Polo in Pakistan:
The sport of free style polo had its beginnings in Baltistan Northern Area of Pakistan. Baltistan's princely kingdoms adopted the sport and made it their own, with their natural proclivity for riding. Kingdoms kept special stables for polo ponies, and their teams included among the very best in the world. Very often, the players were the rulers and members of their families, though their armies also encouraged the sport. In fact, if the sport has a presence in the country today, it is because the former royal families have continued to provide encouragement for it.
Polo continues, as it has done for so long, to represent the pinnacle of sport, and reaffirms the special bond between horse and rider. The feelings of many of its players are epitomized by a famous verse inscribed on a stone tablet next to a polo ground in Gilgit, Pakistan: "Let others play at other things. The king of games is still the game of kings."
History of Polo:
Polo is possibly the oldest recorded team sport in known history, with the first matches being played in Persia over 2500 years ago. Initially thought to have been created by competing tribes of Central Asia, it was quickly taken up as a training method for the King’s elite cavalry. These matches could resemble a battle with up to 100 men to a side.
As mounted armies swept back and forth across this part of the world, conquering and re-conquering, polo was adopted as the most noble of pastimes by the Kings and Emperors, Shahs and Sultans, Khans and Caliphs of the ancient Persians, Arabs, Mughals, Mongols and Chinese. It was for this reason it became known across the lands as "the game of kings".
British officers themselves re-invented the game in 1862 after seeing a horsemanship exhibition in Manipur, India. The sport was introduced into England in 1869, and seven years later sportsman James Gordon Bennett imported it to the United States. After 1886, English and American teams occasionally met for the International Polo Challenge Cup. Polo was on several Olympic games schedules, but was last an Olympic sport in 1936.
Shandur Polo Festival:
At various tourist festivals in the North, polo has been introduced as a friendly, competitive sport. Perhaps the only place in the world where it is played, the game provides a great deal of amusement and mirth, but is not yet a serious pursuit.
In Pakistan Shandur invites visitors to experience a traditional polo tournament between the teams of Chitral and Gilgit. Along with Shandur, Chitral and Gilgit there are also formidable polo teams in Shigar Baltistan, Kharmang, Rondu, Khapulo, Skardu, Astor, and Nagar.
Held once a year during the months of July or August, it is one of the most outstanding festivals that are held on Pakistan's Northern areas - The Shandur Polo Festival. The polo ground placed in Shandur (Chitral) is the highest polo ground in the world at 3,700 meters and visitors spend a whole week watching exciting polo matches with traditional music.A whole new world is built at Shandur before the event. Visitors take the advantage of having a breath-taking view of Shandur with its beautiful lush green mountains and not to forget its pure water lake. The festival provides visitors with the thrilling excitement of polo in its true form. Its true form means no rules and regulations, plus the traditional music played throughout each match. Along with polo, you will find hundreds of local and foreign tourists. The archrival teams of Gilgit and Chitral fight for the trophy. As hundreds of spectators watch the two teams take on each other.
Gilgit, Chitral and Skardu have always played the game of polo closest to its original form. In the past, local Khans, Mirs and Mehtars were the patrons of the game. At times, more than 50% of the annual budget of their principalities would be spent on supporting the game.