The Origin of the Organised Badminton in Assam
From National champion to Olympian-Assam Badminton Association has gifted many stars to the state as well as the country during its little more than six decades journey.
India can claim a great place of honour in the history of Badminton. Because India was the country where Badminton originated. The game originated at Poona (Presently Pune) in Maharastra in the year 1870. The European army personnel stationed there invented the game as a past time. It was due to this that at the time of its origin the game was known as the “Poona” However it had a very crude. Its modern standardisation came late in Europe.
Compared to the date of its origin the introduction of organised Badminton in Assam was made at a much later date. Cotton College, the premier college of Assam, which was established in the year 1901, played the most significant role in the introduction and popularisation Badminton in Assam.
However, whatever competitive Badmintion was played in the college, organisationally it was limited to the parameter sports life of the college only, which was quite natural. No all Assam competition was organised by the college. It was only during the early part the forties of the twentieth century that the beginning was made in this regard. Telegraph Institute Club of Gauhati, the then departmental recreation centre of the Post and Telegraph Department at Guwahati, took the pioneering initiative in this respect. Initially the competitions were held only in Men’s single and doubles sections. At that time Badminton was not played by the girls in Assam. However, later on Mixd doubles section was also added in the fixtures of that All Assam Competition. The tournament was known as the “Himmatsingka Cup Championship”. The tournament was played annually at the “P&T Club of Gauhati”s premises, located at Panbazar, near Guwahati Don Bosco School.
Thus the “Himmatsingka Cup Championship” was the first organised All Assam Badmintion Competition in the state. Jogen Bhattacharya and Priya Bezbaruah were the champions of the inaugural year. In 1948 Shankar Dhelia and R. S. Ghose of Dibrugarh were the champions.
The year 1952 was very memorable in the history of Badminton in Assam. In that year at the initiative of the noted players of the state the Assam Badmintion Association (ABA) was formed with S. S. Guha as the President and P Chattarjee and Binoy Baul as the Joint Secretaries.
From the next year the ABA started organising the All Assam Championship annually. However during the initial year the competitions were held in the open section only. In 1953, which was the inaugural year of the tournament, in the Men’s single section Dimbeswar Phukan was the champion and Nripen Barua was the runner-up. In the Men’s doubles section Dimbeswar Phukan and Kironmoy Lahiri were the champions. Nripen Barua and Rohini Bhattacharya were the runner- up. The All Assam Inter District Badmintion tournament was introduced by ABA in 1954.
The session 1954-55 saw the beginning of Assam’s participation in the All India Inter States Badminton Tournament. That year the National Competition was held at Pune. The Assam team was captained by Shankar Dhelai. The other main players of the team were Dimbeswar Phukan anl B. Bhattacharya. To popularise Badminton among women of the country at that time the All India Badminton Association made it compulsory that each state team must have atleast one lady player. In 1954-55 National competition the Assam team’s lady’s slot was occupied by Bimala Mahanta of Digboi. She was the first lady state Badminton player of Assam. During those formative years some of the noted lady Badminton players of the state were Bhanu Padmavati, Anila Barua, Mamata Chattarjee, Aparna etc.
1958 was a very important year not only for Badminton in Assam, but to the whole sports life of the state as well. During that session the All India Badminton Championship was held at Guwahati. This was not only the first Badminton National championship, which was held in Assam, but also the first instance of any National Championship, which was hosted in the state. The lasting memory of that championship tournament was the Indoor Hall of Guwahati, presently known as the “Kanaklata Indoor Hall”. This hall was constructed within 45 days to host the National Championship of 1958. Radha Govinda Barua, the doyen of the sports life in Assam, took the leadership in organising that tournament, including the construction of that Indoor Hall, within such a short time. At that time he was the President of the Assam Badminton Association and S. Bhattacharya was the Secretary.
It is interesting to note that the captain• of the Assam team in the National Badminton Championship, 1958, was a lady. The captain was Begum Abeeda, the wife of Fakharruddin Ali Ahmed, who later became the President of India. She was a notable badminton player. Another interesting aspect of that National Championship was that C. C. Deoras, the noted Badminton player from Bombay, participated in the Open Section as a player from Assam and achieved distinction in the Mixed-doubles section. His lady partner was- Shah Nawaz Kidwal from Assam. Deoras and A Shikh, another reputed player from Bombay were not selected to represent their won state that year. So complying to their request the ABA agreed to allow them to participate hi the open section as players from Assam.
In popularising Badminton in Assam two names deserve special mention and they were- Monoj Guha and Gajanan Hemmady. In 1954 they were all India champions in Men’s-doubles and their world ranking was fourth. At the request of ABA they came to Assam in 1954 and played a series of exhibition matches at Guwahati and Tezpur. These were the first instances in Assam, where gate-sale was introduced in Badminton matches. Amrit Dewan of Delhi and P S. Chawla of UP also played notable role in popularising badminton in Assam. In 1956 they came to Assam and played a series of exhibition matches at Guwahati, Tezpur and Sibsagar. Both of them were players of national distinction. 1957-58 their all India rankings in Men’s single section were second and sixth respectively Manoj Guha, who later on became a Badminton coach having international reputation, continued his contribution in the development of Badminton in Assam. In 1977 the performance of the Assam Junior team was brilliant in the National Badminton competition and Guha was the coach of that team. Foreign Coaches also contributed towards the development of Badminton in Assam and of them the most famous was Sung Kang Liang of Malayasia, who came to coach Assam players, when Jatindra Narayan Goswami was the Secretary of ABA.
During the formative years some of the noted Badminton players of Assam at that time Meghalaya was a part of Assam and there was no other state Badminton Associations in the North East, excepting Assam and all the players from the North East were eligible to play for Assam) were:Dimbeswar Phukan, Priya Bezbarua, Nripen Barua, Jogen Bhattacharya, Shankar Dhelia, R.S. Ghose, Kironmoy Lahiri, Rohini Bhattacharya, S. Ghose, Acharya, S. Bhattacharya, Durga Bhatta, Badal Sengupta, Dipen Ganguli, Munindra Ganguli, B. Bhattacharya, Dulal Dutta, Subimal Chattarjee, Arun Dey, Ganesh Sen, Ambika Bhatta, Kamu Dey, Rubi Guha, Kamal Dey,Sunirmal (Manash) Roychoudhury, Pulin Kakaty, Pranab Barua, Boloram Thakuri, (Munipur’s) R.K. Nabachandra, Hem Chandra Shyama charan, Dhruva Chaliha, Pradip Barua, T. Bhattacharya, Olee Bora, Poli Choudhury etc.
The player, who put Assam in the Badminton arena of India with national distinction, was Fairson Alleya of Shillong (at that time the capital of Assam). In 1960 she became all India Junior Champion in the lady’s single section. Of the other reputed players of Assam during the sixties and seventies of the last century some important names were Pradip (Bhaiti) Chaliha, Dip Barua, Bipul Sarma, Madhur Bezbara, Arup Das, Dharuva Barua, Jiten Changkakaty, Hemanta Singh, Ranjan Das, Ashoke Sengupta, Amitav Bhawmilj, Rajib Das, Mridul Chakravarty, Rajib Acharya, Rnjan Acharya, Chandan Sarma, Pranab Das, Sarat Das, Chitralekha Barua, Anuradha Barua, Mina Gogoi, Nirmali Das, JosbirKaur, Deepanju Goswami, Bijoylakshmi Bora, Borasha Hazarika etc.
Organisers such as Naresh Rajkhowa, Nalini Bhattacharya. S. Bhattacharya etc. in addition to the organisers, whose names were already mentioned above played important roles in organising and popularising Badminton in Assam. On top of that most of the senior players also involved themselves as organisers during those days Ex-players like Dhruva Chaliha, Pradip Hazarika, Pradip Chaliha etc are earning names as national judges at present.
Though Assam Badminton had a humble beginning, however with the passing of time it became a notable power in Indian Badminton. In Dipankar Bhattacharya, Assam has already produced Badminton Olympian. E M. AllIeya, Madhur Bezbara, Bipul Sarma, Dipanju Goswami, Bijoy Lakshmi Bora, Sushanta Bora, Mallika Barua, Madhurya Barua, Mrinmoy Sarma, Lopa Das, Snigdha Sarma, etc were national Champions either in Senior, Junior or Subjunior section by the beginning of the eighties of the last century.
Courtsey: Assam Badminton Association
(The author is the Ex-Principal of Cotton College and eminent sports columnist)
Office of the Assam Badminton Association at Kanaklata indoor stadium.
Kanaklata Indoor stadium: The main hub of badminton in Guwahati.