August 29 is a special day for sports lovers in India. This day commemorates the birth anniversary of ‘the Wizard’ or ‘the Magician’ of Indian hockey — Major Dhyan Chand Singh, which is also celebrated as National Sports Day. Also known as Rashtriya Khel Diwas, August 29 is celebrated every year with a lot of enthusiasm and sportsmanship.
Dhyan Chand was born in a family in the Allahabad district of Uttar Pradesh on August 29, 1905. Considered as one of the greatest hockey players in the history of sports, he acquired three Olympic gold medals in the years 1928, 1932 and 1936 in the field of hockey.
After getting his basic education, Dhyan Chand joined the Indian Army in 1922. An avid lover of sports himself, Dhyan Chand was motivated to play hockey by Subedar Major Tiwari. Sensing his innate wizardry in the sport, Dhyan Chand was appointed Lance Naik in 1927, promoted to Nakak in 1932 and Subedar in 1936 while being the captain of the Indian hockey team. Later on, he went on to become the Lieutenant and was then promoted to Major.
In Hindi, the word ‘Chand’ literally means the moon. This was a nickname given to the Hockey magician because Dhyan Chand used to practise a lot during his off-duty hours which were usually during the night. He is said to wait for the moon to come up for better visibility in the field and hence the name ‘Chand’ was given to him by his fellow mates.
In 1936, during the Berlin Olympics when India triumphed as the winner over the German team, Hitler expressed his desire to meet Dhyan Chand. Inquiring about his rank in the Indian Army, Hitler invited Dhyan Chand to come over to Germany with the post of Field Marshal awaiting for him. To this, Dhyan Chand politely replied, “India is my country and I am fine there.” It is believed that Hitler was so upset with the progress of the game that he left the stadium way ahead before the game was over. He came back again for the medal presentation where he and Major Dhyan Chand had the iconic exchange.
In his sports career spanning over 22 years from 1926 to 1948, he has scored over 400 international goals while nearing to 1000 goals in his entire career. He was also conferred with the third-highest civilian honour of Padma Bhusan in 1956. In 2012, the Union government proclaimed August 29 as the country’s National Sports Day to commemorate the legendary hockey player.
Major Dhyan Chand was a player par excellence. It is often said that the moment he gets the ball stuck in his stick, the only way it removes is when he scores the goal. This was also the reason that once his stick was broken during a match to check whether it had a hidden magnet inside it.
Every year, this day is celebrated even at the national level in the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the President of the country gives national sports awards of the likes of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, Arjuna Award, Dronacharya Award, and Dhyanchand Award to the respective winners.