Since school I had been pretty much interested in polo festival and the game of kings. Part of the credit goes to my friends from Chitral who were here to study and wouldn’t stop talking about how amazing the Shandur polo festival is. So last year I finally planned to go and check that out myself if it was really the case. Shandur Polo Festival is held every year in July since 1936. We decided to go by air 2 days before the beginning of the actual tournament. We went on 5th of July and it was my first trip to Chitral other than the tournament too so I was very excited.
Chitral is in the northwest of Pakistan while Shandur is a plateau about 3700m above sea level between Gilgit and Chitral making it the world’s highest Polo ground where the actual Polo Festival takes place between the teams of Chitral and Gilgit. Polo is called the game of kings and it was originated as a sport for the king’s guards as their training and back then there was no limit number of players. Now, there are 6 players on each side and a 1 hour time of the game with ten minutes break.
As we reached, we set up our camp and the place was like paradise between the Hindukush mountain range. The lush green gardens and the crystal clear water in the lake was an eye candy. There were tourists from a lot of countries who had come to experience the famous Chander festival like me along with locals and workers.
Experiencing the first match of the tournament was breathtaking. the tournament was started with some folk music and folk dances that portrayed the culture of that district. It was a whole different kind of ambiance in that area. The energy of the people and their passion for their culture and everything about it like music and dances was phenomenal. The Game had a real feel of class in it, the horses, the strength and energy and the style of playing it was all incredible. I was absolutely impressed by all the players and loved the shiny tall horses. We had a bonfire at night with Hindukush mountain range in the background, playing music, dances, laughs and memories. So every day, there was a match and activities lined up for the tourists ( i just loved trout fishing day).
The day of the final match was the best day. The supporters of Chitral and Gilgit teams were all in the form. Everyone there is so passionate about Polo that you just simply sink into that charisma and the next thing you know is that you are shouting for your team even louder than any of them. Polo match really sends shivers down your spine, as the horses pass by your side of the audience you cannot help getting goosebumps. That one hour of the final match was more thrilling than anything I had ever experienced. Well, unfortunately the team I supported didn’t win but the closing ceremony was remarkable, even the losing team supporters also couldn’t help dancing to the tunes of their folk music.
I must say that those were some of the best days of my life and I cannot wait to go again. Ever since I came back with that experience, I’ve myself indulged into the passion for polo so much that I cannot stop talking about it.
Ali Jan Qadir passionately writes about his travels, architecture and interior design. His writing aims to help his readers make more informed decisions. He is also a contributor for the best mattress blog, where he gives views and reviews such as which is the best memory foam. Follow him on Google+