Re-discovering Afghanistan : The Kyrgyz Buzkashi, Wakhan Corridor

Buzkashi being held on the shores of Lake Chaqmaqtin, Wakhan corridor, in summer. It is practised among the Kyrgyz peoples of the Wakhan corridor at weddings as well as during Eid, the Islamic festival of sacrifice.

>Re-discovering Afghanistan: Wakhan Corridor, and the Kyrgyz in the Afghan Pamir

 

Buzkashi is the national sport of Afghanistan, in which two groups of horse riders compete for a goat. In Persian, it means exactly what it sounds like: goat = buz , pulling= kashi. I saw buz kashi on the last day of my three-days stay in a Kyrgyz camp. That was the day when the men I had seen in the camp mounted their horses and, suddenly for the first time, began to looked cool to me. To be honest, up until that point I had felt that while the women were working from the morning milking and making Qurut, the men weren’t doing much to help …

↑↑The Kyrgyz buzkashi being held amidst the spectacular scenery of the Wakhan corridor.

From 1996 to 2001, when the former Taliban (not the current Taliban regime) was in control, many entertainment activities were banned as ‘immoral’ and buzkashi was also banned. Buzkashi has since been revived and is now a major national event, with tournaments organised in each state. While in big cities buzkashi is sometimes held in stadiums in costumes with sponsors’ logos, in rural areas buzkashi is purely a traditional event for people to enjoy.

People heading to  wedding .

A sheep being dismembered for a wedding celebration meal.

Kyrgyz girls carrying sheep meat.

A man and his child who came to celebrate and participate in the buzkashi.

Everyone praying and offering food before the Buzkashi. Milk tea and fried bread were served.

Children at play until the buzkashi starts.

A Kyrgyz boy who wants to try buzkashi.

After prayers and food offerings, the buzkashi finally begins.

A goat with its head cut off. The goat used was not the one killed on the day, but a stuffed goat that was prepared in the village for buzkashi.

The goat is thrown down to the earth and the contest begins.

It requires strength and skill to pull this goat up from the ground with one hand and ride while holding it. During all this, the whip is held in the mouth.

Competing for the goat.

Family watching the game over a cup of tea.

Participants also take a break, to have some milk tea.

After a break, they return to thebuzkashi.

Kyrgyz buzkashi, performed amidst the spectacular mountain scenery of the Wakhan corridor.

 

Image & Text : Mariko SAWADA

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“Alter Rock”, Thalpan – Petroglyphs along the Indus River

The Altar Rock at Thalpan is located on the sandy north bank of the Indus River. The rock is carved with motifs, mainly animal rather than Buddhist motifs. This is a fascinating example of Petroglyphs from the ancient Silk Road.

Since ancient times, Thalpan has had many visitors who come and go through this area.  It was the nomads who first chose this site to carve. The rock face in front of the Alter Rock may have been used as a veritable ‘altar’, with various animals and slaughter scenes depicted.
These Petroglyphs with non-Buddhist motifs are thought to date from the mid-1st millennium BC.

overall view of Alter Rock

One of the Petroglyphs that stands out on this Altar Rock is this image of a Warrior with Sacrifice. It appears to be a scene of a man slaughtering an  animal (many sources call it a goat, but as an animal lover, it looks like an ibex to me). The figure of a Central Asian-style man holding a large knife is very distinctive.

The man’s dress is thought to be that of an equestrian nomad of the time, and it has been suggested that he may be from the Parthia, a dynasty that flourished on the Iranian plateau from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD.

This animal sacrifice (or slaughter) Petroglyphs motif suggests that the influence of Central Asian peoples was stronger than the influence of Buddhism, which forbids the killing of animals.

This is a designed horse or unicorn with its forelegs bent at 45 degrees.

This pose, called “Knielauf,” was used in ancient Greece to depict a flying condition and was also popular in Achaemenid Persian art. The horse’s mane and tail are braided, giving them an appearance of bows.

Is it a designed ibex? The circular eyes are also an Iranian expression.

This shows a deer-like creature with antler and a predator with two tails chasing it. As a wildlife observer in Pakistan, it looks like a snow leopard attacking an ibex on a cliff to me. What is interesting, is that there is a head of a snake, at the end of the jagged line that also looks like a cliff.

One theory is that it shows an ibex in trouble, with a snake in front, a snow leopard behind, plus a hunter and his dogs, and nowhere to go.”

Such wavy designs are said to be a common feature of the art of the Altai region in southern Siberia.

The presence of Petroglyphs with Iranian elements at Altar Rock is not surprising, as Gandhara and Taxila were already satraps of the Achaemenid period. It is surprising that there was interaction between the Altai region of southern Siberia and this Indus region in the north, across one of the most mountainous regions in the world.

Petroglyphs from Thalpan Zyarat depict motifs from the Okunev culture of southern Siberia.

A large Buddha figure with a halo is seated with four smaller seated Buddha figures, also all with halos.

Each Buddha is in Dhayana Mudra sign and their garments cover their shoulders, with gracefully drawn parallel robe crests. Such garment crests are similar to designs found in the Gupta empire art, which flourished in India between AD 320 – 550.

A creature, possibly an ibex, is depicted on the same rock, and its movement and direction suggest that the ibex was carved first, and then the Buddha image was carved on top of it.

The west panel is also covered with Petroglyphs.

The Alter Rocks are the masterpieces of the Indus River Petroglyphs.

As we posted in previous blogs, it is such a shame that these rock carvings will be lost forever due to the construction of the dam.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA

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Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Indus river bank > ◇ Rock carvings / Petroglyph
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Re-discovering Afghanistan: Wakhan Corridor, and the Kyrgyz in the Afghan Pamir

Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan is the “last frontier” for travelers who love unexplored areas. Unpaved rough road, bumby and dusty, has been completed to Lake Chaqmaqtin. Now it became possible to drive to Little Pamir, the home of the Kyrgyz people. The four-day trek has become to take a four-hour 4WD trip. See the lifestyle of the Kyrgyz people living on the plateau with your own eyes – as it is rapidly changing,  some old traditions and charming rustic lifestyle may get diluted and disappear in modernity.

Wakhan Corridor

The Wakhan corridor is a long and narrow territory, in a way a corridor in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan bordering Tajikistan, China, and Pakistan. It is a mountainous plateau where the source of the Amu Darya river originates, and in summer, plentiful water and meadows appear and are called “Pamir”. This idyllic pastoral landscape has a lot of historical significance.
This corridor-like borderline was created in 1873, when the border between Afghanistan and the Russian Empire was drawn along the Panj and Pamir rivers. Twenty years later, in 1893 the border (the Durand Line) between Afghanistan and the British Indian Empire (now Pakistan) was drawn. It was the buffer zone for the “Great Game” between Russian and British empires at that time.

The landcape around Lake Chaqmaqtin
Bozai Gumbaz, old Kyrgyz tomb situated at the confluence of the Wakhjir River ( the source of the Amu Darya) and the Wakhan River.

In the Wakhan corridor, Wakhi people live from Ishkashim to Sarhad at altitude 2,500 – 3,300 meters, while Kyrgyz people live in the “Pamir” above 4,000 meters above sea level.

The area around Lake Chaqmaqtin is called “Little Pamir” and the plateau along the Pamir River from the Tajikistan border to Lake Zorkul is called “Big Pamir”. Both are mountainous plateaus. In the Little Pamirs, used to the seasonal nomadic element in their traditional lifestyle, Kyrgyz live to south of the lake in the summer, and move north of the lake in the winter.

Kyrgyz family with Lake in the background

 

Kyrgyz people in Wakhan Corridor

The Kyrgyz are Turkic people living in Central Asia. There have long been small groups of Kyrgyz who came to the Afghan Pamirs in search of summer grazing lands, but many Kyrgyz moved to the Afghan Pamirs during the Russian Revolution of 1917.They then created a lifestyle of seasonal small migrations in this largely isolated region. Later, when China was founded in 1949 and the communist government of Afghanistan was established in 1978, there were cross-border ethnic migrations, and it is said that about 1,300~1,400 Kyrgyz people are currently living in Afghan Pamir. Recently, people who feared the Taliban temporarily moved to the Tajikistan border after the establishment of the new Taliban regime in 2021, but they have returned after hearing that their lives and livestock would be protected.

According to the shura, a village authority in Andamin settlement, Little Pamir has 28 settlements. There used to be 500 people living in Little Pamir and about 800 people in Big Pamir, but about 3 years ago, people moved from Big Pamir to Little Pamir and now there are 1,150 people living in Little Pamir. This move might have happened partially due to the completion of the new road in 2020.

Kyrgyz people living around Lake Chaqmaqtin

Life on the plateau: harsh environment

On the way from Ishkashim to Sarhad, we met a Kyrgyz man who asked for help. According to the man, his wife, who had given birth in Pamir, was not feeling well and the clinic told him to go to a hospital in Ishkashim. “I have no money”, he said.
Some Kyrgyz people get things in exchange for sheep and other livestock with merchants visiting the Pamirs and have no cash. They need money to “get in the car and go to the hospital.” At this time, we could only give money and pray for the safety of this person’s wife.

In the village, we also met parents who lost their children and a man who lost his wife. And there were very few old people. We realized that they live in a harsh environment.

Kyrgyz Boy

The Kyrgyz people of the Afghan Pamirs are not self-sufficient. They raise livestock, produce dairy products, and obtain what they need from merchants who come to the Pamirs (Wakhi people from the Wakhan corridor, and Pashtoon people from the south). They exchange or sell their livestock and dairy products to obtain goods and cash for their daily needs. In many cases, the exchange of sheep is concluded with a promise to receive this year’s lambs next year.

Goats and sheep raised by the Kyrgyz people
Kyrgyz yak. Compared to the yaks of Pakistan, the Kyrgyz yaks are noticeably bigger
Making a dairy product called Qurut

Before the new Taliban regime (2021), there was trade with Chapruson, Pakistan. Every year 500 yaks and Qurut (a type of dried cottage cheese) made during the summer were sold. Now they sell sheep and goats to traders coming from Kabul and other part of Afghanistan and say they are looking forward to resuming trade with Chapruson.

Kyrgyz Women’s Summer Life

Kyrgyz women take care of the offspring of livestock born in the spring and early summer, milking them and making dairy products for a living. In the morning, the milking begins around 8 to 8:30 am. After that, the women wash dishes in the river, bake Naan bread, and make Qurut (cottage cheese which they will dry later for sale). Bargaining with merchants from the Wakhan corridor and southern Afghanistan is also part of the fun. The women like to buy fancy fabrics and wear new clothes for every important occasion. The merchants seem to have a good grasp of what suits their tastes. In comparison, men in Kyrgyzstan wear mainly “second-hand clothes” and look very plain.

milking a yak

Beauty, the life of the Kyrgyz

On our trip to Little Pamir, we spent four days in a settlement where a small group of Kyrgyz people live. Not only did we visit the yurts, but the children and families of the Kyrgyz came to visit our camp, interest in what we have and what we eat. Some of the children were so curious that they stayed at our camp from morning till night, while others could only come with their parents.

They milked yaks in the morning, washed clothes, made Qurut cottage cheese, baked Naan bread, and visited friends in their spare time.

Woman washing her hair while her older relative is making Qurut from fresh milk
Young Kyrgyz lady washing her hair
In the yurt where the Kyrgyz live
Girls washing dishes
Children visiting our campsite

A merchant who has been coming to Pamir for more than 20 years said: “There are people who became poor after the road was built.” and “I saw the guy who became poor because they sold a lot of yak and bought cars, which later broke down”.The construction of the road has probably attracted more traders than before, and the number of cash transactions has increased. While some people have become poor, some Kyrgyz families with cars and livestock seem to have become rich. The disparity is clearly on the rise.

Kyrgyz girl holding a baby goat

The Kyrgyz people’s way of life in the wilderness of Wakhan is absolutely fascinating. These nomads of the Afghan Pamirs have a lot of resilience and the history of coexisting and interacting with other ethnicities.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

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Hungry Tigress Jataka- Rock Carving of Chilas

“This blog is documenting the precious Silk Road heritage site, the ‘Indus rock carvings’, which will be lost forever in a few years when two dams on the Indus River are completed”

 

Have you ever heard of the Hungry Tigress Jataka「捨身飼虎」?  In Japan, the story of the Hungry Tigress Jataka is depicted on the side of the Tamamushi Zushi「玉虫厨子」, a national treasure in the collection of ancient Horyuji Temple(法隆寺), even before Kyoto was built – when Buddhism was freshly adoped by the Japanese elite.

There are rock engravings along the Indus River in Chilas where the Hungry Tigress Jataka can still be seen, despite certain degree of deterioration the engravings underwent.

 

About Hungry Tigress Jataka (Vyaghri-Jataka) 

Long ago, there was a king in India who had three brothers, every of them a prince. One day, the king and the three princes went to play in a bamboo forest. There they met a mother tiger with seven cubs. The animals were starving, emaciated and on the verge of starvation.
The three princes felt deep compassion, but two of them left, saying that they could not save the animals. The third prince said, “Bodhisattvas offer themselves out of compassion to save others. I will offer myself to save the life of a starving tiger “. The prince gave himself up and the tiger ate him. The story goes that the prince who saved the lives of the tiger was the Buddha himself in one of his previous lives.

More information on Hungry Tigress Jataka and the Tamamushi Zushi at Horyu-ji Temple can be found on the websites of the respective temples.

The following is a sketch of this rock engraving, although it is quite faded and difficult to make out.

Source : The Indus – Cradle and Crossroads of Civilizations (Pakistan-German Archeological Research)

This sketch of the rock engraving shows a lying prince, a tiger cub about to eat the prince, the father king and two brother princes watching from safe distance behind a rock.

Decipherment of the Brahmi script beside this image has also proved that it is Hungry Tigress Jataka (Vyaghri-Jataka).

The entire surface of the rock on which the Hungry Tigress Jataka is depicted. A large stupa is depicted in the centre. There is a hemispherical Anda on a square base, with Harmika, symbolic umbrellas and banners, which are characteristic of the Gandhara style. It is thought that Buddhism was at its peak influence in the Upper Indus around the 5th century.

Unfortunately, this precious rock engraving will also be lost when the dam is completed. “Unfortunately” is not the right word that can be used to describe it, perhaps. The destruction of the rock engravings began with the construction of the Karakoram Highway in the 1960s, and the rock engravings have been destroyed with every expansion of the road. Some were even lost when they were painted over by people who did not like the Buddhist motif for a time.

Painted rock engravings along the Karakoram Highway. The central figure of a snow leopard chasing an ibex was washed out in December 2020.

Again, the time was limited, but we worked on washing the rock engravings that had been painted.

This is the current state of the rock engraving. From right to left, Manjushri, Bejewelled Buddha with a devotee holding an incense burner or lamp and stupa. A trefoil-shaped arch surrounds the Buddha’s entire body, is in Kashmir style.

The picture below shows how this looked before the paint was applied.

Source:The Indus – Cradle and Crossroads of Civilizations (Pakistan-German Archeological Research)

We will continue to wash off the paint from these rock engraving panels.Please come and witness this wonderful Buddhist heritage before it is submerged in the dam.

 

Photo & text : Mariko SAWADA

Site : Chilas, Gilgit-Baltitstan

*About the article: the article is based on an old book. I wonder if other views and explanations exist. I would be very happy if you could let me know so that I can study it.

Reference :”Huma records on Karakoram Highway”, ” The Indus, cradle and crossroads  of civilizations”

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Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - the Karakoram Highway > - Indus river bank > ◇ Rock carvings / Petroglyph
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The Creatures Depicted on the Indus Seal, Mohenjodaro

I’m sure there are many people who like this design of the Indus Seal. In fact, this is one of the sources of inspiration we used to make the Indus Caravan logo.

Often, a representative motif is this Zebu. It is often called the “Indus cow” and it is drawn with reverence as a god.

There are traces of ink on the seal, evidence that the seal was used as a stamp like a Japanese Hanko would be used. Seals have been found excavated in Mesopotamia and the Arabian Peninsula, with the motifs and lettering of Indus Seals. This proves that trade between Mesopotamia, the cities of the Gulf Coast, and the Indus Civilization which is of great interest to archeologists around the world.

Well, I love animals. So, I collected “creatures depicted on Indus Seals” that I found from the exhibits of the Mohenjodaro Museum.

There are animals depicted that do not really exist. The unicorn seems to have been a popular motif. Perhaps that is an incense burner in front of the unicorn?

The seals often have 2 to 5 characters, which are still mysterious characters that have still not been deciphered yet.

This creature has multiple heads, of either a unicorn, cow, gazelle or ibex. It is exciting, isn’t it?

This creature with the armored body is a rhinoceros. Even though there are no rhinos in Pakistan today (extinct), it seems they used to live there long ago.
Today, in the entire Indian subcontinent, Rhinoceros (Indian Rhinoceros) live only in Kaziranga National Park, in northeast India and Chitwan National Park, in Nepal’s Tarai Lowlands. It has gone extinct in the neighboring countries of Bhutan and Bangladesh as well.

Indian Rhinoceros seal.

This seal depicts an engraving of an Elephant. The Asian elephant has become extinct in Pakistan, but it is said that they used to be distributed all the way to Western Asia.

This image is probably a tiger. The Bengal Tiger also is no longer found in modern Pakistan, but once lived along the Indus Valley.

This too, must be a tiger image. 

Besides the seals, I also found an ibex drawn on the pottery. It seems to depict a Sindh Ibex adorned with beautiful horns.
At the Mohenjodaro Muesum, I was fascinated by their exhibit on the Indus Seals.

Photos & text: Mariko SAWADA

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Category : - Indus Civilization > - Mohenjodaro > - Monument / Heritage of Sindh > ◆ Sindh > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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Mohenjodaro (2)

These are the Mohenjodaro ruins after flood damage in the summer of 2022. At its peak, it is estimated that up to 40,000 people lived here between 2500 BC and 1800 BC, but for some reason it declined. There are various theories as to why, such as that the flow of the Indus River changed, or an invasion by a different region, but the flood of 2022 left the city damaged again.

Photography by Yuka Fujimot, Oct 2022Restoration work was underway in the areas damaged by the flood.

A donkey cart carrying bricks for repair. By 2000 BC, cities in the Indus civilization had already started using standardized baked bricks. Baked bricks were introduced earlier in the cities of the Indus civilization, compared to the Mesopotamian and Yellow River civilizations. Even today, you can see the work of making baked bricks in the farming villages around Mohenjodaro. They still use the same brick construction as used in the Indus Civilization era, to this day.

Thick brick walls that form the streets between houses (DK Area).

In the DK area, which is said to have been an urban area, there is a building that is thought to have been an “aristocrats’ house.” It is thought that this chimney-like “well” was able to draw water from the second floor of the house.

This is the sewage system of the SD area, also called the Citadel District.

It seems they even had stones to cover the sewage system.

This is a scene of the SD area that represents Mohenjodaro. What is thought to have been a “bathing pool” and the drainage system from it. It is a very gorgeous site that inspires the imagination with a Gandharan Pagoda at the peak of this city.

It is said that Bitumen (asphalt) was used to help waterproof the walls of pools in this bathing area. It is on display at the Mohenjodaro Museum.

By the way, my recent passion is seeing the sunset at Mohenjodaro.

The city ruins in the light of the setting sun. Due to the flood damage this year, the waterlogged fields could be seen shining beyond the grounds.

 

Photos & text: Mariko Sawada

Visit: Nov 2022, Mohenjodaro, Sindh

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Category : - Mohenjodaro > - Monument / Heritage of Sindh > ◆ Sindh
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Indus Highway, trip to Interior Sindh

First of all, I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy to those who have been affected by the flood disaster caused by the torrential rain from June to August 2022. Restoration work is progressing in some areas, and travel arrangements to Sindh and Balochistan regions were made, though we could see different sights than before, such as flooded fields.

The National Highway 55 (N-55), commonly known as Indus Highway, which goes north from Hyderabad, is a lifeline of West Sindh running through the west bank of the Indus River. During the fall harvest season, many trucks travel the road loaded with grain and chaff.

This year, due to the summer disaster, both sides of the road were still flooded, and there were many places waiting for the water to recede, unable to harvest the fields.

In some places, the fields were so water-logged they looked like lakes. I was sad to see so many people who had lost their homes and living in camps.

While some fields were water-logged, there were others that were being harvested. November is the season for harvesting rice.

I was really grateful to see this beautiful sight, which in any other time, would have been totally normal.

They were working on transferring the roadside piled up rice husks onto the trucks. Using wooden sticks to support it, they used sticks to create giant balloon-like cargo structures on the tops of the trucks.

A camel carrying firewood came our way. It is brought from the villages to the collection areas along the Indus Highway.

This firewood is an important fuel in the villages.

A handmade bell was decorated with cowry shells. A very traditional decoration, this is a camel very cherished by the owner. 

I was having lunch at a restaurant along the Indus Highway when I was invited to a wedding in the hall next door. “Wedding Gifts” decorated with bank notes were hung around the groom’s neck one after another.

Travelling on the Indus Highway with a different scenery than usual, we will soon enter the east road and reach Mohenjodaro. There were many submerged fields on the way to Mohenjodaro. I pray that the water will recede soon.

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Nov 2022, Indus Highway, Sindh
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K2 & Baltoro Trekking 2022 (Part 4) Urdukas to GoreⅡ

Finally, the Baltoro Glacier camping is about to begin. Today, in a relatively short hike, we will walk from Urudukas (4,061 m) to Gore I (4,185 m), lunch, and then continue the hike to Gore II (4,271 m). Immediately after leaving Urdukas, we will enter the Baltoro Glacier and repeat many ups and downs to progress.

K2 & Baltoro Glacier Trekking 2022 (Part 1) Skardu to Paiju

K2 & Baltoro Glacier Trekking 2022 (Part 2) Paiju to Khoburtse

K2 & Baltoro Glacier Trekking 2022 (Part 3) Khoburtse to Urdukas

K2 & Baltoro Trekking 2022 (Part 4) Urdukas to GoreⅡ

K2 & Baltoro Trekking 2022 (Part 5) GoreⅡ to Concordia

Staying in Concordia, surrounded by the high Peaks of the Karakorum: K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum Mountain Range

The five kilometer journey between Gore I and Gore II is GIV (7,925 m) in front of Masherbrum (K1, 7,821 m ) to the south and Muztag Tower (7,273 m) to the north. So I got a few photos while trekking.

The view from the Urdukas camp in the morning. From Paiju Peak to Biale, it seems to be a comparison of the high peaks north of the Baltoro Glacier.

From the early morning, the porters and various expeditions started departing one after another. Our group is on the way to Gore II, but the expedition teams will go directly to Concordia or the base camp of the target mountain. For the porters, they just want to quickly carry it up and get back in order to take the next job.

Heading up to the Baltoro Glacier in a caravan of mules and porters.

As we climb, we sit on the boulders that are at the right height, for taking a break along the way.

As the glacier melts, the rocks crumble and from moment to moment the route changes.

We cross over several small rivers that have formed at the various breaks in the glacier.

Just ahead, GIV is getting closer and closer!

We have arrived at our lunch spot on Gore I (4,185m). It was a little too early lunch, so I just took a break.

It is exceptional to be able to sit on a Glacier for lunch on such a sunny day.

After lunch, the peak of Masherbrum (K1) is our guiding star.

The view of Masherbrum as seen from the Baltoro Glacier. With an altitude of 7,821 m, this is the 22nd highest mountain in the world, and in Pakistan, it is the 11th highest mountain. Masherbrum can be seen from the Baltoro Glacier, and can easily be climbed from the Hushe Valley on the south side.

Peak of Masherbrum (7,821 m). In 1856, the British army named this as the first peak of their Karakorum mountain survey, so it got the name K1.

With Masherbrum to our south, we kept making our way across the glacier to Gore II (4,271m).

From our campsite at Gore II, we could continue to enjoy our day of “Masherbrum watching” until dark.

 

Photos & Text: Mariko SAWADA
Trek Date: Early Jun, 2022

*The altitudes and distances traveled from site to site that are listed, are based on our own measurements and GPS equipment. Please note that these may differ from other official books or reference materials.

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Category : - Baltoro Glacier & Concordia > - Baltoro Glacier & Concordia > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > ◇ Mountain of Pakistan
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Appreciating the Remaining Rock Art & Lamenting Their Impending Loss (Part 1) Meandering Along the Karakorum Highway

I will introduce photos of the rock paintings I came across during my November 2021 visit, traveling along the Indus River. This blog will be broken up into several parts to cover the many different things I saw.

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In northern Pakistan, on the banks of the Indus River -from Shatial to Hunza, there are said to be more than 50,000 historic rock paintings that remain. These rock paintings mark the places where travelers crossed the Indus River, as they traveled along the Silk Road. When the Indus River waters were too precarious, travelers were forced to wait on the banks until the water levels fell enough to be able to make a safe crossing. While they waited, these carvings in the rocks were made by the various travelers, pilgrims, and merchants who were from all over. Most of the themes of the pictures relate to Buddhist traditions, but there are various motifs of animals (such as Ibex ,snow leopard) carved perhaps before Buddhism passed through this area. There are various ethnic groups represented based on the written languages as well, such as Kharosthi, Sogdian and Brahmi engraved.

A  bridge crossing over the Indus River

A modern bridge crossing over the Indus RiverWith most of the regular sightseeing tours being lead to Hunza and in this area, due to strict travel restrictions on the times allowed between destinations, you cannot take much time to make stops to see the rock art along the Karakorum Highway, as you could in the past. Last year, I made a research tour in November, taking time to stay in Chilas for a few nights, allowing me time to take leisurely tours of the riverbank to inspect and record the rock art I saw.

I was so shocked that there were so many rock paintings along the Karakorum Highway, places that I had so many times before, usually only passed on the road, without a thought. These photos were taken at Hudur, which is about 20 minutes west of Chilas along the Karakorum Highway.

Rock art of a pagoda with the flags fluttering in the wind

There are many places outside of Hudur where you can see many pagodas depicted in the rock art, probably made during the Kushan Dynasty in the height of Buddhism being spread across many different regions, and the various people who came from all over, as they travelled along the Silk Road.

A person reaching out with both hands, holding objects

A person holding a piece of armor in his left hand and a hunted animal in his right hand. This type of design, in which a person is drawn facing straight forward with the objects held in both hands held high, is one that has long been used in West Asia.In Gichi, just 10 minutes east of Hudur, there were many rock paintings of pagodas. Perhaps this is because many Buddhists stayed there, or because these relics were left untouched in the area.

Rock art of a pagoda that remains in Gichi-1.

In Oshibat, located about 10 minutes further east of Gichi, as soon as you get off the bus, you can see rock art scattered here and there. There were many there, but each one was very interesting and aroused my curiosity.

Rock art with an ibex image on the lower right side

On the lower right side you will clearly see the long-horned Ibex, and then to the left side, perhaps a hunter who is chasing it, looking very dynamic and looks like they are running.

Rock art with handprints and footprints

I’m not sure if it’s out of pure boredom, just waiting for the river water to go down, perhaps it is an old type of graffiti being carved, or perhaps it has a more mystical meaning. It is unclear.

Rock Art depicting what could be a Greek person

Painted with what appears to be a tool of some sort, this figure has a Greek-hairstyle and is painted in a Greek-style.

A figure that seems to be Greek

Drawn with the face in a side profile, the heavily emphasized eyes, the long fluttering hair and the type of wear that is similar to the image of Alexander the Great (in the next image).

A mosaic of Alexander the Great

This mosaic of Alexander the Great (Historical Museum of Sughd, in Khujand, Tajikistan) riding his steed Bucephalas.The next photo is of rock art that is located only 5 minutes by bus from the Shangrila Hotel, where I stayed in Chilas. I have visited this site on general sightseeing tours to Hunza and nearby locations many times before. But when I took more time to look around, I found a very detailed and expertly carved pagoda designs.

Rock art of a pagoda
A very detailed Buddha and pagoda drawn into the rock art near the Indus River

All of this rock art will sadly, be destined to be flooded by a dam, which is going to be completed around 2027. Some rock paintings will be relocated and preserved, but most of the more than 50,000 pieces, will be left behind and submerged by the river. I would like to continue to introduce you to the precious rock art that will be lost in the next installments of this blog.

 

Photo & text : Koji YAMADA

Visit : Nov 2021, Chilas area, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - the Karakoram Highway > - Indus river bank > ◇ Rock carvings / Petroglyph > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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(Video) The Pakistan Railway Journey : From Peshwar to Rawal Pindi!

Taken from the train, going from Peshwar to Rawal Pindi, this video summaries the scenery during our journey on the Pakistan Railway.
Previously, I posted a blog about the highlights of the “Crossing the Indus River by Pakistan’s Tain,” but this time I could make video, summarized into 2 minutes and 43 seconds, starting from the town of Peshwar to the arrival of Rawal Pindi, including the tunnel along the way.

The Pakistan Railway was built as part of the colonial management during the British Empire’s colonization of the Indian Empire, with 7,791 kilometers of track that runs from Torkham, on Afghanistan’s boarder, to Karachi. From the time of independence to the present day, the nostalgic feeling of the colonial era buildings and operations are maintained for a good Railway journey in which we can still enjoy “The Pakistan Railway.”

 

The Pakistan Railway Journey, From Peshawal to Rawal Pindi

 

Videography: Mariko SAWADA
Boarded on: Feb 2020, the Pakistan Railway between Peshawar (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) to Rohri (Sindh)

Category : = Video Clip KPK > = Video Clip Punjab > - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > - Peshawar / Khyber Pass > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Pakistan Railways
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