The New International Encyclopædia/Gymkhana

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GYMKHANA, gĭm-kä′nȧ (probably a corruption of Pers. gand-khanah, ball-house, influenced by popular association with gymnasium; also explained as being from Eng. game + Pers. khanah, house). A generic term, originating in India, and signifying an outdoor meeting for recreational purposes. Ordinarily, gymkhanas are of two kinds: one, a race meeting on a small scale, in which any sort of horse takes part in order to make up a ‘card,’ and in which the races are generally for catch-weights. The second type of gymkhana is a variety of what was formerly called the ‘pāgāl’ (‘foolish’ or ‘amusing’) gymkhana, in which, besides the usual horse and pony races, other competitions for men and women, mounted and dismounted, are introduced: also tent-pegging and tilting, the former for men, and the latter for women. Every cantonment in India, no matter how remote, or how large or small, has its periodical gymkhana. The ‘card’ or programme is arranged so as to include all classes of cantonment society, and consists of flat and obstacle racing, jumping, blindfold races, egg and spoon races, sack races, etc., for the rank and file of the local garrison. Among the events set apart for the natives none is more important than the race with an earthenware chatti full of water, carried on the head, or the wheelbarrow races. For the officers, military and civil, are such events as ‘tent-pegging’ and ‘tilting’ in couples, in which the man rides at the peg and the woman tilts at a ring; ‘threading-the-needle’ race; ‘Aunt Sally’ race, performed by two men and two women, riding from the starting-point to a fixed place, where the men dismount their partners and hold their horses, while the women throw stones at four empty bottles. The moment the bottles are broken the women are remounted and the partners race back to the post. A favorite competition is the ‘wand’ or ‘maize’ event, in which mounted competitors canter in and out between rows of posts or wands driven into the ground, and placed at convenient distances apart from one another in two parallel lines. The competitors must ‘make the ride’ without touching a post. A menagerie race usually winds up the meeting, and, owing to the many varieties of animals common to the country, an extremely varied assortment of competitors is always possible. In the hill stations the concluding feature is generally a ‘jinrickshaw’ (colloquially 'rickshaw) race, in which these light conveyances, drawn by coolies and driven by Europeans, race with each other. A 'rickshaw may be described as an enlarged perambulator mounted on two wheels and fitted with a shaft. It is drawn by two natives in the shaft, while two push behind. Although the gymkhana has become popular in England within recent years, and has also been introduced into America, it has not the same reason for existence, or value as a sport. In India, owing to the nature of the climate, and the few hours of comparative coolness, together with the impossibility of following the ordinary sports of the West, considerable ingenuity has to be exercised to invent games which shall afford harmless amusement, and at the same time be within the scope of the usually limited resources of the average cantonment.