(Last Updated on : 14/12/2010)
Polo and archery are generally classified as the traditional sports in Ladakh. Enjoyed by the masses, these sports are closely associated with ancestry in Ladakh. Both these games are mostly played during summer. On the other hand, football has found many followers in the Leh region. It is interesting to note that in some of the remotest areas of Ladakh, like, Nagar, Baltistan, Chitral, Hunza and Gilgit people are ardent fans of Polo. The latter is a game that is generally associated with the royals in India. But in a place, such as, Ladakh it is popular and a traditional sport.
As far as polo and archery is concerned, the Ladakhis organise tournaments. Large number of people turn up for such events and the teams participating are cheered by their supporters whole-heartedly. Another such interesting event is the archery championship of Leh. The crowds gather under the shamianas to witness the championship. The interludes in the event are followed by dance and music and chang (a traditional beverage) is served to the audience. As per the norms of the game, the archery teams are headed by a captain. These captains have to be from the aristocratic families. The norms for archery tournaments seem somewhat different in Kargil. It is usually in March that archery competitions are organised in the district. One would notice a marked difference in the weapons used for this game in that of Leh and Kargil. Whilst the archers of Kargil are fond of ancient designs with a thin layer of ibex horn for their bows, the sportspersons of Leh are contented with makeshift ones.
Ladakh region is famous for Polo. It is speculated that the sport came down to this region from Central Asia. Though in the rest of India Polo is the Rajas game, survived for ages in the northeastern parts of the country. The game was first discovered in India by the British Empire in Manipur. The British modified the game and established new rules for the game. Hence, the chukkers were introduced and the game was given its present shape. However, in Ladakh it is still played in the traditional way. In Ladakh the players throw the ball between the posts and the goal is awarded. The players are on horseback but there are no chukkers. Each half of the game ends when either of the team scores nine goals. The goals are fixed on the both end of the streets. The team strength depends on the number of good players available for a particular team. The only foul is awarded when a layer cuts the path of another player. Other than this there are no fixed rules for Polo in Ladakh. Polo is also played widely in the Leh region.
The sports of Ladakh add a different tint in the lives of the Ladakhis who consider the sports as important festivals. The sports are played by the local people of Ladakh with great gusto and the triumph and failure are emotionally perceived by the people who are closely attached to it.