Shandur Polo Festival (Urdu: شندور میلہ) is one of the big festivals in Pakistan. This festival is held from the 7th to the 9th of July every year on Shandur Pass. The polo match is played between the teams of Chitral District and districts of Gilgit-Baltistan, is a free style game.

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Historical background

The initiation of polo in Shandur is credited to The balti raja of Skardu; Ali Sher Khan Anchan who built the polo ground of Shandur as well, but the initiation of Polo in Shandur is credited to the British occupiers who made possible the building of the polo ground. It is said that in 1935, UK Administrator for Northern Areas Evelyn Hey Cobb asked Niat Qabool Hayat Kakakhel to make a well-constructed polo ground in Shandur. He constructed a polo ground with the help of the people. This polo ground was later on named as “Mas Junali”. The word “Mass Junali” is derived from Khowar language. The word “Mas” means moon and “Junali” means polo ground. Cobb was impressed by Kakakhail’s resourcefulness and efficiency and wished to reward him for his service, but Kakakhail refused to accept any reward for his work. Instead, for the common benefit, Kakakhail asked Cobb to bring trout to stock the local streams. Cobb ordered live trout from England and dropped them into the Ghizer River. Due to this service, the Directorate of Fisheries was established and hundreds of people were employed. Now the weight of those fishes in Hundarap Lake reach 24 kg and in Baha Lake Khukush Nallah, their weight reached 40 kg.

So Mas Junali became a source of relation between the people of Chitral District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and neighbouring Gilgit-Baltistan. Many people from around the world come to watch polo match played between Chitral District and Ghizer District.

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Polo at the Peak

Passion for polo will be the highest on the world’s highest Polo ground. Every year, Shandur invites visitors to experience a traditional polo tournament between the teams of Chitral and Gilgit from 7 to 9 July. The festival also includes folk music, folk dance, traditional sports and a camping village is set up on the pass.[11]

Polo is an equestrian sport with its origin embedded in Central Asia dating back to the 6th century BC.