Today’s post is a small journey back in time.
Let’s start with the famous Silk Route- an extensive network of roads that connected areas from China, in the east and the Mediterranean, in the west. This route was central not only to trade, but was also the prime source of cultural and religious interactions. These interactions with the regions of Cental Asia, Afghanistan, China and India, contributed greatly to building the rich cultural heritage of Gilgit, which was a major stop on this road. Along with other religions, the Silk Route introduced Buddhism to this region. Innumerable petroglyphs of images of Buddha, stupas and other Buddhist symbols along with inscriptions in 10 ancient languages, including Kharoshti, are found scattered around the region- reminiscent of the world’s first large scale missionary movement. This transmission of Buddhism started in the 1st century and continued till 7th.
Amongst these carvings, a very prominent one is found in Kargah Nalah (Kargah ravine), located around 10km away from Gilgit. This awe-inspiring 20 feet tall statue was engraved right into the flat mountain wall in the 7th century. Ruins of stupas and a monastry are located 400m further from this statue. And the entire archaeological site was discovered in 1939.
Chilas, another valley in Gilgit-Baltistan has thousands of rocks with engravings on them. Unfortunately, with the building of Bhasha Damn, the entire site would be lost forever. German Professor Karl Jettmar did extensive research and also created a detailed record of this site, but who knows what else did the place have to offer and how great a legacy are we going to abolish.
Looking at this magnificent figure leaves one filled with wonder. It has been carved with such perfection on a scale so big, in a place so difficult and in a time so old. Kargah, undoubtedly, is one of the best spots to visit in Gilgit.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post.
Til next time!