Game of Kings
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The green patched rectangular plain, wrapped in the arms of the lofty snow covered peaks of Himalayan mountains surrounding its three edges and a lusciously azure lake to its one side, the ground stands at 12,500 feet above the sea-level is a host to thousands of spectators each year in the “game of Kings- Polo” played at the Shandur polo ground, also known as the “Roof Top of the world”.

A tourist heaven

The polo ground is situated near the Shandur pass in Chitral and is the buffer zone connecting the two regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan. The Polo ground at Shandur Top is also the highest polo ground in the world.

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the majority of the spectators are a scant number of foreign tourist from as far as Switzerland and domestic travelers from other cities, who travel each year to this tough terrain to reach Shandur Top in the month of July.

Thousands of spectator and tourists gather each year to witness this three-day long freestyle polo match. It’s not the local population that makes up the majority of the spectators but a scant number of foreign tourist from as far as Switzerland and domestic travelers from other cities, travel each year to this hard to access Shandur Top in the month of July, to relish this game which due to its novelty is also known as the  “Games of Kings and King of Games” in the world of sports and games.

The origins

The history of the game dates back centuries ago where local rulers of the Princely states in the then Western region which now makes up the province of Gilgit- Baltistan and upper KPK, played against each other.

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From 1936 onwards when the area was under the British Raj the colonial officer held the game between the teams of KPK and Chitral

Predominantly a Central Asian game, local Rajas, Mir, Mehtars and other rulers were the patronages of this game in the region. From 1936 onwards when the area was under the British Raj the colonial officer held the game between the teams of KPK and Chitral, since then the game was embraced as an eminent annual polo festival.

The festival rose to international prominence after 1982 when the road connecting Shandur to Chitral was constructed, and after the 1990s the game was included as the festival in the national calendar.

All about the game

only four players play from each side with no umpire and referee for the game. The non-existence of rules brings in the moods of aggressiveness as mandatory win the match.

Unlike the modern norms of the game, the polo played at the Shandur Top is a freestyle in nature, still conserving its originality that was played at the times of rulers. Instead of 6, only four players play from each side with no umpire and referee for the game. The non-existence of rules brings in the moods of aggressiveness as mandatory win the match.

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This aggressiveness of players is lauded and praised by the local spectators cheering their teams to the point where supporters are emotionally glued to the game. The game each day lasts for 1 hour with two intervals of 25 minutes each. The team scoring nine goals first lifts the trophy.

With an extraordinary amount of oxygen needed to keep the energy levels high, at a place where there is a lack of oxygen only healthy players can make their way to the festival.

The game is for the sturdy men and horses, which can well adjust themselves in this sport well known for releasing adrenaline at gushing speed. With an extraordinary amount of oxygen needed to keep the energy levels high, at a place where there is a lack of oxygen only healthy players can make their way to the festival.

The steed

a special breed of horses are used and most players rely up on Afghani Badakshani, having as tough the physique as the terrain or Punjabis, which is the warm-blooded reminiscent of the ancient Akhal Teke breed.

Where the robust physique dominates the selection, the player can be a farmer, schoolteacher, doctor, lawyer, student anybody. However, a special breed of horses are used and most players rely up on Afghani Badakshani, having as tough the physique as the terrain or Punjabis, which is the warm-blooded reminiscent of the ancient Akhal Teke breed. Apart from the polo festival local dances on drumbeats too enthrall the audiences.

The excitement takes off the locals and preparations are started a month ago. Players along with their horses reach the place a month ago to get them acclimatized with the weather. Where as hotel and hospitality industry to gear them up to host an influx of tourist hitting the area in the game season.

The game to date hasn’t lost its spirit but it is gaining an ever-increasing international fame year by year.

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