By Karim Khan SAKA
Polo is known as “the Game of Kings”, and we are proud to say that late Shah Gul Aziz was the king of Polo in the entire history of Northern Areas and Gilgit Baltistan.
Research on Polo shows that it originated among the Iranian tribes sometime before Darius I and his cavalry forged the first great Persian Empire in the 6th Century BC. Persian literature and art are full of rich accounts of polo in antiquity.
If we trace the history of Polo in the sub-continent, we get sound evidence that East-Indian Company’s British officers started playing polo in North-East India. Their first polo club was formed at Cachar in 1859 and the Calcutta Cup started in 1862. The game rapidly spread among regiments all over India, with the oldest important tournament being the Inter-Regimental in 1877. The Game then reached to the areas wherever they invaded.
But there is unequivocal evidence that polo game came to the upper Hunza valley via Central Asia and Pamirs even before the arrival of British to Gilgit.
As the people of Gojal are the migrants from the Saka tribe of great Persia capturing the pastures of Pamirs, it was their profession to have herds of Yaks, Horses and other animals in their grazing lands. Thus the Polo games and Buz-kashi were the kind of sports they inherited from their ancestors.
Dear Readers, let us turn our attention to Polo’s most transcendent and iconic figure: the great Shah Gul Aziz, who has been an ambassador for the sport of Polo, as well as the people of Gojal, Hunza and GB, for much of his life.
Shah Gul Aziz was born in 1932 in Gulmit village of Gojal, Hunza. He started playing Polo at an early age in the region of Hunza and then he went for bigger tournaments to other parts of present day Gilgit-Baltistan. He played on the front line of “Northern scout, Police and other polo teams.
In 1952 a tournament was organized between Hunza and Shishkat team, Shah Gul Aziz was part of Hunza team and they won the match with a high margin. In 1953, looking at the skills of Shah Gul aziz and Gulbast, Mir Jamal Khan of Hunza offered them to be part of his team. Thus, they joined the Mir’s team and together they won several matches.
He was always considered the back bone of his team. His presence was taken for granted victory of his team in every game. The spectators were addicted to witness the game of their fast pace polo hero.
His flying hits were the most fascinating adventures, where he used to score several goals all alone without cessation.
The sport offices of Gilgit Police and Northern Scouts are full of medals and trophies, which were earned under the captaincy of the great Shah Gul Aziz. He remained the king of polo for more than four decades, from early 50s to early 90s.
He played for 16 years for Police team, 8 years for Northern Scout, 4 years for Hunza Team and two years for the PWD team. In 1992 he got retirement from Polo.
The GB government should honor the great polo player with the most prestigious award for his great achievements. His statue should be placed at the prominent polo grounds of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The great hero was the village head of Gulmit and the “Aala Nambardar” of Gojal area for a long time. He left this corporeal world last month. May Allah bless his soul with eternal peace. Aameen!