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Royal Pursuits

A visit from HH The Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Marwar-Jodhpur proves polo is a sport of kings in Hawai‘i.

HH The Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Marwar-Jodhpur with Hawaii Polo Club’s Mike Dailey (second from right) and polo players from India and Hawai‘i in Mokule‘ia

HH The Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Marwar-Jodhpur decked in Hawaiian maile lei

Team India goes for the goal.

Out on O‘ahu’s North Shore, the only royalty usually spotted is of the surfing kind. But when the jet-setting sport of polo is involved, surprising things can happen. Such was the case when Hawaii Polo Club in Mokulē‘ia received a welcome visit from HH The Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Marwar-Jodhpur during its recent India vs. Hawai‘i match.

Of course, one could expect a surfeit of pomp and circumstance over a maharaja’s visit, but think again. While HH The Maharaja and his family are often in the spotlight back on the subcontinent—the wedding of his son in 2010 drew camera crews and VIPs from all over the country—this true gentleman adapted perfectly to the North Shore style, passing the afternoon with former Gov. George Ariyoshi and his wife, Jean, before awarding trophies to the players. (India won.) And though HH The Maharaja has traveled the world, he had to make one confession. “This is my first visit to Hawai‘i,” he admitted.

Now what convinces a maharaja to travel all the way from Rajasthan? First came repeated invitations from Indian polo player Vikram Sodhi, a regular visitor to Hawaii Polo Club. “Vikram is a good friend and encouraged me to come,” he said. There is also a lifelong commitment to the noble sport that HH The Maharaja inherited from his family. His grandfather, for instance, was a star player, winning a slew of trophies in England in 1925.

Thanks to HH The Maharaja’s support, polo, like Jodhpur itself, is now flourishing. In 1993, he reestablished the Jodhpur polo team and added new first-class polo fields in 2000. The facilities are just minutes away from the royal residence, the Umaid Bhawan Palace, a sweeping Jazz Age work of art that was built in the ’30s to provide labor to the people of Jodhpur. Now, part of the palace is a magnificent getaway run by Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. HH The Maharaja extends a warm invitation to islanders wanting to experience Jodhpur. Of course, as the palace has drawn A-listers like Mick Jagger, Liz Hurley and Naomi Campbell, we do suggest making reservations before stopping by.