Major Dhyan Chand was a former Indian field hockey player. He is widely considered to be the greatest hockey player of all time. He was known for his exceptional ball and goal-scoring abilities. Due to this, he was often called The Wizard or The Magician of Hockey.
He was an extraordinary talent who worked for the betterment of the sport even after retirement. He was so brilliant in his performances that the cricket legend, Don Bradman, remarked, “He scores goals like runs in cricket” upon watching him play.
What makes his achievements even more remarkable that he didn’t play much hockey before joining the army. Sadly, we lost him on the 3rd of December 1979 from liver cancer.
Quick Facts about Major Dhyan Chand
- Birth Name: Dhyan Chand
- Also Known As: The Hockey Wizard, The Magician of Hockey
- Famous For: His exceptional abilities as a field Hockey Player
- Born On: 29 August 1905
- Died On: 3 December 1979
- Birthplace: Allahabad (now Prayagraj), Uttar Pradesh, India
- Education: Victoria College, Gwalior
- Parents: Sameshwar Dutt Singh (father), Sharadha Singh (mother)
- Profession: Field Hockey Player
- Religion: Hinduism
- Spouse: Janaki Devi (m. 1936)
- Sons – Brij Mohan, Sohan Singh, Raj Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Umesh Kumar, Devendra Singh and Virendra Singh
- Daughters – Vidyavati, Rajkumari, Asha Singh, and Usha Singh
- Awards: Padma Bhushan Award
Early Life of the Olympic Gold Medalist
Dhyan Chand was born to a Rajput family in Allahabad (now Prayagraj), India. His father, Subedar Sameshwar Dutt Singh, worked and played hockey for the British Indian Army.
He had two brothers, Mool Singh and Roop Singh. Because of his father’s army transfers, the family moved around a lot before ultimately settling in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Coming to his education, he graduated from Victoria College, Gwalior, in 1932.
Inclination in Sports
He was a legend in Hockey, but does that mean he was into hockey since his childhood? Well, the answer is no.
Dhyan Chand was not much into sports. He used to do Wrestling sometimes. Hockey was not in his life until he joined the Indian Army. He kind of grew interest in Hockey after joining the Army and used to practice overnight when moonlight used to come.
Marriage and Family Life
Dhyan Chand married Janaki Devi in 1936, and the two remained married until he died in 1979. They had 11 children. He had seven sons, Brij Mohan, Sohan Singh, Raj Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Umesh Kumar, Devendra Singh, and Virendra Singh. Also, he had four daughters, Vidyavati, Rajkumari, Asha Singh, and Usha Singh. His son, Ashok Kumar, is an International Hockey Player as well.
Career of the Hockey Legend
Dhyan Chand joined the British Indian Army on his 17th birthday, 29 August 1922, as a sepoy. For the next four years, he only played army hockey tournaments and regimental games. These performances got him selected for the Indian Army team to tour New Zealand in 1926. The team’s performances were great, and so were his.
He was a part of the Indian Hockey Team that made their Olympic Debut on 17 May 1928. He scored three goals in that match against Austria. He continued to perform amazingly and getting India its first Olympic gold medal. He was declared the top scorer of the tournament with 14 goals in 5 matches.
His brilliant performances continued in the 1932 Olympics, and India earned the gold medal once again. What was even memorable about the Olympics that year was that hi brother, Roop Singh, was alongside him. The brothers scored 25 goals out of India’s 35 goals in the final game against the USA.
He participated in the 1936 Olympics as well, but this time, he was the team captain. He scored three goals in the finals of the 1936 Olympics against Germany.
On the 9th of April 1943, he received an emergency commission as a second lieutenant in the 14th Punjab Regiment. His final match was against Bengal.
He scored more than 400 goals in his career (from 1926 to 1948). Also, he retired from the Indian Army on 29 August 1956 as a lieutenant.
Achievements of the Hockey Wizard
Here are some of the accomplishments of Dhyan Chand:
- He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1956.
- In 1951, he was honored with a tournament named after him – Dhyan Chand Hockey Tournament.
- Indian Govt. called the esteemed lifetime achievement in sports as the Dhyan Chand Award.
- A hostel at the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University has been named after him.
Lesser-Known Facts about the Magician of Hockey
Here are some of the lesser-known facts about Dhyan Chand:
- In one match, he couldn’t score a goal, and he argued with the referee about the measurement of the goal post. It turns out he was right. The goal post violated the official minimum width, as mentioned under the International rules.
- Authorities in the Netherlands once broke his hockey stick. The reason for being that they wanted to check if there was a magnet inside.
- Upon watching him play, Adolf Hitler was mighty impressed with him. As a result, Hitler offered him a German citizenship position in the Army. However, Dhyan Chand turned him down because of his love for his country.
- He was a huge fan of Shayari, and his favorite actresses were Hema Malini and Zarina Wahab.
- GOAL is his autobiography.
- His favorite match was the 1933 Beighton Cup final between Calcutta Customs and Jhansi Heroes.
Later Years, and Death
Post-retirement, he taught at coaching camps at Mount Abu, Rajasthan. He later became the Chief Hockey Coach at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala. He held this position for years to come.
He spent his last days in his hometown of Jhansi. However, he died on the 3rd of December 1979 due to liver cancer at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. But his cremation proceedings were held in the Jhansi Heroes ground, and the Punjab Regiment gave him full military honors.
He was an incredibly loyal citizen and just as incredible as a player. He continued to contribute to the sport’s welfare, and that’s how he will always be looked upon as.
The Indian Government has a commemorative postage stamp and a First Day Cover in his honor. An Astroturf hockey pitch at the Indian Gymkhana Club in London is named after him.
What’s even more fitting is that his birthday, 29 August, is celebrated as the National Sports Day in India every year.
Quotes by Major Dhyan Chand
“I do not think man’s intelligence could have conceived of a more fascinating game than hockey. Perhaps I am wrong because I have not played other games.”
“To me hockey has almost been a religion. More than anything else, I owe to this sport a great deal for what I am today.”
“Hockey is a game of great skill. To play it well is an art by itself.”
“In short, hockey demands the best in you, both as a player and as a man.”
“Kolkata is indeed lucky that it has at least three or four first class hockey grounds on the maidan, and this is a great advantage to run a tournament on schedule.”
“If anybody asked me which was the best match that I played in, I will unhesitatingly say that it was the 1933 Beighton Cup final between Calcutta Customs and Jhansi Heroes.”
“I remember that in 1932, after our return from the Olympic tour, we beat Delhi by 12 goals to nil. I never recognised Delhi as a big hockey playing centre, but on this day they were right on top of us and completely outplayed us.”
“Nowadays I hear of the princely comforts provided for national teams travelling overseas, and the fuss players raise if they happen to miss even a cup of tea! When we used to travel, the name of our country and the game were the only two things that mattered.”
“In every sphere of life, especially in sport, we must behave in a manner that will make the whole world respect us. The name of the country and the game must be the goal, and everything else subordinate.”
“What little I have done in the field of hockey for my country has been due to the kindness and affection shown to me by officials and members of the public.”
“I am a soldier and as such not used to public speaking, but all the same I feel it is my duty to convey to you all my most grateful thanks for all that you have done for me.”