Sports have significance in almost every culture and are pursued passionately and with dedication. Sports combines physical activity with skill and precision and enhances an individual’s health and mental strength. Besides health, another crucial aspect of sports is to create a sense of unity and teamwork among the players. Sports activities are commonly a source of collectiveness, community building, and harmony from a broader perspective.
Today, many popular sports in South Asia like cricket, football, and hockey link back to the Colonial rule. Some have origins in the culture of the Indo Pak subcontinent as well, such as Kabaddi, Polo, tent pegging, and many others. These games are symbols of cultural pride, and people enjoy them in various melas (festivals).
Polo, the Sport of Kings, is played in various provinces in Indo-Pak, but to feel the game’s ultimate passion, one must experience it in the serene mountains of Chitral and Gilgit. The game originated in Central Asia, where it was played on horseback or riding on Yaks. Instead of a ball, the players used the carcass of a goat or sheep and had to run it over to the opponent’s side of the ground. People in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and northern Pakistan still enjoy this version which is called Buzkashi.
Freestyle Polo played in northern Pakistan is pretty straightforward, with no rules at all. Many festivals at Chitral and Gilgit host freestyle Polo tournaments, but the most famous festival is the Shandur festival. People celebrate the festival for three days at the Shandur polo ground, surrounded by lush green meadows. Makeshift camps and shops are set up near the ground, and the people enjoy matches between Gilgit and Chitral teams. The tournament and the cultural dances performed during the event attract thousands of local and international tourists.
During the wheat harvest season, the fields in many Punjab villages create a scene of festivity. People cherish and celebrate the high yield harvest through various melas and festivals. The fairs display cultural dances, local handicrafts, and sports competitions such as Kabaddi, volleyball, and Kushti (wrestling). In the past Kabaddi was a training exercise for warriors to improve their reflexes. Later it developed into a competitive sport that has now gained international recognition.
The game includes two teams with seven players on each side. Traditionally it is played in the mud fields in circular courts, split into two portions. The teams take turns of offense and defense; the offensive side has to send a raider to the defensive team. The raider enters the opponent side chanting Kabaddi Kabaddi Kabaddi, aiming to tag out as many defensive players as possible. If a player gets tagged out in the defensive team, he must challenge the raider and stop him from reaching his side of the court. If the raider succeeds, the offensive side gets the point while the defender can block the raider; they get the point. The victorious side celebrates with a bhangra dance.
Both sports unveil the true spirit and passion among people. These festivals allow people to rejoice and also embrace each other. Many hostile rivalries have turned into positive competitions.