SESQUICENTENNIAL COLOMBO GYMKHANA
1863 TO 2013
‘Glory of living is not in ‘never’ falling but in rising every time we fall’, words of Emerson. Gymkhana’s 150 year history has been such an experience. Even today we face challenges but the wisdom of our traditions is navigating to calmer waters.
Throughout known times there has been the congregation of man to interact with each other and enhance life. Historically the first recreational, membership club in the world is known to be St Andrew’s in England. It was founded as early as 1754 and now on its 260th year of healthy existence. In the same manner Colombo Gymkhana’s originating in 1863 at the Galle face greens to be the first club in Ceylon. With social and sport interactions, Colombo Gymkhana club enters its 150th year in existence in July of 2013, at Maitland crescent and at Baudhhaloka Mawatha, Colombo-7. Club has shown its survival genes through major changes.
HISTORY OF CLUBS
Coffee House – Coffee as a brew is of Abyssinian origin, dating back to 634 AD. Arab physicians used ‘Coff’ or ‘Kaff’, as it was known, for Medical reasons. There is some reference to the Arab Physician named Rhazes to be the first when it comes to use of Coffee. Subsequently Coffee-houses evolved in eastern Mediterranean and went to Europe as ‘meeting places’ for people to socialize. The socializing aspect of Coffee-houses lead to ‘club houses’ of many sorts in Europe. St Andrews of 1756 in England mentioned above is one such early institution. Social interaction is the main vein of activity for clubs even today.
ORIGIN OF GYMKHANA
The word ‘Jamat-Khana’ is of Asian minor language base. It refers to a ‘Mydhan’ an ‘open place’ to meet for social interaction free of social and ethnic restrictions. It was for skill activities as coffee houses were for social interaction. Later ‘Jamat-Khnanas’ were a place where manual skills were displayed. It is the known origin of ‘folk-sport’ making ‘sport’ the common factor for social interaction. It became an common occurrence in the Jamat- Khanas of Anatolia and Khurasan of the Asian minor periphery. This popular multicultural peaceful activity influenced the Gangetic plain civilization and then Deccan in the Indian sub continent.
In the early stages ‘Jamat-Khana’ was only an exhibition of manual and equestrian skills. Horses being the mode of transport at that time equestrian skills were the attraction. Origin of ‘Gym’ is of European stem. ‘Gym-Khana’ itself is an Anglo-Asian expression. ‘Meeting for Sport’ could be arguably correct.
GYMKHANA IN CEYLON
Gymkhana was for socializing with ‘sporting skills’ as the common language. From 1863 in Ceylon the “Gymkhana” was responsible in organizing such gathering.
OUR JOURNEY THROUGH 150 YEARS
Clubs for social interaction were for enhancing quality of life. In urban settlements ‘sport’ was and is the attraction for ‘interactive gathering’. According to known records ‘clubs’ in the British colonies began in Hong Kong. The first was the ‘Victoria Regatta Club’ which came to being in 1849 but was in operation in Canton, China since 1830 or 1832. Dutch East Indian Company in Ceylon with its identity ‘VOC’ created secular ‘Dutch Burgher Union’ [DBU] here and it still exists in Colombo.
Worldwide, handful of clubs started between 1850 and 1900 in the colonial period. Colombo Gymkhana was one of them. It was an era when the world came to appreciate peace after Napoleon’s march through Europe. It was safe enough for the Portuguese Government to return to Lisbon – Europe after being in exile in Brazil – South America. I863 also saw Football rules being formulated and the ‘FA cup’ being played in England. Through this Foot Ball has become the most popular game in the world today.
COLOMBO GYMKHANA CLUB HOUSE
Middle 19th century being time after wars in Europe, the world was looking for civilized peaceful activities. It is in this surge of breath for peaceful activities socializing, participation in social activity, sports and other forms of recreation became an emphatic British Victorian value which its colonies implemented. What more, Sport was not the primary reason for clubs, in fact it was not in the first few priorities. As a gathering place everyone was welcome. For this purpose the ‘Club-House’ provided the ‘place’ and was the first priority of all clubs. The Gymkhana Club house at Maitland Crescent has a history befitting this claim.
In the next decades Gymkhana took great pride in the exclusive Gymkhana Identity with its Club-House as the social gathering place. Historically Colombo Gymkhana has traveled through Colonial and independent rule with great strength and pride. History, standards and identity of Colombo Gymkhana are a reminder and foundation in strengthening the services and pursuits of existence. The identity is known for Social fellowship, sporting interest, good standards, responsibilities and community interest. These will live long and be with us in the future.
In the 150 year period Gymkhanas in the Island infused many harmonious and exiting endeavors to enhance our life. Of all activities Gymkhana is best known is for the ‘lottery’. It made ‘every citizen a player’ for well over 50 years. The expression ‘winning a gymkhana’ is a reference to any windfall which still lingers in our colloquial expressions is from the ‘Gymkhana Lottery’.
Gymkhana had strong Equestrian activity base right through its existence. Horse racing came later. Originally it was the Horse riding disciplines that dominated the activities when Gymkhana was situated in Galle face green. Later through the horse racing phase, ‘lottery’ came to being. It was much sought after all over the island. Even today Police Horse Parade is called the ‘Police Gymkhana’.
COLOMBO GYMKHANA 2013 – All community membership
Social interaction and in harmony Colombo Gymkhana has served the country in the post Independence era in many worthy fronts. It did so even in the difficult colonial period. The most significant feature of Gymkhana today is in the all community roll call of membership co-existing in harmony as members. Even more so to be noticed is that the Chairmanship has been in the hands of every community in this Island. Even in the darkest hour of the recent history it has held itself together. The original idea of Socializing, Recreation, Participation and to uplift manual skills with annual competitions, are still very much the pursuits of ‘Colombo Gymkhana’ today.
COLOMBO GYMKHANA SPORT – 2013
The three constituting clubs of Colombo Gymkhana are the COLOMBO CRICKET CLUB, COLOMBO HOCKEY & FOOTBALL CLUB, and THE COLOMBO QUEEN’S CLUB. They are active and functional in 2013 proving 150 years of healthy existence and service to members and the country. They are better known as CCC, CH&FC and QUEEN’S for Tennis and Squash.
Our club also accommodates Swimming, Squash, Billiards and the grounds for sports and recreation. In the independence era Gymkhana made a mark in every sport for which it has facilities. We have personalities who have lead and represented the country, manned national and international teams and reached unassailable levels of men’s world, Asian rankings. We have been a strong mother board in creating elite sportsmen for international level competitions in Sri Lanka.
COLOMBO GYMKHANA’S HEALTH MINDED ‘FIA’ – 2013
Colombo Gymkhana also provides for non competitive participatory sporting pursuits always. It is for the cross section of the membership for healthy living. These being free independent activity [FIA], there is a large participation right through the year. It is here that we have the most interaction between members and guest. There will be a great deal of enhancement of this in the future.
COLOMBO GYMKHANA CLUB HOUSE- THE HUB – 2013
The meeting place that is what Gymkhana club house is. Situated in Maitland Crescent it is the ‘Coffee shop’ of the Asian minor to our members. The meeting place of Colombo Gymkhana membership and esteemed guests.
‘We all have to live together, that is inevitable, so we might as well live happily’ these are the words of wisdom from Dalai Lama. It is our motto to make our club house such a place to live happily.
Our colonial pavilion is located in the most accessible centre of Colombo. It is good for meeting people, breakfast, lunch and social evening and dinner. It provides entertainment, relaxation and stimulants for a good day. If you want to do the most difficult thing to do, that is ‘nothing’ it provides for that too.
The Club-House is been revived with facilities and activities that were there in the last 150 years. We will not be wrong if we say ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet’ when it comes to our CLUB-HOUSE.
COLOMBO GYMKHANA- THE FUTURE
With 150 years of age Gymkhana is proud to say that it has survived colonial and the Independent era through serene and stormy times. During this time the world has been at war and peace, Kings, Queens and governments have ascended and descended, countries were born and ceased to exist, ideologies of all sorts came and went, revolutions surfaced and subsided, There has been unions of nations and its disintegration, we have seen old orders go new been enforced, we were ‘witness of time’ proving to be an institution for the people in ‘all seasons of man’.
NEW BEGINNING AND REVIVALS – THE FUTURE
The legend will go on. Our record shows that we were known for more than what all could see now. It is the desire of every member in our club to see Gymkhana in full splendor again. With peace in the island our enthusiasm is surging to provide better engagement of social activity.
We have plans to revive a Business center, Library, Billiard, Card room, Hobby sessions, Equestrian interest, outbound events and cycling. Introduce Karaoke, Film matinee hall, film library and Study Hall for languages.
Our culinary division has evolved in the last decade. It will go further to become the original ‘Coffee shop’ of the Asian minor, with wash and dressing room facilities. This means, reducing driving and make Gymkhana the meeting and transit point with ‘SOFT’ recreational activities.
There will be professional teaching outfit for 8 sports under the name ‘Gymkhana Sports Academy’. Children and adults will get a Sport-base in 8 disciplines in one place. From there they can be channeled to their interest and capability. In this island’s history Schools and Clubs were responsible for sports elitism. We will take the responsibility again by doing so in a scientific, personality building and organized manner to foster talent. It will be education in a format suited for today’s professional international need and for life supporting health factor. Based on curriculum, syllabus, training systems and competition, participants will see the fun in sports and gain personality and health at the same time. The program will incorporate overseas experience.
SESQUICENTINNIAL GALA CELEBRATION
We are going for a yearlong party; kindle the spirit of life again in the city of Colombo
COLOMBO GYMKHANA GALA
All sports will have a participatory gala. Each activity will conduct a one day event through the 150th year of Colombo Gymkhana. Its for all, its for fun and its for participation.
It will be a birthday party over 3 days; with pomp and pageant of our islands carnival mood; on a carnival ground; and in carnival tradition.
This will be our official dance. To swing to the tunes of 150 years, sport the costumes of 150 years, to the memory of 150 years. It is to create a memory and assert that we are ‘ALIVEA’.
COLOMBO GYMKHANA’S PROMISE and HOPE OF A NATION
Colombo Gymkhana has weathered well to assure the country that it will do so in the future without doubt. We belong to tradition of our Mother Lanka.
There is a new wave of hope for everyone in this Island after a stormy period. It was a test of time for all. The citizens and the republic have emerged resilient tested metal. Gymkhana too has proved its metal contribute to this peace loving island in the Indian Ocean. Gymkhana has plans for the greater picture to change the ‘life style landscape’ in Colombo.
Our plans are to provide cover and stability thinking not only for our prosperity but for other institutions who also have also humbly and painfully survived the test of time. The new landscape we have in mind will change the way recreation and life style to a better sustainable, interesting, interactive and varied spectrum of activities. The development will give international recognition; answers to the challenges of time. We have strong commitment to be of service and to interact.
‘He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god. These words of Aristotle will not be forgotten in the bastions of Colombo Gymkhana.
We have the will to serve & prosper
THE LEGEND GOES ON IN ALL SEASONS OF MAN
SESQUICENTENNIAL COLOMBO GYMKHANA