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Home Sports Ice Golf: A Thrilling Tradition and a Call for Government Support in Chitral's Kailash Valley

Ice Golf: A Thrilling Tradition and a Call for Government Support in Chitral's Kailash Valley

Each winter, with the arrival of heavy snowfall, locals eagerly anticipate the opportunity to engage in a cherished pastime known as 'Zim Pichhe' or 'Hem Ghaal' in the local Chitrali dialect.

by Gul Hammad Faruqui - 27 Mar, 2024 1751
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Ice golf, a unique and exhilarating sport, carries a blend of excitement and risk, as evidenced by a recent tragedy in Chitral's Kailash Valley. Last month, a player lost his life while retrieving a ball from a rooftop during a game. Though the ball was found, it came at the expense of life, highlighting the dangers inherent in this captivating pastime.

Nestled in the scenic Kailash Valley, Chitral boasts a rich cultural tapestry, adorned with distinctive attire, cherished customs, and a plethora of vibrant festivals. Yet, amidst this cultural richness lies an unconventional sporting tradition that sets this valley apart from others around the world.

Each winter, with the arrival of heavy snowfall, locals eagerly anticipate the opportunity to engage in a cherished pastime known as 'Zim Pichhe' or 'Hem Ghaal' in the local Chitrali dialect. This unique game unfolds on snow-covered fields, offering participants a chance to revel in the winter wonderland while showcasing their athletic prowess.

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Among the enthusiasts of this age-old tradition is Muhammad Sharifullah, a skilled player who crafts hockey sticks from a special wood, carefully designed to facilitate the movement of the wooden ball across the snow-covered terrain. The balls, meticulously painted black for enhanced visibility, serve as the focal point of the game, guiding players through the intricate maneuvers of this ancient sport.

The game draws a diverse array of participants, with twenty-five to thirty players from neighboring villages converging on fields stretching several kilometers. As the game commences, players line up at one end of the expansive field, eagerly awaiting their turn to propel the ball forward with swift, calculated strokes. Amidst the flurry of activity, players exhibit remarkable skill and agility, maneuvering the ball through the snow with precision and finesse.

Yet, amidst the thrill of competition, strict rules govern the gameplay, prohibiting any form of contact with the ball by hand or foot. A stray touch or misstep can spell disaster, costing players valuable points and altering the course of the game.

For Fazal-e-Maula, a passionate participant, the allure of the game lies not only in its inherent excitement but also in its deep-rooted cultural significance. As he navigates the snow-covered terrain, chanting slogans and rallying his teammates, he reflects on the centuries-old legacy of this revered tradition, cherished by Muslims and the indigenous Kailash community alike.

Despite its rich heritage and widespread popularity among locals, ice golf remains largely unrecognized on a broader scale. Players advocate for official acknowledgment and support from the government, akin to the esteemed Shindur Polo festival, in hopes of preserving and promoting this cherished tradition for generations to come.

As tourists from far and wide flock to witness the spectacle of ice golf in the Kailash Valley, the game stands as a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of its players, who continue to uphold this cherished tradition amidst the pristine beauty of the snow-capped mountains.

In a symbolic gesture of victory, winning team captains ascend to the prestigious title of 'Mehtar' for a day or three, assuming the role of revered leaders within their communities. Though recent festivities were tempered by the solemnity of Ramadan, the tradition of honoring victorious captains remains a cherished aspect of local heritage, serving as a testament to the enduring spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship that defines this beloved pastime in the heart of Chitral's Kailash Valley.