Polo: King of games and game of kings

 
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Gilgit, 3rd July, (TNS): Polo, known as the king of games and game of kings was introduced by the spirited people of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). Later, the British discovered and promoted it. In ancient times, Chitral and Gupis were two states ruled by kings. Both the kings enjoyed cordial relations but there were intermittent disputes too. Shandur was the common meeting area, where they held dialogue over the disputes.  Courtesy The Nation.

Along with conversation on the issues that arise between the two states, it was part of the tradition to organise polo matches between the states too. Today this game is played between traditional rival polo teams of GB and Chitral in the month of July every year. The festival continues for three days. The tournament is played between the local teams in the world’s highest field Shandur – located at an altitude of 12,200 feet. The lush green polo ground surrounded by blue lakes gives the impression of a paradise. At the Shandur polo ground natural plateaus serve as chairs, where the spectators enjoy the game. This stunning feature of the polo ground is the reason, which grabs the attention of a tourist.

The Gilgit-Baltistan Union of Journalist President, Raja Adil Ghayas, while talking about the historical background of polo, said that the UK Administrator for Northern Areas Evelyn Hey Cobb played immense role in the promotion of polo. He added that Cobb was impressed by the game and he had played polo at night in moonlight. Later the polo ground became famous as “Mass Jinali” words in Khowar language which means “Moon Ground”, he added. Raja further said that in 1948, Gen Ziaul Haq for the first time declared Shandur Polo Festival as a national event and till this day, the game is played continuously from seven to nine July every year.

He maintained that on the first day of the event two polo matches would be played, — one between team Ghizer and team Laspur, while the other match would be played between team Gilgit-D and team Chitral-D. Ghayas said that on the second day, in the morning, a match would be played between team Gilgit-C and team Chitral-C, while team GB-Officers would face team Chitral-Officers later. Team Gilgit-B would play team Chitral-B the same day.

GB wants Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to be the chief guest, while the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa wants PTI Chairman Imran Khan to be the chief guest. The clash is due to the fact that in GB, Pakistan Muslim League-N was in power and in KP PTI was in power, he added. Ghayas also said that soon after Eid holidays a meeting would be conducted where the chief guest would be decided. Ghayas said that the high altitude was quite dangerous for the heart and asthma patients.

He said they should take all necessary precautionary measures. Similarly, Ghayas added that the high altitude was also hazardous for the horses, which were used for polo game. He mentioned that those horses were brought to Shandur a month before the festival to familiarise them with the climate so that there should be no mishap during the match. Ghayas, while sharing details of security setups taken for the event, said that just like other international events in the country, Shandur Polo Festival would be given full security with the help of GB Scouts, Chitral Scouts, and police. He further added that Shandur Polo Festival was the only mega event in which not a single mishap had been reported till date. While talking about the importance of Shandur Polo Festival, the president of journalist union said that this event could increase the soft image of Pakistan worldwide, the natural beauty of area had a lot of power to attract tourists from across the world.

He said that both of the provincial governments GB and KP, as well as the federal government, should take keen interest in tourism promotion and should provide more funds for the expansion of the festival. Ghayas mentioned that the routes to Shandur valley were in poor condition. Natural disasters such as flood, land sliding and heavy rain had damaged the roads consequently this has led tourists to suffer a lot. The roads from Chitral as well as Gilgit needed full attention of the government.

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