dhyan chand featured

Dhyan Chand: The ‘Kohinoor’ of Indian Sportsmen

Foreword, by Lt Gen Kapil Aggarwal (Veteran)

Ramener une médaille de hockey

(Bring Back a Medal in Hockey)

Anointed as the “Wizard of Hockey” by Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Dhyan Chand will forever inspire generations of hockey players and lovers. When India routed the host team and favourites, Germany, by a margin of 8-1 in the Olympic finals while defending their title, the legend of Dhyan Chand was born. He glided over turf as if it was a skating rink and his flickering stick mesmerised all.  A statue of Dhyan Chand was erected in Vienna, much before a sculpture in his honour was dedicated to him in National Stadium Delhi which is now named after him.

          Major Dhyan Chand was conferred the Padma Bhushan, one of India’s highest civilian honours in 1956. Despite his achievements and recognition, he remained a humble, down to earth sportsman, a student of the game, ever ready to share the mystique of his craft with budding hockey players. Although Major Dhyan Chand had retired from competitive hockey by the time India became independent and began his astral journey in 1979, yet there is scarcely an Indian who has not heard of Dhyan Chand. In fact, if Indian Hockey team remains even today, on the eve of Tokyo Olympics, in the vanguard of our hopes for an Olympic medal, it is due to our old and glorious history of hockey largely epitomised by the legend of Dhyan Chand.

         “Guru Mantra”, the playing philosophy of the hockey wizard, postulated by Maj Gen Surjit Singh, is also a tribute to the ancient Indian wisdom of Nishkama Karma; the position is of no consequence and it does not matter who scores the goal. The Mantras also indicate the spiritual moorings of Dhyan Chand which influenced his no fuss playing style and philosophy; quintessentially it can be traced to this verse in Srimad Bhagwad Gita, which captures an eternal truth :-

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।

मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥

                    (You have the right to work only but never to its fruits.

                    Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction)

         As the whole country prays for our Hockey Team to bring back a medal from Tokyo Olympics, Manpreet Singh, the Captain of Team will do well to take inspiration from the philosophy of Padma Bhushan Dhyan Chand. The piece given below reveals that he was not only a great hockey player, but he had imbibed the true meaning of life. There is a lot to learn from him.



 Dhyan Chand: The ‘Kohinoor’ of Indian Sportsmen

By Maj Gen Surjit Singh (Veteran)


A Famous Neighbour

After the Independence (which we called ‘partition’, those days) the first peace posting of our father, the late Major Balwant Singh ji was to Meerut Cantt, where we were from late 1947 to mid-1949. The house allotted to us was a hutment on the Grass Farm Road. A few buildings away from us was the house of the legendary hockey wizard, Dhyan Chand (29 Aug 1905- 03 Dec 1979). His achievements are so well known, that I need not recount them here. What I must mention is that within our colony, he lived like any other officer; with no pretence or snobbishness. He had travelled to all corners of the world before the Second World War. During that period, it took forty days to sail from Bombay to the USA and about two weeks to get to Europe. To this, one must add the several days of the train journey to Bombay, and then the wait for the ship.

He carried his three Olympic Gold Medals with utter humility; and extended gracious courtesy to all his neighbours. We were told that Major Dhyan Chand was serving in the Punjab Regimental Centre. The picture which I have in my mind is one of a person of medium height and build. He was not particularly impressive to look at. But on the field, he exhibited infinite energy stored in that average-sized frame. Here is how he looked in the evenings, whenever we saw him.

 major dhyan chand

Major Dhyan Chand (1905-1979) Notice the Punjab Regiment emblem on his pocket.

During that period, I was a seven or eight-year-old kid and knew nothing about what it meant to win an Olympic Gold medal. But when our father got posted back to Meerut in 1955, I was fully aware of his fabulous achievements. During the second tenure in 1955-57, our father was in the Services Selection Board, and I had already set my heart on joining the National Defence Academy. I was in High School and attended the Cantonment Anglo-Bengali (CAB) School which was administered by the Meerut Sub Area. One day, Major Dhyan Chand was invited to visit our school to pep up our sportsmen. He was literally mobbed when he arrived. Everyone was keen to see him, and so a makeshift dais was hastily created for him to speak to us.

Dhyan Chand was no great orator, and he had already retired from competitive hockey. Some of us had seen him play, and even though he was more than fifty years old, his dexterity with the stick was there for everyone to see. At that gathering, he said some things, which did not seem to make much sense at that time. But upon return home, when I jotted down some portions of his ‘guru mantra’ I saw a great deal of depth in those profound pearls of wisdom. The next day, I showed what I had written to my teacher, and with his help, I cobbled up a small article in Hindi, which was published in the School Magazine. It was written in point form. Many years later, I translated it into English and sent it to some newspapers, and it was well received. I am tempted to share it with you, on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics beginning tomorrow. His ‘mantra’ was for Hockey players, but I think it can be extended to many other fields of human activity.



The player must NOT question the rules of the game. As far as he is concerned, they were made personally by the Almighty God: and they are good. However, if you play the game very well, or find a place of honour in the Hockey Federation, you might be allowed to comment on them and even make changes, so that the game becomes more challenging to play and exciting to watch.

It is also not for the player to question the position allotted to him in the team. He should be grateful that he has found a place in the team. The position is of no consequence. ‘Forwards’ are only as important as the ‘full backs’ and there are matches in which the goalkeeper steals the show!

It does not matter who actually scores the goal. Because, when the goal is netted, the whole team gains. Therefore, do your best to help every player to perform well.

If an opponent is playing well, do not hate or despise him for his skill. You might learn a thing or two from him. And remember, victory tastes sweet only when it is achieved against tough and determined rivals!

Enter the field with courage and humility. Play to win. But if the game goes against your side, remember that it is just a game. Accept the result with grace and dignity. Please note that you have lost only one match. ‘Insha Allah’ there will be many more occasions to make amends!

Now here are some vital rules, which you must follow when the ball is in play:

  • Stay within the zone allotted to you. If you are the ‘right out’ do not stretch far outside the right strip.

  • If the ball is with one of your teammates, position yourself in such a manner that the player who has the ball is tempted to pass it to you. And if the ball is with the opponents, and is in the zone allotted to you, do your best to tackle him, without infringing any rule.

  • If the ball is passed to you, or you are able to secure it from the opponents, move towards the goal as swiftly as you can. Run for all you are worth, but as soon as you find that one of your teammates is in a better position to score the goal, pass it on to him. Do not dribble merely to impress the spectators or the selectors.

  • Having passed the ball, do not get annoyed or angry with your colleagues if the goal is not scored. Your job ends when you pass the ball.

  • Do not waste your breath by shouting words of advice to your teammates. Also, do not run about aimlessly. Conserve your energy for the moment when the ball is passed to you.

  • When the match ends, go over the events to learn from the mistakes you made. However, do not run after the press or the selectors. Recognition and fame elude the players who try to chase it!


Many years later, when I was going through this piece, it occurred to me that life in the Army or even in the corporate world is similar to playing hockey. Organized activity is more of a ‘team game’ like hockey or football. It is not an individual sport like tennis or athletics. Many of the above dictums are just as applicable in professional life as they are, on the sports field. We waste too much time quarrelling over the ‘rules of the game’ and instead of concentrating on the job given to us we run after the people who write reports on our performance. We also spend an undue amount of effort in organizing our postings and appointments, and since we think that we are in ‘competition’ with our colleagues and predecessors, we do all that we can to run them down. And if something is achieved, we use all means, fair and foul, to prove that no one else had anything significant to contribute for the success of the project. We forget what the wizard said, “Having passed the ball, your job ends. It does not matter, who nets the ball. What matters is that the Goal is scored!”

The Tailpiece

Dhyan Chand lived and played during a period when there were no sponsorships and sports awards. For a living, he had to serve in the Army, and he was with his unit all through the war. Indeed, he performed his military duties to the entire satisfaction of his superiors. I can vouch for the fact that there was nothing in his house, which the others did not have, and the media did not give him any coverage after his retirement from the sport. When he left the army he was only 51 years old, and to support a family of seven children he had to take up a job as a coach. He started his life as a Sepoy and ended up as a Major, with nothing of any monetary value to show for his stupendous achievements.

If the Bharat Ratna is awarded to him at this stage, it will not add even one millimetre to his stature. On the other hand, the prestige of the award will go up enormously! Permit me to recount a proverb,

“Honours and awards distinguish the mediocre. While the superior are embarrassed by them, the decoration itself gets devalued when awarded for lesser deeds”

I wish to end this piece with some pictures which I have picked up from the Internet.

 hitler offer to dhyan chand

 During the Berlin Olympics in 1936, Hitler was so impressed by Dhyan Chand that he invited him to join the German Army as an officer. Dhyan Chand politely declined


dhyan chand statue delhi 

The Statue of Dhyan Chand in Delhi


                            kasauli statue


The Statue of Dhyan Chand in Kasauli Cantonment



  1. Krishna Menon says:

    Krishna Menon
    Thu, Sep 2, 11:01 PM (14 hours ago)
    to me

    Dear Gen Surjit Singh,

    Thanks for sharing your insights on Maj Dhyan Chand. He truly deserves to be honoured with Bharat Ratna. In the process India’s highest award would also be embellished.

    Warm regards,

  2. MajGen Naresh Kumar PVSM** says:

    In a telephonic message, Gen Naresh paid compliments to Dhyan Chand. He strongly felt that the great hockey player deserved an honour nothing less than the ‘Bharat Ratna’

  3. Zal Kabraji says:

    zal kabraji
    Sun, Jul 25, 5:52 PM (18 hours ago)
    to me

    My dear General–thanks a lot —just checked—very nicely done !
    Warm regards,

  4. Brig Kuldip Singh says:

    +91 98102 46227: Dhyan Chand was a legend, greatest Hockey player. If Tendulkar can be awarded the Bharat Ratna, so does Dhyan Chand.
    [2:47 PM, 7/23/2021] +91 98102 46227: Comments from Brig Kuldip Singh
    25 th Course.

  5. Surjit Singh says:

    My friend Brig Raj Manchanda used to tell me that in squash, as in life, victory and defeat lie in your head!
    The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the champions reach their place by ensuring that their thoughts are forever positive.
    Dhyan Chand told us precisely that.
    And these lessons are applicable to real-life just as much !

  6. Wg Cdr G Arvind Kumar says:

    Arvind Kumar
    9:31 AM (2 hours ago)
    to me

    Excellent, Sir.


  7. Lt Gen YK Mehta says:


  8. Maj Gen MS Syali says:

    Respected Sir,
    What a beautiful tribute has been written by you. In fact, he is deserving of Bharat Ratna. Your Amolak is doing a great service. Best wishes & warm regards…
    MJS Syali

  9. Col ABS Sidhu says:

    ABS Sidhu
    2:39 PM (2 hours ago)
    to me

    Hi Surjit ,
    Thanks for sharing anecdotes from the
    life of legendary Dhyan Chand.
    Lessons learnt from his life are very
    meaningful and worth emulating.
    With best wishes.
    ABS Sidhu

  10. Gulu Hora says:

    Gulu Hora
    Thu, Jul 22, 5:59 PM (17 hours ago)
    to me

    Thanks for sharing sir hope it inspires the Olympians.
    Gulu Hora.

  11. Brig PT Gangadharan says:

    Forwarded to all my friends.

  12. Veteran Brig SS Jaswal says:

    Thanks Gen Surjit Sir for a wonderful article on Major Dhyan Chand, The Wizard of Hockey. I studied in St George`s College, Mussoorie from 1954-65 and then joined the NDA in 1966. My school has produced four Anglo Indian hockey players – Carl Tapsell, W Cullen, `Bijly` Gateley and Eric Marthins. They were all contemporaries of the Great Dhyan Chand in the 1928, 1932 and 1936 Olympics, where India won the Gold Medal. They were all unanimous, that there will never be another Dhyan Chand. In the words of Eric Marthins, “There was some controversy whether Johnny Pinto was as good as Dhyan Chand. No, not by a long chalk. Johnny was a great ball player, but nothing like old Dhyan for marksmanship. and what a superb team man, Dhyan was. With two good inside men, he was the acme of perfection, a True Wizard”. If any sportsman deserves the Bharat Ratna it is Major Dhyan Chand.

  13. Dhiraj Mullick says:

    Simply wonderful to get a glimpse of this great personality.

    So much to learn from him….. least of all humility

    Thank you sir!

  14. The Hockey wizard Dhyan Chand is a legendary figure and to have been his neighbor is something worth a fairy tale for the author to reflect on . This Icon was a great inspiration to many generations of Indian Hockey players for many decades. The principles of sportsmanship , team spirit and integrity enunciated by him can be applied across the board in any walk of life.

    I must narrate an experience where I felt really ashamed of the performance of the Indian Hockey team contrary to our expectations here. It was the Hockey finals against arch rival Pakistan in the Asian Games 1972 at the National Stadium New Delhi. If I remember correctly , it was for the first time that we played on Astro Turf .We lost by 7 goals to nil . I had a Rs 2 Ticket allotted to me by the Director of APTC by virtue of my position in the Military Secretary’s Branch and I could have sold it in black for Rs 600 outside the stadium. But ,my integrity as a serving officer came in the way ! . I think we came back to form later but I felt on that day , we let down Dhyan Chand ! Long live the finest traditions of Dhyan Chand .
    A great blog post to cherish from my CO during the 80′s at Sikkim EME Bn and my mentor thereafter for many years in service.

  15. Ms Rohini Khare says:

    Rohini Khare
    11:20 AM (4 minutes ago)
    to me

    Thank you so much Gen. Surjit Singh for this informative email.


  16. Amit Bhaduri says:

    Amit Bhadhuri
    Wed, Jul 21, 8:24 PM (14 hours ago)
    to me

    Many thanks, General for the brilliant piece.
    Warm regards,

  17. Satish Kumar Bhandari says:

    Satish Bhandari
    Wed, Jul 21, 6:24 PM (16 hours ago)
    to me


  18. Col Randhir Singh says:

    Randhir Singh
    Jul 21, 2021, 6:19 PM (16 hours ago)
    to me

    Thanks a lot for sharing. V interesting many lessons in life

  19. Col Parminder Singh says:

    Parminder Singh
    Wed, Jul 21, 6:12 PM (16 hours ago)
    to me, Maj

    Interesting, thanks for sharing

  20. David Banerji says:

    David Banerji
    Wed, Jul 21,
    to me

    Dear Sir

    When I was Editor of the EME Journal I had published your article on Maj Dhyan Chand in one of the issues and have also passed it on to many friends over the years. Makes wonderful reading.

    Trust you are keeping good health Sir.

    With fond regards,

    Lt Col David Banerji

  21. Sitendra Kumar says:

    Sitendra Kumar
    8:39 AM (2 hours ago)
    to me

    Dear Sir,

    Thanks for the impressive article.
    The golden rules framed by him ought to be followed by all in our other activities as well.
    A superman, Maj. Dhyan Chand bought laurels for our country.
    Our decline in hockey started when one of his cardinal golden rule was broken with impunity e.g.
    Do not dribble merely to impress the spectators or the selectors.

    This dribbling was the cause of our defeats in various matches. Many a players insisted on dribbling and attempting to score themselves instead of passing the ball and more often than not they were unsuccessful and we started losing to Pakistan first and to others afterwards.
    Had we the team spirit as enunciated by Maj. Dhyan Chand, perhaps we would have won Gold in Olympics on more number of occasions.
    It’s so exciting to know that you had met him as a child.

    A very good article.


    Sitendra Kumar

  22. J Thomas says:

    You are indeed fortunate to have been a neighbour of the legendary Major Dhyan Chand. Thanks for passing on his words of wisdom.

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