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When is India's National Sports Day, and why is it celebrated?

A note on why Dhyan Chand's birthday is celebrated as India's National Sports Day.

Ajay Makken pays homage to Major Dhyan Chand on his birthday

Dhyan Chand, often referred to as ‘The Wizard’ for his incredible hockey skills, was born on the 29th of August in 1905. To commemorate his birth anniversary, in 2012, the Government of India designated 29 August as the country’s ‘National Sports Day’.

National Sports Day was celebrated with great fanfare in the first couple of years, with walkathons and football tournaments held across the country. The first year saw FICCI hold sporting events all across India with the help of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and other sporting bodies. 

But not many people in India even know that there is a National Sports Day. This, despite the fact that days like Valentine’s Day, Children’s Day and even Left hander’s Day are celebrated with plenty of vigour and excitement. Sports fans in the country would be hoping that with time, this Day is more widely recognized, and that the memory of one of the greatest sportspersons from India is given its due honour.

On National Sports Day, the President gives out all the sports-related awards like the Arjuna, Dronacharya and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna to honour sportspersons and coaches who have made the nation proud with their service in their respective sports.

The memory of the great Dhyan Chand

August 29, 1905 was the day when India’s most successful hockey player of all time was born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. Dhyan Chand is officially known as ‘Major Dhyan Chand’; he enrolled in the Indian army at the age of 16. His mentor Subedar Major Bale Tiwari recognized his talent for hockey early, and guided him through the initial stages of his career in the sport.

Originally named Dhyan Singh, the legend received the nickname ‘Chand’ from his colleagues as he used to wait for the moon to come out and then practise all night in the moonlight. He captained India throughout his playing career and helped India win three Olympic medals – in 1928, 1932 and 1936. He scored more than 400 goals in his career which spanned over 22 years.

During the 1936 Berlin Olympic finals Chand top scored with three goals and the Indians won easily, defeating Germany 8-1. That match represented the pinnacle of India’s hockey success; guided and inspired by Chand, they made for a virtually invincible team.

Dhyan Chand contributed to the game even after his retirement; he was the Hockey Coach Chief at the National Institute of Sports in Patiala for a while, and he also taught at many coaching camps in Rajasthan.

A cursory glance at his CV tells us that Dhyan Chand is arguably the greatest sportsperson that India has ever produced. It is not surprising, then, that the Government decided to celebrate his memory so strikingly; there can be no greater honour than having your birthday designated as the National Sports Day of a country!

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