KHAPLU    -   A four-day second phase of colourful Jashn-e-Ghanche, arranged by district administration that concluded last week, attracted thousands of peoples, offering huge entertainment for both locals and tourists.

Mas Nordin, a Malaysian tourist, who specially came to Khaplu with her husband to watch the polo match, said they got the opportunity to witness the polo at Shahi Polo Ground, adding that they enjoyed the whole festival’s events. “We had seen the pictures and some beautiful glimpse of video of polo on internet, so we decided to visit Khaplu for watching the polo game. We have almost visited entire Gilgit-Baltistan and found the region very peaceful. People are very sociable and hospitable,” she continued, saying that they would again come to Khaplu in summer with their whole family.

The second phase of festival kicked off from August 14 and culminated on 17th wherein over five Polo teams across the province took part in the tournament. Rondu Bilamik team [a newly-announced district of GB] become champion of the final by defeating Khaplu team with the score of9-5 goals.

Lauding the efforts of administration for arranging the festival, Rondu team captain Ali Muhammad said: “We are playing in the Ghanche from last five years because best management of the event always leaves no way for us to refuse for participating in the event in the Ghanche. I am grateful of administration for organising such colourful festival.” He added that polo was the game of kings and it provided immense entertainment for the audience and spectaculars.

Apart from other activities, the “Charga Thap” and sword dances entertained the visitors as the dancers in their distinctive attire and spatial cap, and unique waving method of wooden-baton holding in their hands offered a perfect backdrop for photography and forced the whole spectacular to clap with the melodies of local drum-beat.“Charga Thap” is a Baltistan-origin dance which is rarely performed on special festivities like Jashn-e-Ghanche and it comprises five steps.

The first step in the dance is known as “Prasul” while the remaining four steps included Thano Dang Dang, Daboor, Chutung Kar and Sningma Khori ka Rxea.

According to Havaldar Ibrahim, the team leader of the band, the dance was introduced in the dynasty of Cho Ghori Tham, a King of Gulshan-e-Kabir [a union council of Ghanche]. However, he has no idea about the exact reign of that ruler. Describing the history of the Charga Thap, he said: “Cho Ghori Tham was a king of Gulshan-e-kabir. In his reign, there were two tribes namely ‘Malpa’ and ‘Faroul’ who used to fight with each. The both tribes used wooden-baton having knives at its peak to harm each other. Amusingly, both were hailed from the same area. So, one day Ghori Tham invited the two groups and made them realise about the consequences of fight and brought up peace between them. And the knives were replaced with poplar’s flowers. From that day, initially, the Charga Thap dance is performed on coronation ceremony of newly-appointed kings. Later, it was carried out on eve of every especial festival to remember that day.” 

Commenting on the role of government to preserve these cultures, he said: “Charga Thap and sword dance are the ancient culture of Baltistan. But unfortunately, of late, it is dying out because no steps are being taken by the authorities to preserve these dances.” He added that the government should have taken measure to save the ancient cultures.

Meanwhile, tug of war was also played between the power department and local government department in which the former stood the triumph. While a marathon-based hicking competition were also held on the final day of festival. In the competition over 50 youth aged 18-30 took part in the race. The hicking competition was commenced from the Shahi Polo ground Khaplu and culminated at a historical Thoqsi Khar Masjid, which was built hundreds years ago.

Talking to this scribe about the festival, Baltistan Division Commissioner Syed Asghar Ali said that Jashn-e-Ghanche was a very beautiful cultural activity in which sports and local music and dance bring all segment of society together. He added these activities were vehicle of tourism through which the district would make space in the world of tourism across the world. “We will take the event up with tourism department and carve the festival out a calendar event, so that obstacles can be removed for funding process,” he remarked.

After observing the whole events, Haji Muhammad Iqbal, a political leader and tourist operator commented that Khaplu, the headquarter of district Ghanche is the center of Balti culture, so the people of this region leave no stone unturned to organise  such type of events. “Ghanche is called as archeological, cultural and ethnical centre of tourism. Because many historical places like Chaqchen Masjid are situated in the district. And these kinds of festivity will get help for the promotion of tourism in the country.

Earlier, in the first phase of the tournament that kicked off on July 13 wherein matches of football, cricket and volleyball were played in which Shahbaz Star, Chorbut Club and Ghanche Young respectively became the champions of the tournaments.

In addition to the Polo, football is very prominent game in the G-B. That’s why many district’s teams participated in the football’s tournament of Ghanche. A sensational final match was played between Shahbaz Star and New Ranga team of Skardu district in which no one succeeded to goal in stipulated time. However, the Star became the winner during the plenty.

Ghanche is one of the most historically and culturally rich valley of Gilgit-Baltistan and it is home to almost 0.17million people. It is surrounded by huge and lofty mountains, and has many historical places like Chaqchen Masjid, Khaplu Fort and Thoqsi Khar etc.

The valley is famous as a tourist destination for its outstanding scenery and high altitude landscapes. To its northeast is Xinjiang (China), to the north and northwest is Skardu district, to its southwest is Kharmang district and to its south is Ladakh of Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir where, recently Indian government had also abrogated the Article 370 and 35A by ending the special status.

Amusingly, the people of this valley are very peace-lover, that’s why no murder or any heinous crime has been reported in the district for many decades.  According to a police official, only 34 minor cases have been registered with different police stations of the district. And it is known as zero-crime rate district of Pakistan. Many tourist destinations were hidden because tourists and non-local were not allowed to visit border areas. However, now, all destinations have been opened for all kind of people. Owing to which, in addition to domestic tourists, at least 40 to 70 foreigners are visiting the districts on daily basis.