Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Who was Major Dhyan Chand?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Major Dhyan Chand

Mains level: Promotion of sports in India

The PM has announced that the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award will now be named after Major Dhyan Chand.

Despite being a trillion population, what ails India’s limted success (not failure) at the Olympics in your opinion?

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Who was Dhyan Chand?

  • Quite simply, he was the first superstar of hockey, considered a wizard or magician of the game.
  • He was the chief protagonist as India won three consecutive Olympic hockey gold medals — Amsterdam 1928, Los Angeles 1932, and Berlin 1936.
  • He is said to have wowed the watching public with his sublime skills, intricate dribbling and gluttonous scoring ability.
  • During those tournaments, there was no team that could compete with India — and most of the matches saw huge victory margins.
  • India beat hosts the Netherlands 3-0 in the 1928 final, the US were thrashed by a scarcely-believable margin of 24-1 in the 1932 gold medal match, while Germany went down 8-1 in the 1936 decider.
  • In all, Dhyan Chand played 12 Olympic matches, scoring 33 goals.

Legends associated with Dhyan Chand

  • It is said that once his sublime skill and close control of the ball aroused such suspicion that his stick was broken to see whether there was a magnet inside.
  • During the 1936 Berlin Games, Adolf Hitler offered him German citizenship and the post of Colonel in his country’s Army, a proposition the Indian ace refused.

Why does the name evoke such emotion?

  • Dhyan Chand played during India’s pre-independence years, when the local population was subjugated and made to feel inferior by the ruling British.
  • Hence, seeing an Indian dominating the Europeans in a sport invented by them evoked a lot of pride in them.
  • There has been a long-running campaign arguing that Dhyan Chand be posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest honour.
  • Before Independence and for some years after that, hockey was the only sport in which India consistently excelled at the international and Olympic stage.
  • In fact, starting from Amsterdam 1928, India won seven of the eight hockey gold medals at the Games.
  • Apart from K D Jadhav’s wrestling bronze at Helsinki 1952, India had to wait until Atlanta 1996 and tennis player Leander Paes for an Olympic medal in a sport other than hockey.

Why is the renaming of the award significant?

  • The eight gold medals in hockey have often been termed as the millstone around the necks of the subsequent generation of players.
  • The modern game is an altogether different sport from the one played in Dhyan Chand’s era.
  • The Europeans and Australians have become much more proficient over the decades, while the change of surface has put a premium on fitness, speed, stamina, and physical strength.
  • India had not managed to get into the top four at the Olympics since the boycott-affected Moscow Games in 1980.
  • The later generations may have felt out of touch with the golden years, about which one could only read in books or listen to in tales of the protagonists and those who witnessed the heroics.

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