Polo at Roof top of the World fascinates local and foreign tourists: Tariq Khan

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PESHAWAR, July 15 (APP): Costing the provincial government more than Rs. 13 million the famous Shandoor Polo Festival at the World highest Polo ground will be played between the teams of Chitral, Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on July 29-31, 2016 with bricks arrangements continue, Additional Secretary Sports Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Tariq Khan told APP here on Friday.

The schedule for the festival has already been finalized before changing thrice after consulting the district administration of Chitral, he said. The festival regularly held each year from July 7 to 9 but due to Eid-ul-Fitr, the dates have been changed as first it was decided to hold on July 15-18, then on July 22-24 but now things have been finalized to July 29-31, he added.

Shandoor Polo Festival is one of the big festivals in Pakistan, he said.

The polo which is played between the polo teams of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is experienced as a free-style polo match, Tariq Khan said.

Passion for Polo will be the highest on the world’s highest Polo ground.

Every year, Shandur invites visitors to experience a traditional polo tournament between the teams of Chitral and Gilgit. The festival also includes Folk music, Folk dance, traditional sports.

Polo was introduced in South Asia, by the Muslim conquerors in the 13th century. English word ‘Polo” is in fact a Balti word meaning, “ball”. In ancient times, there was no limit to the number of players and no time limit. Which team scored nine goals first, became the winner.

Today, there are six players to each side, but this is by no means a rule in local polo games. The game lasts for one hour with a ten-minute break. Chitral, Gilgit and Skardu have always played the game of polo closest to its original form.

The Shandur Polo ground is situated at a highest level 3800m called as the ‘Roof of the World’ and the King Games has been held annually since 1936. The polo tournament is featured in the first episode of Himalaya with Michael Palin which have always played the game of polo closest to its original form. In the past, the British Rulers were the patrons of the game.

The top is flat, a plateau and can be crossed between late April and early November. The grade is very gradual, and the area is crossed by plentiful small streams during summer.

Shandur Pass is one of the major mountain passes between Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan. According to the history of Chitral, Shandur is the property of the royal family of Mastuj Chitral, and due to ownership issue the polo was disbanded between Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan. During the early 20th century, the British in neighboring India were the patrons of the game. Free-styled mountain polo is arguably polo in its purest form.

This version of the game played at Shandur-Top has attained legendary status and is of great interest to international and domestic adventure tourists alike. There are no umpires and there are no holds barred. The rules are – There are no rules! In “The Roof of the World” as compared by historian to an American Wild West rodeo might pass for choir practice.” A player once mentioned: “You can ride head-on into the opponent, if you dare.”

The field measures about 200 meters by 56 meters (normal polo field is about 270m by 150m), with 60 cm high stone walls running the length of the field on both sides instead of boards. As six players make up one side, the field can get fairly crowded.

This has the advantage of slightly slowing down the pace, which, all things considered, is probably somewhat safety-enhancing. As for the players’ safety is concerned, the players rarely wear helmets, the horses’ legs often have no bandages, and mallets often have no grips or straps.