Friday, June 24, 2011

British Royal Couple invited to Shandur Polo Festival

Prince William and Princess Catherine
The government of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa has invited the newly-wed British Royal couple to the famous Shandur Polo festival.

The chief minister of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province, Haider Hoti has officially confirmed the invitation to Prince William and Princess Kate to watch final of Shandur Polo tournament in Chitral on July 9th.

Shandur Polo Tournament is an annual festival held every July at the Shandur Pass in the northern areas of Pakistan where rival teams from Chitral and Gilgit play.

The tournament is held on Shandur Pass, the highest polo ground in the world at just under 4000 meters where the Hindukush, Pamir and Karakoram ranges meet.

The Shandur pass is about 3738 meter above sea level lies midway between Chitral and Gilgit.

The colorful festival also includes folk music and dancing and used to attract large number of foreigners in the past when militancy comparatively low in Pakistan.

History of Shandur festival

The polo tournament, played on Shandur Top, known as “playing on rooftop of the world”, had been a regular feature since centuries in the area.

The area has hosted this game since the past 800 years and history has it that in 1920s, King of the area has started the famous tournament for promotion of integration between different areas under his realm. He ordered the ruler of Moskuj (the Hindukush highland between Chitral and Gilgit), hold the polo tournament between the best players for the purpose.

In the past the local Mehtars , Mirs and Rajas (administrators, or rulers of states) were patrons of polo.

British link to Shandur Polo tournament:

The connection between this famous tournament dates back to 1930s when in 1936 the first polo tournament was organized by a British Political Agent, Major Cobb. He was said to be fond of playing polo under a full moon and thus had named the polo ground as "Moony Polo Ground".

In 1991 Princes Diana visited Chitral on a rainy day to much surprise of the people of the area. Later in 1997 the Duke of Edinburgh graced the tournament and gave away Duke of Edinburgh cup.

If Prince William and Princess Kate accepted the invitation it will be yet another occasion for northern Pakistan to host the Royal family besides it will also help in revising tourism in Pakistan

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