Shandur Polo festival

Shandur Valley Travel Blog

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The 2010 edition of Pakistan’s famous Shandur Polo festival will take place from 9-14 of July. This polo tournament, organized by Gilgit and Chitral polo clubs, will be played at Shandur Pass which is considered as the the highest Polo Ground in the World.

The game of polo has been played for a long time in the world, but in Pakistan it sometimes assumes mythical importance as Pakistan’s northern areas are famous for their natural beauty.

They have awe-inspiring mountains, serene lakes, roaring rivers and gigantic glaciers and the game of polo attracts many a visitor to the region for reasons other than watching nature’s munificence.

The Shandur pass is situated about 3,738 metres above sea level and lies between Gilgit and Chitral. It is 147 km from Chitral and 211 km from Gilgit. In the winter, it remains frozen due to the heavy snowfall that engulfs everything beneath its white blanket. At the end of the spring season, this area ��" a plateau among the Hidukush Mountains ��" becomes a lush green land. And the greenery with galloping horses, the zealous spectators and the tent city in the high Hidukush underneath the open skies in the background of the Shandur Lake, present a magical view.

As Shandur has a mythical importance in Chitrali folklore, it is said that it is the abode of the fairies (Shhawanan), and at night these fairies come down to the lake and splash its water.

Nowadays, open air cultural festivities, including dance shows and concerts, are held here during nighttime as part of polo matches in which maestros from Gilgit and Chitral enthral the audiences with their performances. There is also the all famous Chitrali Dance performed during this occassion. Traditionally, this dance used to be performed as a warm up before battles and also as a celebration after winning those battles. Because of this, this dance is only performed by men. The dance in itself is an elegant display of body maneuvering and twirling shoulders and arms performed by men in white Shalwar Qamees, Red Waistcoats and White Curled Hats that are referred to as Pakols in Afghanistan and Chitrali Hats in Pakistan.

The difference about Shandur polo game is that, an international polo match is divided into six chukkers (circles), each is seven-and-a-half-minute long.

And an umpire, riding a horse, monitors the game. Usually, one team consists of three or four players. The polo played in the northern areas is different in many respects from international polo. Here, the game is divided into two stints of 25 minutes each with a break of 10 minutes between them. Unlike international polo, one cannot change one’s horse ��" only if the horse receives serious injuries. Rules are few and there is no referee or umpire. The only official is a time-keeper. There are 12 players, six from each team. A player can hit his opponent with his mallet, give him a push, and run over his opponent’s horse. And the 12 players pursue the ball in such a frantic manner that it leaves spectators in awe. Generally, a swollen face, a bandaged head or a limping horse shows that the match is interesting enough. Besides the scenery here is in keeping with the breathtaking fury of the game. The famous Shandur Top overlooks the scenic Shandur Lake, encompassed by towering snowcapped mountains. So amidst music, festivities and awe-inspiring natural beauty, the glory of polo lives on.

If anyone want to be a spectator of this fabulous and wild game of Polo, then do join the valley from 9-14 July, 2010

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Apricot and Ghazer Bridge and River
Apricot and Ghazer Bridge and River
Local Dance at Shandur
Local Dance at Shandur
Its game of polo
Its game of polo
View from above
View from above
Para tropers
Para tropers
A small village ahead of Chitral
A small village ahead of Chitral
Para tropers
Para tropers
NLI Band
NLI Band
Shandur Lake
Shandur Lake
Shandur Lake
Shandur Lake
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Shandur Valley
photo by: dreamynain