SHANDUR (CHITRAL) (APP): The annual Shandur polo festival attracted a large number of tourists and local residents on the second day on Saturday amid great fun and excitement.
Known as the game of kings, the free-style polo is a unique sport of Chitral and Gilgfit-Baltistan whose teams gather at the world’s highest polo ground in the second week of July every year. Located in the lap of the Hindukash mountains in the Upper Chitral district, Shandur polo ground attracts domestic and foreign tourists, adventure sports lovers and the local population.
The spectators are overwhelmed by the cultural folk music, Shandur lake, paragliding, rocks climbing, mountaineering and delectable foods.
“I have heard a lot about Shandur polo festival and today my dream to watch my favourite free-style polo matches in the world’s highest polo ground came true,” said Ali Khan, a resident of Peshawar.
“The horse riding skills and sportsmen spirit demonstrated by the players impressed me the most,” he said.
Shandur polio has been played between Chitral and Gilgit Baltistan teams since 1930. In 1935, UK administrator for northern areas, Evelyn Cobb ordered the construction of a polo ground at Shandur and later on it was formally organized under the government’s patronage since 1982.
The polo event was won 13 times by Gilgit-Baltistan and 16 times by Chitral. Shahzada Sikandarul Mulk (Captain of Chitral team) has a unique distinction for winning it 13 times for his team followed by Raji Rehmat of Gilgit by seven times for his team as captain.
Before Shandur polo, preliminary matches were played at GB and Chitral in which the best players and horses were selected for the mega event. Each team consists of six players with two to four reserve players.
Besides freestyle polo, tourists enjoyed paragliding, rocks mountaineering, music, cultural dances and local sports.
KP Culture and Tourism Authority (KPCTA) in collaboration with Pakistan Army, District Administrations of Chitral Upper and Lower, police and other relevant departments organized the event.
Meanwhile, the paragliders exhibited a spectacular show of para trooping and performed various daring tricks in the sky, making the event memorable.
Children from Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral performed on national songs, whereas traditional dances were exhibited by the boys of Kalash valley.
Traditional music of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral besides the popular Shandur song of Zek Afridi enthralled spectators on drums beats.
Impressed by paragliding, another tourist of Nowshera district, Khayam Omar said that he took keen interest in adventure sports including mountaineering, hiking, rocks climbing and traditional food besides polo matches here.
Enjoying the pleasant but relatively cool nights at Shandur, he said cultural and musical shows with traditional ‘tabla and rabab took tourists over the moon. He suggested using of digital technology to showcase Shandur polo abroad to earn valuable foreign exchange for the country.
Saad Khan, spokesman for Cultural and Tourism Authority KP, said stalls were established to promote the artwork of Chitral and Gilgit Baltistan’s artists.
Director General KP Culture and Tourism Authority Bakhtiar Khan said tourism police were deployed to assist and guidance of tourists at Malakand and Hazara divisions including Shandur. He said elaborate arrangements regarding food, accommodation and security were made for facilitation of tourists at Shandur.