Jan 23, 2006

Shandur Top ( Shandur Polo Festival)

Shandur Top is located in the district Ghizer of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan at a distance of 197 km from the Gilgit city (capital of Gilgit-Baltistan) and 147 km from the Chitral District of KPK. 
The Shandur Top at a height of 3,700 m (12,200 feet) is the highest polo ground in the world and known as "Roof of the World".
The polo ground was not designed by the people, the landscape was naturally built as polo ground, having a spectacular and picturesque landscape around. The lake near the polo ground and lush green small ridges at the top turns the Top into a part of heaven.


Every year a polo match ( Polo is known as the game of kings and king of games) is played between the native teams of Gilgit-Baltistan and guest team from the Chitral District of KPK. The polo match is scheduled from July 7 to July 9 each year. Along with cultural dances, tug of war and other cultural games are played. Hundreds of visitors visit Shandur from all over the Pakistan, and foreign visitors too. The surrounding area turns into a tent city at the time of the festival. From here one can enjoy the sight of beautiful and famous peak Rakaposhi in the Nagar Valley.


How to Reach:
The Shandur Pass lies almost midway between Chitral and Gilgit on a jeep road, traveling on which, is adventurous, to say the least. The distance from either side is 170 km. One can get to Chitral or Gilgit by Pakistan International's daily F27 Fokker planes from Peshawar and Islamabad. There are daily two flights from both destinations, subject to good weather. Visitors planning to go by air must expect an adjustment of minimum 02 days in their itineraries just in case the weather does not permit flights to operate.

Access to Chitral by road is either from Peshawar or from Islamabad. Both these routes join up in lower Swat valley near Chakdara, from where you proceed via Dir over 3200 meters high Lowari Pass and on to Chitral. It will take about 11 hours for a direct ride, otherwise, a stopover in Dir is recommended. From Dir, you shift to 4x4 jeeps for your onward journey to Chitral and on to Shandur. From the Chitral side, travelers can also enjoy overnight stay at Mastuj whereas from Gilgit side, Gupis is a suitable place.
Traveling by road from Islamabad, on the Karakoram Highway (the Silk Route), visitors can stop at halfway for an overnight stay along the mighty Indus, at Besham.

History of Shandur Top:
The first time a polo tournament took place at the Shandur Pass, was in 1936. A British Political Agent, Major Cobb, who was fond of playing polo under a full moon, had the polo ground near Shandur, named. 'Moony Polo Ground'.
The most exciting polo tournament of the entire Northern Pakistan is played on top of Shandur Pass, around 3,700 meters above sea level. It is a place unique and exotic in itself, surrounded by some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world. The event marks the annual rivalry between the polo teams of Gilgit and Chitral. The Polo tournament has some added attractions for the visitors; trout fishing at the nearby streams and lakes and a festival of folk dances and music of the Northern Pakistan.
The highlight of the festival is the final match between the Gilgit and Chitral teams. The final provides a most colorful spectacle. Supporters of both sides travel long distances from the remote parts of Chitral and Gilgit, to watch the thrilling game. The event, as such, offers a fascinating insight into the lifestyle of the people of this region. Their culture and indigenous customs are a delight to behold for the visitors.

Shandur Lake

History of Polo:
Polo is an equestrian sport with its origin embedded in Central Asia dating back to 6th century BC. At first, it was a training game for cavalry units for the King's Guards or other Elite troops. To the warlike tribesmen who played polo with as many as 100 players to a side, it was a miniature battle. It became a Persian national game in the 6th century AD. From Persia, the game spread to Arabia, then to Tibet, China, and Japan. In China, in the year 910, the death of a favorite relative in a game prompted Emperor Apaochi to order beheading of all players.
Historically, polo being the king of games was played between small kingdoms, villages and rival groups of Gilgit Agency. From 1936 onwards polo tournaments were held annually at Shandur(then part of the autonomous princely state of Kashmir)at the patronage of the British from neighboring India. The three-day Shandur Polo Festival has developed steadily in recent years into the massive celebration of mountain polo that it is today.

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