Shandur Polo Festival

Shandur invites visitors to experience a traditional polotournament which since 1936 has been held annually  in the first week of July between the teams of Chitral and Gilgit. The tournament is held onShandur Pass, the highest polo ground in the world at 3,700 meters (the pass itself is at 3,800 meters). The festival also includes Folk music, dancing and a camping village is set up. The polo tournament is featured in the first episode ofHimalaya with Michael Palin.
Gilgit, Chitral and Skardu have always played the game of polo closest to its original form. In the past, local Rajas, Mirs and Mehtars were the patrons of the game. At times, more than 50% of the annual budget of their principalities would be spent on supporting the game
Freestyled mountain polo is arguably polo in its purest form. This version of the game played at Shandur 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 order to decide the final teams to play at the Shandur Polo Festival preliminary matches are played both in Chitral andGilgit in which the best horses and players are chosen for the final games by the local juries. The festival begins on the 7th of July with a polo match between Laspur Team, which is a village near Shandur in Chitral, and the Ghizer Team from Gilgit. During the course of the tournament A, B, C and D teams of Chitral and Gilgit battle it out on the polo field. Each team has six members with 2-4 reserve players in case of injury etc. The match duration is usually one hour. It is divided into two halves, with a 10 minutes interval. During intervals the locals enthrall the audiences with traditional and cultural performances. The game decided in favour of the team scoring nine goals. The final is held on 9 July.

History of Shandur Polo
Polo is an equestrian sport with its origin embedded in Central Asia dating back to 6th century BC. At first it was a training game for cavalry units for the King's Guards or other Elite troops. To the warlike tribesmen who played polo with as many as 100 players to a side, it was a miniature battle. It became a Persian national game in the 6th century AD. From Persia, the game spread to Arabia, then to Tibet, China and Japan. In China, in the year 910, death of a favourite relative in a game prompted Emperor Apaochi to order beheading of all players.
Historically, polo being the king of games was played between small kingdoms, villages and rival groups of Gilgit and Chitral. From 1936 onwards polo tournaments were held annually at Shandur. The three day Shandur Polo Festival has developed steadily in recent years into the massive celebration of mountain polo that it is today. It is organised by the Gilgit-Baltistan Tourism Department and attended every year by thousands of foreign and domestic tourists besides prominent celebrities, public figures and opinion makers.
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