Bhubaneswar: Observed every year on August 29, ‘National Sports Day’ commemorates the birth anniversary of legendary Hockey player Dhyan Chand who is called the ‘Sports Icon of India’ and ‘The Father of Indian Sports’. Also called as ‘Rashtriya Khel Divas’, this day is celebrated in educational institutions and sports academies throughout the country as a tribute to the excellent sportsmen and his remarkable sportsmanship. Various sports events and programs are organised on this day to promote the popularity of sports in the country.
Dhyan Singh was born on August 29, 1905 in Kushwaha near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh (then United Provinces). His father served in the British Indian Army and played hockey in his spare time. Following his father’s footstep, Dhyan Chand joined the British Indian Army at the young age of 16. It was then that he developed an interest in Hockey, which was once his father’s passion. After a tiring day at work, Dhyan used to practice night. As there was no electricity or light bulbs then, Dhyan used to practise in the illumination of the moon. This prompted his team mates, who gave him the name ‘Chand’ which means moon. Since then, he became famous as Dhyan Chand.
From 1922 to 1926, Dhyan Chand Singh played numerous hockey tournaments for the British Indian army and eventually got selected for the Indian Army Team that was going to New Zealand on a tour. Once there, Dhyan Chand made sure his team played well- they only lost 1 game and went on to have a record of 18-2-1. Impressed by his performance, the British Government promoted him to the rank of ‘Lance Naik’, which was equivalent to the rank of lance corporal.
In 1925, an Inter-Provincial Tournament was held to select the country’s team for the 1928 Olympics. Five teams from the Punjab, Bengal, Rajputana, Central and United Provinces participated. Dhyan Chand was given permission by the British Indian Army to play for the United Provinces. Eventually, Chand led his team to 3 gold medals. One in 1928, one in 1932 and one in 1936. Between 1926 and 1948, Chand went on to score over 400 goals.
The Rashtriya Bhawan, on the occasion of ‘National Sports Day’ holds a special awards distribution ceremony to honour the sportsmen and sportswomen of India. Highest sports awards like Arjuna Award, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Dronacharya Awards are handed out by the President of India to outstanding sportspersons. The highest award however, is the Dhyan Chand Award, which is held on a yearly basis and awarded to those people who aren’t just excellent sportsperson themselves but have made remarkable contribution in the realms of sports even after retirement. Some of the most intense celebration during National Sports Day occur every four years – during the Summer Olympics.
Schools across the country celebrate this day as their annual sports day. This is done to develop a positive attitude towards sports, encourage the popularity of games and sports and provide an opportunity to youngsters to prove their mettle in whatever sports they might be playing.