Gymkhana, sporting club popularized by the British in the Indian subcontinent - a brief note.

Across many parts of India probably you  would have come across a quaint word gymkhana, particularly in those states  that  were part of main Presidencies of colonial India - Madras, Bombay and Calcutta.  Originated in 19th-century  in the subcontinent, it is a derivative of  the Hindustani  word "gedkhana," roughly meaning  a ball- playing area,  something like  a tennis ball court. In the word gymnasium the first syllable is influenced by this Hindi word. Some argue that the word is  derived from the Persian word "Jamat-khana"

Bombay Gymkhana

Gymkhana, a popular social and sporting club in the Indian subcontinent under the British Raj  was established as a place for prominent  people to come together  on the holidays or weekends  to socialize or engage in sports, music, entertainment, etc. Invariably, Gymkhana has closer connectivity with sports than others. Post independence,  countless  clubs  across  India offer an array of  sporting activities for members of all ages to keep them busy,  providing ample opportunities  for them to develop friendship and  sporting skill.  Such clubs are also also operating in commonwealth  countries like  East Africa, Burma, Singapore,  Malaysia, etc. So, Gymkhana Club is a  gentleman's club associated with  elite of the society. A British-colonial term for sports club that became popular in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Such sporting and social clubs were  and are found in the big cities and urban settlements. Complaints are thick in the air that such clubs whose origin goes back to the British era, have yet to get rid of the colonial hangover and and stick to certain norms and regulations with respect to entry into the club premises  that degrade the dignity of Indian natives persons.  This differential treatment in the elite clubs may be an offshoot of colonial arrogance and stupidity to insult fellow natives. 

In the british era in  some social clubs where the members were mostly higher civilian officials of the Raj  there could  be  gymkhana clubs, even more oriented towards sports, and more friendly too to wives and children. 

 The Gymkhana Club in Chennai or Mumbai or Kolkata may take us back to the colonial days, and present an  interesting  glimpse of the British Raj, its legacy and  British imperialism that was rooted in Bengal. A surprising fact is  the club had a mixed clientele. and allowed  "independent" Indian women to join. But the Indian society at that point of time never gave them that kind of freedom.

The Bombay Gymkhana, founded in 1875, is one of the premiere gentlemen clubs in the city of Mumbai and had remained a whitemen's  club until 1933 since its inception. 

The Jorhat Gymkhana Club with the oldest golf course in Asia is the  the third oldest in the world. Built in  1876 in Seconidhara Village it had been  a famous club for horse racing since its inception. 

The popular Delhi gymkhana club that is recently mired in controversies was established on 3 July 1913 at Coronation Grounds, Delhi.   It was known as the “Imperial Delhi Gymkhana Club” and Mr. Spencer Harcourt Butler was its first President. Coronation park, the site of 1911 spectacular Delhi Durbar became a grave yard of colonial statues that were erected by the Raj as a symbol of British supremacy and British expansionism.

The Indian Gymkhana Club  of Mill Hill, North London  came up in December 1916.  Though the club was opened to encourage cricket, it also got into tennis, football, etc. The members of this club were invariably rich Indian Maharajahs.  Lord Hawke was the guiding spirit behind this club. .

The Parsi community was the first one to have a separate sporting club in Bombay to play cricket for reasons of racial disparity on the part of the British rulers. 

Madras Gymkhana Club ,/

Madras Gymkhana Club , Madras (Chenna) established in 1884 initially membership was restricted to garrison  members and British officials. Later the club allowed  natives, preferably rich, influential Indians.  Now this old club in Chennai appears to have no colonial hangover and is actively involved in  promoting Sports, Social and Cultural activities.  This british era club  owns and operates one of Chennai's two 18-hole golf courses, one of Asia's oldest courses.

The Delhi Gymkhana, The Willingdon Sports Club, the Ootacamund Club, Wellington Gymkhana Club, Bangalore Club are some of the social and sporting clubs across India and  they all carry the foot prints of the Raj.