20 جون، 2014

Shandur Festival 2014: Polo chukkars on the ‘roof of the world’

 

 دنیا کےبلند ترین پولو گرائونڈ پر پولو ٹورنامنٹ شروع ہوگیا
 
 
PESHAWAR: Postponed in 2013 over rundown roads, boycotted by some in 2010, the Shandur Polo Festival 2014 is all set to kick-off on Friday (today).

It is said the matches played on the “roof of the world” are unlike polo games played in any other country, even the rest of Pakistan. Freestyle mountain polo is also known as the “game of kings” and is played by Chitral, Gilgit and Hunza.

Polo, or Istoorghar as the game is known in Khowar, is played on one of the world’s highest polo grounds. Situated in a magnificent landscape of rolling pastures, azure lakes and the Hindu-Raj range, the setting is idyllic of a clash of the titans – the teams of Chitral and Gilgit.

This year, the Tourism Corporation Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (TCKP) has organised the highly-awaited tournament, however, it will miss an essential ingredient: polo teams from Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B). Recently, G-B pulled out of the festival, accusing the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government of monopolising the event and “encroaching on Shandur” – an area which G-B and K-P consider part of their respective territories. G-B had boycotted the event in 2010 over similar reasons.

“It’s the game that suffers because of the politics and harsh weather conditions,” Nasrullah, a resident of Chitral, told The Express Tribune. “This festival is like a landmark for the area – the world recognises us through it.”

Shandur is about 3,738 metres above sea-level and lies midway between Chitral and Gilgit. It is 147 kilometres (km) from Chitral and 211km from Gilgit.

For centuries, this game has been evocative of all that is royal and wild, accessible only by expertly driven jeeps.

“The game is played with very few mutually-agreed rules. Only in Chitral can you find it in its original form,” said Jamral Ali, a local who has been playing freestyle mountain polo for decades. The game gives the area a great reputation, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2014.

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