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Shandur Polo Festival

Listed under Festivals in India.

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So terribly British, polo, in reality the sport of kings, is usually played against the backdrop of flat green lawns and white stands where women in large hats sip daintily. But July’s Shandur Polo Festival couldn’t have a setting more opposite: a high pass in Pakistan’s northern mountain region, surrounded by sweeping grey rock peaks. The Shandur Pass is around 11,000ft above sea level and the ground is still flat and grassy but smaller than a regular ground and surrounded by a stone wall.

Naturally in such a setting they play house rules, decided on by one of Genghis Khan’s descendants, which mean it’s an hour game of six on six and each player is allowed only one horse per game. Only serious injuries halt play and if your opposite player is too injured or dead to play you have to bow out also.

This polo festival actually harks back to the origins of polo (it was definitely around in Persia in 600BC and was possibly played earlier.) when hitting the heads of sheep, goats or even vanquished enemies with sticks was considered sporting.

Part of the attraction of attending an event like this must be the remote spot and the difficulty in getting there, the grounds is a minimum of nine hours precarious driving along gaping ravine lips. A tent village gradually forms housing thousands of supporters and police, growing as the festival progresses towards the Sunday night 'A' game final. Afterwards it’s the precarious journey home for everyone and a four day trek for the ponies.

Written by  World Reviewer Staff.

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