The Game of Kings

It is quite rare to find people who know about their Desi sports which belong to a time lost. There are several sports being played that not many give attention to nor are interested in knowing about them. However, for the love of sports and history one does feel the need to write about such ventures. Games like Kabaddi, Gulli Danda, Marbles, Shatapoo are now only found being played by the little mud clad children in villages of Pakistan. Today I am going to shed some light on a different kind of sport, a little more dignified, a little more mysterious, and a little more majestic: the Game of Kings.

Also known as Tent Pegging in English and more usually known as Neza Baazi in Urdu. Our generation which is more interested in main street sports like football and cricket would not mostly know about this lost art. It is reminiscent to polo but not quite so.


Tent Pegging is a cavalry sport of ancient times. To be more precise it is the cavalry sport of removing wooden ‘tent pegs’ from the back of a galloping horse from the ground using a sword or lance. It is also said that the origins of the sport can be traced back some 2,500 years to the time when Asian armies relied on their skills of the lance. There are many stories about its origins such as that that tent pegging was used as a target practice drill in order to disable enemy war elephants by spearing their toe nails in actual combat. Some believe the sport began when the cavalry soldiers of Alexander the Great used tent-pegging as a battle tactic against the elephants in the army of the Indian King Porus.

However, the most widely accepted theory is that the game originated in medieval India as a training tool for cavaliers facing war elephants. From the back of a galloping horse a cavalier would stab the highly sensitive flesh behind an elephant’s toenail, causing the enemy elephant to rear, unseat his mahout, and possibly run amok, breaking ranks and trampling infantry. In order to perfect this technique, the cavalry started the practice of tent-pegging which eventually turned into the modern sport as we know. Tent-pegging is now a popular equestrian sport in many countries around the world.

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The Rules:

The game of tent pegging has a mounted horseman riding atop a galloping horse and using a sword or a lance to pierce, pick up, and carry away a small ground target (a wooden tent peg) or a series of small ground targets.

The Next High class of tent pegging games also include ring jousting in which a galloping rider tries to pass the point of his weapon through a suspended ring; usually a lemon or an orange sticking in which the rider tries to stab or slice a lemon or an orange suspended from a cord or sitting on a platform)

A given tent pegging competition’s rules specify the size and composition of the target, the number of consecutive targets placed on a course, the dimensions and weight of the sword or lance, the minimum time in which a course must be covered and the extent to which a target must be struck, cut, or carried. There are single Section Tent pegging as well as Team Tent Pegging Competitions.

As a Local and International Sport:

Today, tent pegging is practised around the world, but is especially popular in Australia, India, Oman, Pakistan, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. The Olympic Council of Asia included tent pegging as an official sport in 1982, and the International Federation for Equestrian Sports recognised it as an official equestrian discipline in 2004.

From the results of the 2008 International Tent Pegging Championships, the world’s three leading national teams are currently Canada, India, and Oman. In Pakistan tent pegging is known as Neza Bazi as well. It has been popular in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and some parts of Sindh and Balochistan. There are many clubs who have different and unique styles of turbans and waistcoats which serve as a form of intensification with their clubs. People also decorate their horses for the competition. Every club arranges a neza bazi competition and invites other clubs to participate in them. There are some specific shows being arranged for many decades: National Horse and Cattle Show is one of them. It is held at the Fortress Stadium in Lahore every year usually in end of February or at first week of March. Tent pegging is a part of this event. Clubs from all the districts of Pakistan 1

The police forces dominate world-class tent pegging, however, the sport is being increasingly embraced by civilian riders in India, Oman and Canada because their Governments support this sport. However in other countries it is not popular due to the expenses involved. Owing a horse, its maintenance, riding gear and the fee to learn tent pegging all require funding. Thus it is more popular in the military and police forces. In Pakistan, different clans do train their riders and show their outstanding performances in International Tent Pegging Competitions. This recognition further places Pakistan as a selected member in the International Tent Pegging Federation.

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Muhammad Saad Tiwana is a first year BA student at Pakistan College of Law who loves horse riding , music and his desi roots.

The views expressed by the authors in all the posts do not necessarily reflect those of Pakistan College of Law.
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