Pakistan is a beautiful country with extraordinary places. One of such amazing places of Pakistan is Shandur Pass. Shandur Pass is famous around the world because the world’s highest ground of polo is there constructed at height of around 3738 meters from the level of sea. It is in the center of Gilgit and Chitral, the distance is 147 KM Chitral and 211 KM Gilgit. The top of Shandur Pass is flat, it is a plateau. It is situated in the Northern Areas of Pakistan and one of the most visited places of Pakistan by tourists all around the world including people from different cities of Pakistan.
|Location:||Tehsil mustuj, sub division laspur, Chitral District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pakistan|
|Primary inflows:||Ghizer River/ River Indus|
|Basin countries :||Pakistan|
|In Urdu:||شندور پاس|
|Nickname:||Shandur top .Roof of the World|
|Type:||Subglacial lake, reservoir|
|Local Language Name:||N/A|
|Coordinates :||35°59’44’N 72°36’42’E|
|Max. length:||2 km (6,600 ft)|
|Max. width:||0.754 km (2,470 ft)|
|Surface area:||98 acres (40 ha)|
|Max. depth:||80 ft (24 m)|
|Frozen:||November to April|
|Above from seal level:||3598 metres|
|Boundary line:||between Ghizer District and Chitral District|
|Name of Polo Ground:||Mas Junali|
|polo Ground was Named:||Mas Junali|
|Rules:||There are No Rules|
|Festival Includes:||Folk Music, Dancing and a Camping Village is Set Up|
|Various Teams:||Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan|
|Shandur is Credited:||The Balti Raja of Skardu Ali Sher Khan Anchan|
|Often Called:||‘Roof of the World’|
|Traversed By :||Chitral–Shandur Road|
|Elevation :||3,700 m (12,139 ft)|
As Shandur Pass is famous for its polo ground so it shows that how much importance the sport polo has at Shandur Pass. Polo is considered as the game played by the kings. Polo is a traditional game at Shandur Pass and it is played every year in the month of July from 5th July to 8th July. It is being played at Shandur Pass from many years and it played among the teams of Chitral and the teams of Northern Areas. The polo played at Shandur Pass is not the same one that is played at international level because it does not follow the same rules that are followed while playing polo on international basis. At Shandur Pass the polo is played without empires and rules and the game is based on certain agreed convention and throughout the game the music band is played that has beats of drums and the whole game is played at those beats.
Festival of Polo
Whenever Shandur Pass is mentioned then only one thing that comes in mind and that is the festival of Polo because Shandur Pass and polo have a very old history together and people living there are extremely passionate about the sport polo. Many tourists visit Shandur pass every year just to watch the famous polo tournament that take place in polo festival. Even those people who don’t enjoy polo much visit Shandur pass and start enjoying it, not only the game but also the environment that is created there during the tournament.
The Shandur Pass the Highest Polo Ground on Earth
The Shandur pass is about 3738 meter above the sea level and lies midway between Chitral and Gilgit. These areas of Pakistan remains snow covered in winter and turn into the green heaven during summer season. The traditional polo tournament played between Chitral and Gilgit teams in the month of hot July every year. The freestyle mountain polo is arguably polo in its purest form. This version of the game played at Shandur has attained legendary status. There are no umpires and there are no holds barred. Polo teams and thousands of spectators from Chitral and Baltistan compete in the highest polo ground in the world in the Shandur Pass, Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan in the Shandur Polo Festival.
2011 Shandur Festival
You can find a great deal of information on the net that will assist you with your travel plans. If you don’t plan on visiting shandur or Northern areas you can still enjoy the pictures and media associate with the local culture. 2011 Shandur Festival was a success. Gilgit polo teams participated in the event and won most of the games including the final. The annual event will be repeated at the same time next year, July 7-9th, 2012.
Shandur Pass is a High Mountain
Shandur Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 12,200 feet (3.700 m) above the sea level, located in Chitral, Pakistan. The road to the pass is extreme. Expect a rough gravel road and driving only in 1st and 2nd gear. Very steep climbs/descents with narrow hairpins in one of the most beautiful, but isolated and rugged landscapes on Earth.
The road to the top, called Gilgit-Shandur road, is gravel and very narrow. The road is winding, in some places only wide enough for one vehicle, and in many places bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters (many hundreds of feet) unprotected by guardrails. Shandur is often called the ‘Roof of the World’. The top is flat, a plateau and can be crossed between late April and early November.
The road to the top is a rocky and at times dangerous jeep track that leads high into the mountains. The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. Any barriers along the edge afford little more than token protection. The greatest and most infamous Polo tournament takes places annually on this pass, the highest polo ground in the world.
Snowfalls and Landslides
Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime and can sometimes block some sections of the road, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. From the AK-47 Arms Dealers, to the bakers and cobblers, these valleys were home to some of the worlds most resilient but generous people, who offered the traveler nothing but great hospitality.
Due its unique location and the climb in elevation over thousands of feet, and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. Traffic on the Gilgit to Shandur road is infrequent at the best of times, and the route is only driven by a series of 4WD jeeps, that ferry supplies to some of the more remote villages.
Chitral Valley is famed due to its Shandur Festival. This festival is held every year; it is famous and unique because in this festival polo is played at the polo ground that is highest in the world (3,719m). Due to this reason a large number of local and foreign tourist visit chitral valley to enjoy this festival. Shandur top is equally distant from chitral as well as from gilgit. So if you are going to visit chitral valley then you can visit Gilgit valley as well.
Garam Chashma is located at a distance of 45 Km in the North West of Chitral valley at an altitude of 1,859 metres. Here hot sulphur springs are present which this fame that they have healing effect for skin diseases, chronic headaches and gout. Recently, for the convenience of visitors Hamams have been developed here near the springs.
Another beautiful place liked by the tourists is Chitral Gol National Park located in the North West of the Chitral valley. It covers an area of 7,750 hectares and was established in 1984.in this park you can found Himalayan monal, Demosille Crane, Peregrine Falcon, Golden Eagle, Snow Partridge, Snow Cock etc. many other rare animals like Snow leopard, Siberian ibex, Red Fox, Tibetan Wolf, Black Bear, Himalayan Otter also present here.
Shandur Lake, Chiyan Lake, Karbaza Lake and chatti Bai Lake are also beautiful point to be visited by tourists visiting Chitral valley.
Chitral fort is an mportant historical point and is very famous among tourists due to its unique architecture. This fort has built for administration as well as for defence purpose. It is situated along the bank of river Chitral. Prince of Katoor dynasty famously known as Mehtars have built this fort.
Polo at Shandur Pass – Half-Way to Heaven
During the 1920s, the ruler of Moskuj, the Hindukush highland between Chitral and Gilgit, was told by his Mir, or king, to promote integration within his realm through a polo tournament between the best players.
Heaven and the Descent
The British Resident at the time, Col Evelyn Hey Cobb, a keen polo player himself, came up with the idea of holding the tournament in the Shandur Pass, approximately 11,000ft above sea level in what is now northern Pakistan. The site is described dramatically as being on the ridge between Heaven and the descent to Hell.
Col Cobb felt that, because the moon seemed so close to earth, his dream of playing polo in the light of a full moon could be realised. It was agreed that the games should be held between the best teams from Chitral and Gilgit, and played following the centuries-old rules of Ali Sher Khan, a descendant of Genghis Khan. This meant that a game would last for an hour, with a short break between two 30-minute chukkars. Each player would be allowed only one horse for the duration of the match, and stoppages would be allowed only for serious injuries to a horse or player. Should, for some reason, a horse or player cease to play, his opposite number in the other team would have to leave the field. If the ball went out of play, it must be thrown back immediately by one of the spectators. Lastly, each team should consist of six players with, as already noted, one horse per man.
The consequences of these loose conditions were predictable – seriously injured horses and players, even deaths, were the order of the day in the annual tournament held every June.
The polo ground in the Shandur Pass is smaller in width and breadth than the conventional field, being 60yd wide and 220yd long. Also alien to a modern western player would be the 2ft high stone wall which surrounds the ground. In ice hockey, such a wall could prove advantageous – in polo, it could lead to serious injuries in the event of a fall.
The rules recall ancient legends – for instance, how, after a successful goal the scorer can dictate the continuity of a game. He picks up the ball and carries it back at full gallop in his lap to the centre line, from where he will throw it into the air and try to hit it and score a goal at the opposite end of the field. As in contemporary polo, ends change side after a goal is scored.
There is an interesting legend attached to polo in northern Pakistan, dating perhaps from the days before history was recorded. It appears that a king begged the gods to give him back his missing wife.The gods, in return, made it a condition that the king must sacrifice his two sons. They gave him a fast horse – it ‘brought mountains together and split the valleys’ in the tale – and sent him to a lost valley in Baltistan, some two hundred miles from Shandur. There, so the story continues, he arrived with the heads of his sons, and had the task of hitting them both, at fast gallop, with his polo stick into an opening in the mountains. If he succeeded, he would regain his missing queen. Most extraordinary is that, to this day, beyond a very small opening in a mountain in Baltistan, near Kaphulu, is a real polo field which is identical to that in the legend.
Of course, in view of these ancient tales, it is not surprising that polo, whose roots go back to 600BC, and was brought to India and the Himalayas from Persia, is said once to have been played with the heads of sheep, goats and other animals. In Genghis Khan’s day even the severed heads of conquered enemies are said to have been used.
The Shandur Pass is regarded as being ‘half-way to Heaven’, although long gone are the days in which this could refer to Heaven, as in the sense of gods caring for polo, or Hell as in the conquered soldiers who had to march through it.
Chitral to Gilgit
There is, however, an alternative meaning to visitors and players in modern times. The approach by jeep – if one owns such a vehicle – from Chitral in the west takes a good nine hours. From Gilgit, east of the Pass, the journey may take probably thirteen hours. With few exceptions, the journey leads through the paradise-like green and cultivated highlands. But one is constantly aware, on the dusty and rocky drive, that the wheels of the jeep can be two inches away from an abyss – from ‘hell’. This nerve-wracking journey along narrow, stony paths from which even the vertigo-free mountain goats retreat, will worsen when suddenly another jeep appears from the opposite direction. Both drivers risk dangerous manoeuvres in an attempt to pass each other.
Shandur Pass polo festivals
It says much for the attraction of the Shandur Pass polo festivals that the players of the six invited teams – three from either side of the Pass – must also endure this dangerous trek. Even more alien to the modern western player is the fact that the ponies of participating teams must face a five day march. In order to acclimatise the ponies – and only one per player is allowed, it should be remembered – small training games are held every night, when camps have been made on the trail.
Several Deaths or Serious Injuries
Unfortunately, not everyone arrives safely. Every year, including 2001, several deaths or serious injuries are recorded en route. Those who were fortunate enough to avoid the several hundred metre fall ‘into hell’ arrive dust-covered at the Pass and, light-headed in the thin air, feel themselves ‘half-way to Heaven’ indeed.
With every day bringing the historic tournament closer, more and more people arrive. Before long, the empty Hindukush landscape is transformed into a bustling, scent-filled marquee town. Until the final on the Sunday, when the two ‘A’ teams from Chitral and Gilgit meet, in excess of ten thousand spectators, who somehow appeared from nowhere, will be camping out in temperatures that reach -10C at night and +40C during the day.
There are also hundreds of police in combat gear and heavily-armed soldiers holding apart the supporters of each side. On one side of the field the fans of Gilgit settle down in their camp – on the other, the followers of Chitral. In between are the neutral street pedlars, chefs and conmen trying their luck at earning a few rupees.
The game of games is ready to begin. The fans have taken their seats around the polo field on rocks, hills and other natural grandstands. The players, strong and aggressive, exchange terse but friendly handshakes and wish each other good luck. The sticks, for once, must not be allowed to get between the legs of the ponies.
After dancers, drummers and the bagpipe band have given their best, and General Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan, has declared the game officially open, the final gets under way. There is a timekeeper – the only official, as umpires and referees are non-existent. The game is fast – tremendously fast. The Pakistani-bred Punjabi and Afghan Badakshani ponies, both the result of breeding from Himalayan mountain ponies and English thoroughbreds, are ridden in a wild style, with a lot of skill and at full speed through the move. A total of twelve players are not afraid to use their sticks to hit not only the ball but also, and vehemently, the arms and shoulders of their opponents.
Broken Arms and Ribs
Broken arms and ribs do not stop the players, after an interval for bandaging and splints, to continue the game. The final was won, just short of the one-hour time limit, with a goal from Gilgit. Of course, afterwards, all barriers came down, and the heavily-armed and sometimes baton-wielding police did not manage to prevent the masses from flooding onto the field. Nevertheless, they succeeded in getting President Musharraf to present the cup to Bulbul Shan, captain of Gilgit, in front of thousands of jubilant fans, who then joined in the victory dance and carried the players on their shoulders from the ground.
It should be remembered that the victors, after the celebrations, had again a life-threatening two-day journey home by jeep, and the ponies a four-day journey down from the Shandur Pass.
Shandur Lake is a lake and is located in North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan. The estimate terrain elevation above seal level is 3598 metres. Variant forms of spelling for Shandur Lake or in other languages: Shandur Lake, Shandur Dand, Shandur Dand, Shandur Lake.
Shandur Pass History
In 1935 UK Administrator for Gilgit-Baltistan E. H. Cobb ordered Niat Qabool Hayat Kakakhel nambardar of Ghizer to make a huge polo ground in Shandur. The polo ground was named “Mas Junali”, because in the Khowar language ‘mas’ is the word for ‘moon’ and ‘junali’ is the word for ‘pologround’, and Cobb was fond of playing polo in the moonlight.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 River Ghizer. Due to this little service, Directorate of Fisheries had been established and hundreds of people got employed. Now the weight of those fishes in Hundarap Lake cross 24 kg and in Baha Lake Khukush Nallah, their weight crossed 40 kg.So Mas Junali became a source of relation between the people of Chitral District and Ghizer District. The Shandur Polo Festival opens a door step to the people of the world to enjoy their selves. Many of the people from entire world come here to watch polo match played between Chitral and Ghizer.At first it was a training game for cavalry units for the King’s Guards or other Elite troops. To the warlike tribesmen who played polo with as many as 100 players to a side, it was a miniature battle. It became a Persian national game in the 6th century AD. From Persia, the game spread to Arabia, then to Tibet, China and Japan. In China, in the year 910, death of a favourite relative in a game prompted Emperor Apaochi to order beheading of all players. Ali Sher Khan Anchan Maqpoun used to play Polo at Shandoor when Chitral was part of Maqpoun empire. Historically, polo being the king of games was played between small kingdoms, villages and rival groups of Gilgit Agency. From 1936 onwards polo tournaments were held annually at Shandur at the patronage of the British. The three-day Shandur Polo Festival has developed steadily in recent years into the massive celebration of mountain polo that it is today.
- The Gilgit Game by John Keay (1985) ISBN 0-19-577466-3
- The Kafirs of the Hindukush (1896) Sir George Scott Robertson.
- To the Frontier (1984) Geoffrey Moorehouse, pp. 267–270. Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., Reat Britain. Reprint: Sceptre edition 1988. ISBN 0-340-41725-0
- Shandur, Durand’s Boundary Line Violation” (2014) by Rai Sarfaraz Shah, Ex-MNA LC Gilgit-Baltistan