Sunshine, ponies, chiffon saris and high tea: it must be the polo season in India. There is no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in New Delhi. With the winter sun shining benignly in a blue sky after the furnace blast of summer, and the thud of ponies' hooves as they kick up the dust, the polo season is one of the best things the Indian capital has to offer in winter. Polo matches are not just of equestrian interest; social anthropologists also come to collect material, for these are occasions for the social elite to preen themselves. The who's who of Indian society attend. Cabinet ministers come to relax from the burdens of their portfolios, but most eyes are trained on the oldest patrons of this royal sport - the erstwhile royal families who have played polo and run stud farms for centuries and whose members still turn out to lend their support. On a recent Sunday, the royal ladies were resplendent in their chiffon and pearls. The commoners at the polo ground (just opposite the prime minister's residence) were diplomats, corporate executives, media barons and industrialists. The atmosphere at an Indian polo match is elegant and refined. Between chukkas, a regimental band plays cheerful tunes. Those in the VIP enclosure enjoy tea and dainty biscuits. After the match a genteel stampede breaks out for the high tea in the great marquee. The polo season runs throughout the winter, and the game is enjoying something of a revival. Believed to have been brought to India by the Mughals, it was enthusiastically taken up by all the Indian royal families and then by the British during the empire. It was the British tea planters in Assam who in 1859 founded the Cachar Club, the oldest polo club in the world. The game's popularity dropped during the 1970s when the maharajahs were stripped of their privy purses by Indira Gandhi's government. Overnight, there was no money to finance a hugely expensive sport. Polo ponies cost a fortune; since players have to change their mounts between chukkas, a team needs a small battalion of horses. Only the maharajahs had the wherewithal to support it, although the game has been lovingly preserved by the Indian Army. The game reached its nadir in the mid-1980s. It desperately needed a fresh infusion of money. Luckily, the corporate world came to the rescue. Some of India's biggest business houses have taken to sponsoring polo events in recent years and creating their own teams, giving it a new lease of life. That does not mean, however, that royalty has vanished from the polo scene. Several young princes have their own teams and polo stables. After all, quite apart from the exhilaration of playing, every Indian prince knows he cuts an irresistibly dashing figure if he plays polo.