Thursday, 28 January 2016

Polo in Gilgit Baltistan

A Polo Match in Gilgit Baltistan

Polo The Game of Royalty.

Polo is the most favorite game in Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. Gilgit, Skardu, Hunza, Shigar, Laspor, Mastoj, Chitral and all other valleys around must have at least one polo ground, where local people can be seen playing polo.

Polo is a team sport played on horseback. The objective is to score goals against an opposing team. Players score by driving a small white plastic or wooden ball into the opposing team's goal using a long-handled mallet. The traditional sport of polo is played on a grass field up to 300 by 160 yards (270 by 150 m).

The Pakistan Polo Association (PPA) is the governing body of polo in Pakistan. Their mission is to promote polo in Pakistan and keep a close liaison with World Polo bodies
Historically, polo being the king of games was played between small kingdoms, villages and rival groups of Gilgit and Chitral. From 1936 onwards polo tournaments were held annually on Sandur ground.
Polo is not just a game; rather it is a passion and craze of the mountain dwellers. Before qualifying to play a match in Shandur, players are selected in local venues of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan. The selection process is made through scores of assessments, where quality of horse plays a pivotal role. It is considered a matter of honor and prestige for any player to get selected to play in Shandur. Therefore, they try their best to impress the selectors making local events more and more interesting. After the selection process is completed, players reach Shandur a couple of days before the event to acclimatize their selves and their horses. Practice sessions are held between the players to get use to the altitude environment. The archrival teams of Gilgit and Chitral have been playing in Shandur since 1936
Love for polo runs in the veins of people of Gilgit Baltistan of Pakistan. This can be noted through the influx of spectators in any polo match, no matter whenever and wherever it is played. People travel far and wide in order to see glimpses of polo match along the drum beats of local music. The style and rules of this crude form of polo is so captivating that it doesn’t look like a game; rather it is a tug of war between the two groups of people wearing different colors of shirts. Horse to horse collisions, locked sticks and dangerously falling players add to the thrill of adventurists. There are apparently no rules and offences and foul play is abstained on ethical basis. This old form of playing Polo is preserved so beautifully through centuries by the people of this region.
History of Polo in Gilgit Baltistan.
In the annals of history, polo (Chugan as it is known in Persian) emerged from Persia in 600BC in the Aryan tribes of Central Asia. Northern area of Pakistan, Gilgit Baltistan was the first place where the game arrived and took the present shape. As the geography of the game stretched, Abbasid Caliph Haroon-ur-Rashid was the first Muslim emperor to play Polo in the 9th Century. A 10th century poet Firdosi has mentioned polo in his famous epic Shahnama. The imperial gazetteer of india published in 1881 by Sir William Wilson Hunter records the death of Sultan Qutubuddin Aibak in 1206 after falling from his horse. Later on Mughal empires made it a royal pastime and Baber himself was a very good Polo Player. Presently, it is played in every nook of the world with international standards but the one played in northern Pakistan is the most primitive form.

It is one of the most expensive games in the world. To pet a horse needs a lot of resources. Since very long, people of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan have been interested in horses and most households in a village used to keep them.

It is one of the most expensive games in the world. To pet a horse needs a lot of resources. Since very long, people of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan have been interested in horses and most households in a village used to keep them.
But recently a decline is noticed in this long and historical tradition because other games also came in the area plus so many other causes which are indigenous. People have meager land ownerships in the narrow valley which has further diminished due to furtherance of generations and consequent division of lands amongst them. The result is that only few households in a village can afford to fulfill the fodder requirements. Another reason for the decline is that keeping horse is a full time job. It needs you to be around all the time. As people are not well-off and everyone has to work for a living and because the game doesn’t earn anything and takes a lot, therefore people have started sidelining from this old cultural entity. Third reason is that the prices of horses in the market are sky-rocketing. Once a horse dies due to any reason, people can’t afford to buy a new horse. Due to these reasons it is shifting from being a common game of the people of the area to the proverbial game of the kings. If these conditions remained standstill, it is not beyond imagination that it will become game of the elites only.