Destination Pakistan Guide

Destination Pakistan Guide

Kargah Buddha

Kargah Buddha: A 7th-Century Marvel Carved in Rock

In the heart of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, lies a remarkable relic of ancient artistry and spirituality – the Kargah Buddha. This magnificent 7th-century Buddha figure chiseled meticulously into solid rock, stands tall at an awe-inspiring three meters (ten feet). Nestled in the picturesque Kargah Nullah ravine, approximately 10 kilometers to the south of Gilgit town, the Kargah Buddha is a testament to the rich historical and cultural tapestry of this region. Let’s embark on a journey to uncover the mystique surrounding this iconic site.

Gilgit: A Hub of History and Trade

Gilgit, the capital town of Gilgit-Baltistan, is a cradle of history and heritage. Situated at the crossroads of the ancient Silk Route, this town has held a pivotal role as a trade nexus for centuries. The Silk Route, a sprawling network of roads connecting China in the east to the Mediterranean in the west, passed through Gilgit, making it a vital center for trade, cultural exchange, and religious diffusion.

Beyond the exchange of silk, spices, and commodities, this intricate web of routes facilitated the intermingling of cultures and religions across regions such as China, Central Asia, Kashmir, Tibet, Afghanistan, Iran, and India. Notably, Buddhism found fertile ground in Gilgit and its surroundings, thanks to the constant flow of religious caravans along the Silk Route. Historical records unveil that Buddhist travelers often sought refuge in a monastery here during their journeys through Gilgit.

Tracing the Buddhist Legacy on the Karakoram Highway

The Karakoram Highway (KKH), which predominantly follows the ancient Silk Route, offers an intriguing glimpse into the past. The KKH attests to the enduring influence of Buddhism in the region. It is adorned with over 10,000 images of Buddha, Stupas, animals, and inscriptions in more than ten languages. This cultural dominance persisted from the 1st to the 7th century A.D. The Kargah Buddha, situated in Gilgit, is an integral part of this rock art ensemble, serving as a symbol of Buddhism’s prevalence in the area.

The carving of the Buddha image into the rock was an act of devotion and reverence, with religious rituals and worship conducted at this sacred site. It stands as a testament to the profound impact of Buddhism on the culture and spirituality of Gilgit-Baltistan.

The Unearthed History: Kargah Buddha’s Discovery

Kargah Buddha was unveiled in 1938-39. The exploration also included the ruins of a Buddhist monastery and three stupas, approximately 400 meters upriver from the Buddha itself. This discovery followed the unearthing of the renowned Gilgit manuscripts in 1931. These manuscripts, written in Sanskrit, shed light on the local rulers and esteemed pilgrims of the region. Moreover, they contain Buddhist texts, providing undeniable evidence of a scholarly community flourishing in this region. Interestingly, the manuscripts found during the period from 1939 to 1956 have been dispersed to international institutions. These are the British Museum, and museums in Rome, Delhi, and Karachi to ensure their preservation for posterity.

The Myth and Mystery of Kargah Buddha

Local folklore weaves an enchanting tale around the Kargah Buddha, captivating the imaginations of residents and visitors alike. According to legend, an ogress named Yakhshini once terrorized the local population by consuming human flesh. In their hour of desperation, the villagers sought the assistance of a passing saint. This saint, it is said, successfully immobilized the ogress by affixing her to the rock. The small holes surrounding the Buddha are believed to be the pins that kept the ogress in captivity.

The saint made a solemn declaration that the ogress would remain restrained as long as he lived. To ensure her eternal imprisonment, the saint was purportedly buried beneath the Buddha statue at the base of the rock, ensuring the safety and tranquility of the land.

The Kargah Buddha is more than just an ancient sculpture, it’s a gateway to a bygone era. When the Silk Route thrived, Buddhism left an indelible mark on the cultural mosaic of Gilgit-Baltistan. Today, this iconic figure stands as a testament to the enduring human spirit. It showcases a blend of art, history, and spirituality into one awe-inspiring masterpiece. A visit to Kargah Buddha is a journey back in time, an exploration of legends, and a celebration of a heritage that continues to captivate the world.

About Author

1 thought on “Kargah Buddha”

  1. Pingback: Key facts about Pakistan |

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top