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Shandur Polo

The world famous Shandur pass is a bout 3738 meter an above sea level and lies midway between Chitral and Gilgit. The distance from Chitral is 147 Km and Gilgit is about 211Km. These areas remains snow covered in winter and turn into the green heaven during summer season. There is a big lake in the area. The traditional polo tournament played between Chitral and Gilgit teams in the month of hot July. Foreign tourist and native came to see the festival. The first recorded polo tournament played at this ground was in 1936, since then every year in July a grand polo tournament takes place at Shandur pass Shandur is the highest polo ground in the world, there is game of polo is played between Chitral and Gilgit in every year of July. The game originated in the dim and distant past in the high mountains of the Hindukush and Karakurum ranges. Amongst the horse loving peoples of Chitral, Gilgit and Hunza. Here it is still played in its original form, a game as tough rough and hard, on man and horse as the surrounding mountains themselves. A game without rules or empire, a game with only a few agreed convention of play. Polo in Khowar called "Istoorghar" has been the traditional game of Chitral, as our motto is "we play polo the game of king and king of the games". The game is commonly played to the music band comprising a big drum.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

    The Shandur Polo ground is in the district Chitral, and is situated at 72' 35 east longitude and 36' 06' north latitude. It is bordered on the west by Yarkoon valley of Chitral and on the northerners by the valley of Gilgit district. It is dividing point between the caracara and the handout mountains ranges. The polo ground is a bout 168 Km from the main town Chitral and accessible by jeep. The road is closed during winter due to heavy snow.

    There is a spring and lake in the area; the water quality is suitable for drinking and bathing. The water is provided to the visitors through of piped water supply system by the public health engineering department Chitral however; the visitors also use the spring and lake water.

    LAND & WILD LIFE
    Shandur is a plateau and the soil varies from elay loam to sandy loam. It is porous and fragile, as washed off by rain. The steep slopes are highly susceptible to the action. Some of the localities, were grazing pressure is high its characteristics due to excessive trampling. According to the local wild life officials, the wild life of the area consists of the following species:

    1. Himalayan ibex
    2. Snow leopard
    3. Wolf
    4. Chukar The lake water is famous for its waterfowl species.

    AQUATIC SPECIES, INSECT AND REPTILIAN FAUNA
    No fish species are found in Shandur Lake, however Langar valley, on one Km from shandur has trout and some fish species are found in the surrounding streams. Shandur Lake is full of frog and other insect species. Shandur has very insect fauna; however some species of butterfly are recorded from Shandur. According to native of the area common reptiles are snake, some species of lizard are found in Shandur pass.

    LEGAL STATUS OF SHANDUR:
    According to the record of District Administration Chitral the shandur area belongs to the people, as communal land. The surrounding communities of Chitral and Gilgit use the area to graze their livestock's and domestic animals. The demands from Chitral spend their summers here. The are4a is used as upper pasture and grassed continuously livestock and other animals, such as horse, donkey, sheep's, goats etc.

    SHANDUR AND ENVIRONMENT
    The Shandur pass polo tournament site has become subject to increasing in July. In the absence of conservation and management plans, great pressure has exerted on its resources. NGOs and WWF/MACP Chitral and Gilgit has made little attempt to conservation of natural resource at shandur pass. Polo -Probably really originated in Persia around 500 BC, and in Chitral it is the most famous and traditional game being played by centuries. The game of Polo originated in the sport-loving East, centuries before the Christian era. Its earlier name was CHUGHAN (Persian for stick) and to this day the Great Square of Ispahan, with its pillars 9 ft. high and 24 ft. apart, is a standing proof of the love that ancient Persians had for this game. From Persia Polo spread westwards to Constantinople and Eastward as far as China. Even today Polo is favorite sport of the Autonomous Region of Inner Magnolia, where they play the game similar to the style seen in Chitral. In the middle of nineteen Century it was discovered to have survived in the two extreme corners of Indian peninsula-on the one side in the mighty mountains of the Hindukush, and on the other in the hills that divide the watersheds of Burma and Asam. In other words, reports came in that the sport was still being played in the little principalities of Chitral in the northwest and the tiny highland state of Manipur of India. Doubtless that the Chitral Polo must have come as a legacy from the Moghuls (The Chitral ruling dynasty id of the same origin). It is from this part of the world that the British picked up the game and called it Polo (from the Tibetan 'Pulu' which means willow root, of which the ball was made). A British officer lt.-Col. Evelyn Cobb for put an extraordinary effort and interest in organizing and playing polo by torchlight at night, People cannot forget the polo ground at Shandur Pass 12250 ft. the highest in the world all lighted for Cobb's game. Then some years after the partition, polo in Chitral saw a lean period, until 1957 when the then Political Agent and Wazir-e-Azam, Nawabzada Muhammad khan, put the Chitralis back into their saddle. He founded the Chitral Polo Association, later renamed the Chitral Polo Anjuman, and sanctioned a substantial annual grant from the former state revenues for the promotion of Polo. Horse maintenance Allowance was fixed for good polo Players and annual tournaments became a regular feature.

    THE POLO GROUND
    There is no laid down dimensions for a polo ground in Chitral. However, for a polo ground to be acceptable for staging a tournament it must have the following qualifications:

    1. Size: 200-250 yds long by 30-40 ft. wide.
    2. Reasonably grassy.
    3. It should be surrounded length wise by low perimeter wall, for the crowd. And from the ball rebounds in to play.

    MUSIC
    Polo without its Chitrali music is, to borrow the Japanese phrase,"Like an egg without salt" to the crowd and spectators. The music is provided by traditional musicians. Their instruments consist of a big drum, one or two kettle drums and a long pipe called surnai. When a goal is scored a special tune which would be played only to that individual whenever he carried the "Tambuq" towards his opponents goal.

    THE THABUQ or THAMPU
    When a team scores a goal, instead of the ball being thrown in the middle of the ground by an empire, a player from the team who made the last goal starts off at full gallop from one corner of the ground, with the spectators in full roar from the boundary walls along with a special tune to passion the player, In his right hand he holds both his stick and the polo ball, Delicately gripped by only his thumb and fore finger, while his favorite tune is being played at full blast by the musicians. As he comes to the center of the field he throws the ball in to the air and strikes it a mighty blow with his polo stick before the ball falls to the ground. This is the skill of best player.

    STYLE OF PLAY
    Polo in Chitral is played with five players each side. Riders do not generally wear helmets. Every polo player is out there to demonstrate his tartar blood. There are no rules so there are no umpires. The only common practice to international polo is the loud abuses that partners yell at one another. The polo stick is used as a scimitar, not a piece of sports equipment; you can whip or hook your opponent horse if it responds poorly to your whip. A bandaged head, a bruised elbow or an injured horse are sign of a good match. Lord Curzon, a famous viceroy of India, watching a polo match in Chitral in 1894 wrote". The most glorious scuffles with indiscriminate banging and whacking took place, in which players and the ponies were equally belabored, but which neither appeared in the last to mind. The men rode with the utmost impetuosity and without a symptom of fear, and performed feats of horsemanship which, considering their primitive mounts, were truly, astounding. They would charge at full speed right against the rough stone wall, being often as nearly as possible precipitated from their steeds with the violence of the impact, I do not pretend to compare this rather primitive type of the game with the highly finished variety that may be seen at Hurling ham or Meandowbank - any more than one would compare village cricket with a test match at Lord's, or rounders with baseball. But the higher type would never have been produced or evolved had it not been for these hard mountaineers, preserving the tradition and maintaining the glorious spirit of the game throughout the centuries "