Shandur Polo Festival-
Skardu News

Anwar’s Analysis on the Chitral Team’s Consistent Success and the Crucial Role of the Horse

Every year, the Shandur Polo Festival is a special occasion held in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan area in the Shandur Pass.The ceremony honors the age-old game of polo, which has been played in the area for generations.


Polo is a horse sport that dates back to the sixth century BC and has its roots in Central Asia. At first, it served as a training tool for elite troopers such as the King’s guards and cavalry units. It arrived in South Asia during the Thirteenth Century. In actuality, the word “polo” in English is a Balti word that means “ball.” Back then, there was no cap on the number of players or the amount of time; the winning side was the one that scored nine goals first. These days, there are six players on each team, and the entire match lasts an hour plus 10 minutes for breaks.

One of the oldest and wildest polo festivals in the world is the Shandur Polo Festival. Since 1936, this momentous occasion has been held at the Shandur Polo Ground. The Shandur Polo Ground is located in Shandur Pass, which separates Pakistan’s Gilgit Baltistan area from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Every year during the first week of July, the Gilgit and Chitral tribes get together for a three-day festival in honor of the polo event.

Polo Culture in Chitral

In Chitral, Gilgit, and Baltistan, every large village has a polo field. Usually, this area is where the outside road enters the settlement. Horses were maintained here in the past for polo as well as riding. Two horse breeds were popular in Chitral and Gilgit: the indigenous kind and the Badakhshani breed, with the Badakhshan horses being larger and more powerful than the local breed. Fine breed horses are now imported from many areas, with Punjabi bread horses being the most well-liked. In local polo, thoroughbred and half-bred horses are also utilized. It is no longer used for riding and the horses are maintained here primarily for polo.

Shandur Polo Festival

In the Shandur Polo Festival-2023 final, which took place on Sunday at the highest polo ground in the world, Upper Chitral, Chitral won comfortably 7–5, thanks to two goals from the team’s promising young player Ilyas and a goal from star player Meraj.

The closest thing to the traditional game of polo has always been played by a number of teams from Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan. The game was sponsored by the British in nearby India in the early 20th century.Mountain polo played freestyle is maybe the purest version of the game. Travelers seeking excitement, both local and foreign, are drawn to this fabled version of the game played at Shandur-Top. Both holds forbidden and umpires are absent.

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