Playing polo in Leh at start of Ladakh Festival

A polo match between Team Shyok and Team Indus launched the 2011 Ladakh festival. Photo by Rimo Expeditions

Polo originated in Persia (Iran) and was introduced to Ladakh, where it is hugely popular today, from neighbouring Baltistan around the 15th century.

In Ladakh, every major village has a polo ground and the game is an integral part of the cultural fabric of the Ladakhi people where music, especially drums, accompany the scoring of each goal. It is also one of the highlights of the two week long Ladakh Festival every September.

The game as it is played in Ladakh is called wild polo and different from the one played under international rules. It is much more furious and free flowing with two twenty minutes halves of play and a ten minute break in between. The aim is to score by driving a small wooden ball into the opponent’s net using a long wooden mallet.

Ladakhi villages play polo. Photo by Binoy Kumar submitted to http://travel.nationalgeographic.com

The Ladakh Polo Club has seven clubs and is affiliated with the Indian Polo Association. On September 1, 2011 Team Shyok played against Team Indus to launch the Ladakh Festival. Our camera missed the goal but the crowd enjoyed the game. Team Shyok won the game 7-0.

Polo in Leh, Ladakh. Photo by Rimo Expeditions

Young polo fans in Leh, Ladakh. Photo by Rimo Expeditions

Gettting ready to play polo in Leh, Ladakh. Photo by Rimo Expeditions

More photos of Polo in Ladakh on our facebook Page.

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