Know Your City: How badminton began as a recreational activity for bored British servicemen and their spouses in Pune

In 1867, British colonists in India created the first informal set of badminton rules, originally known as ‘Poona.’ Later, when British officers brought the game home, it was given the name Badminton after the Duke of Beaufort’s country seat.
In March 1873, an English sports fan wrote to The Field: The Country Gentlemen’s Newspaper in England, requesting information on the new ‘Badminton game of Battledore,’ which he had heard was popular in India and was gaining popularity in the United Kingdom. In a letter published in the newspaper’s ‘Notes and Queries’ section, a man named K asked, “Can any of your readers give me particulars as to the manner in which it is played, what implements are required, etc.”

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Reader responses were included in successive issues of the magazine for the benefit of sports fans living in the English countryside, the constituency to which the newspaper catered.

The majority of the responses were from British expats in India who had been playing the game, which was popular among British soldiers and officers at the time, for almost a decade. Readers provided information about the new game they had played or saw being played, as well as the regulations that are followed in cities like Calcutta, Nagpur, Simla, Murree, and Tanjore, in the pages of The Field.

Badminton Began
Badminton Began

Major Forbes of Calcutta shared a copy of The Great Eastern Hotel Company in Calcutta’s 3,000-word A Handbook of Badminton, which described the size of an average badminton court (28 feet by 20 feet), the net (5 and a half feet height), and rules about the play and the score in the same magazine five months later.
The allusions of the game in The Field are thought to be the earliest recordings of Badminton that exist today. The game’s history in India, on the other hand, dates back at least a decade.

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