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Photo story: Polo in Ladakh

Ladakhi Polo is not a game of royals but of the commoners. The bigger villages in Ladakh traditionally maintain a Polo team till date. The
Ladakh
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Polo was introduced in Ladakh towards the end of emperor Akbar’s reign by some Muslim cavalrymen from Skardu, who accompanied the Balti princes Gyal Khatun after her marriage to the Ladakhi king Jamyang Namgyal. Due to her influence, many aspects of Islamic tradition and culture became incorporated in Ladakhi way of life. 

 

Ladakhi Polo is not a game of royals but of the commoners. The bigger villages in Ladakh traditionally maintain a Polo team till date. The teams play frequent tournaments and exhibition matches during summer. 

A typical Polo match is preceded by specific rituals with prayer and tea-making ceremony along with traditional dance and playing of local drum ‘daman’ and flute ‘surna’. After that two teams of six players play fast and intense matches for two spells of 20 min each. Due to the peculiarity of terrain and altitude, the short and stout local Zanskari horse breed is most suitable for this game. 

 

Recently Ladakh Polo Festival is also being organised every September at Leh Polo ground where tourists can witness the glimpse of traditional Ladakhi culture and also get a chance to taste the unique cuisine of Ladakh along with the handloom products and handicrafts of the region.

Kausik Sarbadhikari is a doctor in the Indian Army. He loves photography and also occasionally writes about his travelling experiences.

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