockey Team. Players like Balbir Singh, Dhyan Chand, Dilip Tirkey, etc have become a legend for the country.
In 1966, the Indian hockey emerged in a blaze of glory after defeating Pakistan in the Fifth Asian Games at Bangkok, when Balbir Singh scored a goal through a brilliant shot after both the teams had battled for 70 minutes without results. To commemorate India’s international victory, the Postal Department brought out a special stamp of 15 Paisa denomination. The monochromatic blue colour stamp shows four hockey champions playing the game of hockey in shorts and t-shirts. Two of these players are recognized as Sikhs with their juris tied in a rumal, a common way of covering the head. The most capturing part of the visual is the diehard spirit of the players to win the match. The First Day Cover shows the emblem of the Fifth Asiad represented by a full rising sun with the slogan ‘Ever Onward’ written within the circle. The cancellation shows a hockey stick as a distinctive mark.
The image of a Sikh hockey player appears once again on a stamp when the country participated in the 27th Olympic games held in Sydney in 2000. These games held once in every four years, are the greatest sporting events on the globe. The Department of Posts joined the sports lovers of the country in extending its good wishes to the Indian contingent to return from Sydney with creditable performances. It issued four stamps portraying different sports namely hockey, tennis, weightlifting and discus in an attempt to capture the excitement of sports. India’s participation in
Olympic games dates back to 1920 and the country has been participating in all the Olympic games ever since. India has the credit of winning six gold medals consequently till 1956. Thereafter in Tokyo and Moscow Olympics, gold medals were won. The First Day Cover shows the contours of sportspersons in different colours.
India has always been proud of its Cricket team. In cricket, Bishan Singh Bedi was an excellent bowler and the most famous Sikh ever to play the game. His left-arm finger-spin won countless glories for India. Balvinder Singh Sandhu, the pace bowler of Indian Cricket Team was also instrumental in the World Cup but surprisingly his international career was very short lived. Navjot Singh Sidhu was a good striker of ball and among the fast run getters left the cricket at his peak form, took retirement and joined Indian politics. Harbhajan Singh nicknamed as Bhajji called ‘The Turbanator’ by many is an ace Sikh cricketer of present times.
In the annals of Indian Cricketing, 1971 will long be remembered. It was in this year the Indian Cricket Team won two rubbers in a row, one against the powerful West Indies Team and the other against England. The second test match won by the Indian team at Trinidad was the first test ever won against the powerful West Indies team. This match also marked the silver anniversary of the games between the two countries. Soon after India got its first test victory against England at Kennington Oval. India’s success was mainly built around the three spinners E A Prasanna, Bishan Singh Bedi and S Venkatraghavan and batting support of Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Sardesai, under the inspiring captainship of Ajit Wadekar. The Indian Posts and Telegraphs Department greeted the Indian team and commemorated their historic victories by bringing out a special stamp dedicated to the lovers of the game in India and elsewhere. The design of the stamp is horizontal and depicts a cricketer in characteristic poses of batting, bowling and wicket-keeping. The First Day Cover shows three trophies won during the matches. The cancellation again shows a cricket player making a shot.
Milkha Singh India's track-and-field legend knew nothing about sports but went on to become a hero of his country as an Olympian. He has won four Asian Games gold medals, and one Commonwealth Games gold. He ran in the Olympic Games at Melbourne, Rome, and Tokyo, and earned the nickname of “The Flying Sikh” for his athletic exploits. His son Jeev Milkha Singh has reached new heights as a Sikh Golfer in the world and today he is among the leading golfers. He created history by becoming the first Indian golfer to ever play at a US Masters. The Indian government decorated him with the Padma Shri, the same honour that was awarded to his father many decades ago.
In the field of wrestling Sri Sat Guru Partap Singh is a well known figure. He was himself a Namdharis wrestler and prompted his Sikhs to become wrestlers or jockeys. Till now they are a dynamic force in Punjab in many sporting events. Dara Singh Randhawa, excelled in the field of free style wrestling.
The 11th Asian Games also known as 11th Asiad were held in 1990 in Beijing. It was the first large scale international sports event to be held in China. The official mascot of this edition was. On the occasion of the XI Asian Games, it issued a set of four special stamps depicting Athletics, Cycling, Archery and Kabbadi. The last sport has been included for the first time in Asian Games. All the four stamps are in different denominations. The stamp of cycling in the denomination of 4 shows a Sikh sports man in black patka and beard riding a cycle. All of them are painted in bright colours. The First Day Cover shows the mascot, PanPan the Panda running with joy holding a medal in its raised arm. The background shows the bamboo trees with lush green foliage.
Sikhs have excelled in a variety of sports far beyond their numbers and proportion within the populations they live in, and achieved international fame and acclaim. Today, they are to be found amongst the ranks of the very best in Britain, Canada, the U.S., a variety of East African and South-East Asian countries, Australia, New Zealand, and other nations including India. Here it is worthwhile to mention Mudhsuden Singh better known as Monty Panesar who has represented England in cricket.
Sikh sport persons have gained world-class stature and brought numerous awards for India from time to time and continue to carry forward the tradition.