Ladakh is a prominent place of the beautiful place Jammu and Kashmir which has a colourful and remarkable culture. Annually, a festival is organised in Leh, the capital city. Hemis Gompa, the largest and richest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh plays host to the famous yearly festival Hemis Tsechu.
There is no better way to understand the culture of Ladakh than this multi-diverse festival that blows away the mind of all civilians. You’ll find a large crowd of people sitting, walking and enjoying in the festival which mesmerises every eye in the town and country alike.
One of the major attractions in this festival is Ladakh Polo. Polo, also called the sport of Kings, is the game originated in Persia. According to legends, the game of Polo came to Central Ladakh from neighbouring Baltistan, where for centuries, it used to be chief amusement. Historians date the introduction of Polo in Ladakh to king Jamyang Namgyal's reign in the 16th century who married Gyal Khatun, a princess from Baltistan. Apart from nobility, the game was popular in all the major villages of Ladakh, particular in Chushot village in the vicinity of Leh. In fact, all the major villages of Ladakh have their own Polo ground called 'SHAGARAN'.
The game is played with utmost excitement and enthusiasm in Leh, at an altitude of 3500 metres. The aim is to score by driving a wooden ball in the opponents’ goal with a long wooden mallet. The game doesn’t follow the international standard, it has different unique subsided self-standards. With almost every village featuring a Polo ground, the game is famous among all age groups, young and old alike. The local crowd takes keen interest, especially in matches where the civilian takes over the army.
POLO- A SYMBOL OF CULTURAL HERITAGE
Today in Ladakh, Polo is more than a game. It is like a cultural heritage for the people. This is the kind of popularity the sport has attained in the snowy mountain regions of Leh and Ladakh. Chushot got its own Polo grounds, where every year on March 21, Polo is played to celebrate Nauraz, the Persian (and Shia) New Year.
Polo is associated with Ladakh in terms of culture and strength.
THE GAME WAY
The game is sometimes called Wild Polo. Each team consists of 6 players and the game is much furious and free with twenty minutes halves and a break in between. Horses used in playing the game are cross breeds from stout and robust Zanskari ponies know for their excellent performance and swiftness in high altitudes. The most interesting part about the game is its unique way of taking a goal- the goal scorer riding fast on music of traditional drum beats called Daman, holding the ball and sticks in his hand hitting somewhere midway targeting the goal. The thunderclaps and the excitement of people reveal the result themselves.
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So this is how the game is filled in the life and blood of Ladakhi civilians. Whenever the culture of Ladakh will be out, the name of Polo will definitely be there.
The Polo sports talent from this place can be taken to benefit the place of Polo in the country. People here should be encouraged to follow the sport and who knows, we’ll get a great team out for the country.