The Shandur Polo Festival is one of the biggest festivals in Pakistan held over three days in July each year. This tournament takes place on the Shandur Pass in the Himalayas, the highest polo ground in the world at 3738 metres above sea level. The festival also includes folk music and dancing, and trout fishing at the nearby streams and lakes, with spectators setting up a camping village for the duration of the event.
Polo is an equestrian sport with its origin embedded in Central Asia dating back to the 6th century BC. Originally it was a training game for cavalry units for the King’s guards and other elite troups. It was introduced into South Asia in the 13th century. The 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 – the team that scored nine goals first was crowned the winner. Today the game features six players on each side with the match lasting one hour in total with a ten minute break.
The first time a polo tournament took place at the Shandur Pass was in 1936. This is a place unique and exotic in itself, surrounded by some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world. The event marks the annual rivalry between the polo teams of Gilgit and Chitral provinces in Pakistan. Supporters of both sides travel long distances from remote areas of the provinces, to watch the thrilling game and cheer on their team. As such, the event offers a fascinating insight into the lifestyle of the people of this region.
I know I would LOVE to attend this polo festival and get in on the action. Has anyone been fortunate enough to have visited this polo field globetrotters? I hope you acclimatised first!
Reference: Tourism Pakistan
Image credit: Travel My Pakistan