Hockey in India holds a distinct place in the hearts of the people. It is the sport that has brought the greatest glory to the country in the Olympics with a world record of eight gold medals. Although hockey is played in almost every Indian state, Punjab is known for producing some of best names the world has ever witnessed. Here is a story of a village from Punjab, which is considered as Mecca of Indian hockey.
Sansarpur village has given more than 306 International, national level hockey players to India out of which more than 200 belong to one family of village. The village has produced largest number of Olympians for the country. It has produced 14 Olympic players, who represented India, Kenya and Canada at the Olympics.
Sansarpur is a village with a population of 5,000. It is just a 100-yard stretch of land on the outskirts of Jalandhar in Punjab. The main attraction of Sansarpur is its streets, which is spread over 100 yards and where all the 14 Olympians were born. The street is famously known as Olympic street of India. In modern time and according to Census of India 2001 Sansarpur has a literacy rate of 75%.
The village people themselves had innate urge to serve their country. They were filled with strong feelings of devotion and loyalty towards their village land. The Sansarpurians considered their village hockey ground as their sacred mother. These feelings are evident even today and throbbing in the hearts of young talented hockey players of Sansarpur. As a result of such strong affections has helped to upkeep the prestige of Sansarpur as the nursery of Indian hockey.
How Sansarpur turned from just being a village to the Mecca of Indian Hockey
There is not a single hockey buff in the country who has not heard of the contribution of the wonder village Sansarpur, synonymous with the game of hockey. Subedar Thakur Singh was the first hockey player of Sansarpur who went on an overseas tour to represent India. Thakur Singh got the privilege of playing under the captaincy of Major Dhyan Chand while touring New Zealand. The first Indian team to visit foreign lands in 1926 fielded Thakur Singh from Sansarpur.
The saga and legacy of hockey players from Sansarpur reached its prime in 1968, when seven sons of the Sansarpur soil participated in the Mexico City Olympics at the same time five of them for India and two for Kenya.
The names of these hockey veterans have been encrypted outside most of the houses of Sansarpur. Amongst many of them one is the mansion of a retired DIG, Balbir Singh who was a member of the 1964 Olympic Gold and 1968 Olympics bronze medal winning Indian hockey team. He was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1999. He is the oldest Olympian of this village.
The notable Olympians which played hockey for India produced by Sansarpur village were Gurdev Singh Kullar, Udham Singh Kullar (BSF), Darshan Singh (field hockey) Kullar, Ajit Pal Singh Kullar, Colonel Balbir Singh Kullar, Colonel Gurmit Singh Kullar, Olympian and Freedom Fighter, Balbir Singh Kullar (Punjab police), Olympian, Tarsem Singh Kullar (BSF), Jagjit Singh Kullar.
Other than the Olympics, the hockey players from Sansarpur also won 12 Asian Games medals. As a record, 11 boys from the village were part of the gold medallist team that won in Bangkok at the 1966 Asian Games. It included A Frank, Harbinder, Balbir (Railways), Balbir (Services), Balbir (Pb), Inder, Tarsem, Gurbax, S Laxman, Prithipal and Jagjit.
Falling legacy of Sansarpur
If we see today, Sansarpur has lost its identity. Not a single player has emerged at the Olympics from Sansarpur in the past few decades. And in coming future the image looks the same. The President of Sansarpur Sports Club, Jarnail Singh Kullar, outlined how the young guns of his village have shifted from coming to playgrounds for sporting activities in the past to now dealing with addictive substances.
The fact that the young boys from the village tend to move abroad upon completion of their studies has also affected the bigger prospects. Young boys are now more concentrated on their academic careers rather than devoting themselves to sports. In simple words it can be said that the Sansarpur’s title of being “Mecca” of Indian hockey is slowly losing its essence.
The village of Sansarpur, is no different, at least at a cursory glance, from any other village in Punjab. This village has been the breeding ground of world class hockey players for the past decades, produced players who have shown their magic sticks to bring glory and gold to the country. But with time, and circumstances, have treated this gold mine of talent harshly. Now the people of the village fight to keep the sport a live in the region hoping against hope that someone will appreciate their efforts and rescue them and will help the Mecca of hockey to regain its legacy.