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Re-discovering Afghanistan:Bamiyan Valley

“Bamiyan? There are no more big Buddha statues there, right?”

In March 2001, two huge Buddha statues, one 55 meters and the other 38 meters high, were cruelly destroyed by the Taliban of the time. It was an eye-opening event that made the world aware of the Taliban and the situation in Afghanistan at that time.

Though the Great Buddha has been lost and many of the caves destroyed, the valley of Bamiyan has much more to offer than that. Nowadays, the bazaar has expanded, more hotels have been built, and Bamiyan now attracts domestic tourists from Kabul and other urban areas on weekends as well as foreign tourists. Those who knew the old Bamiyan will be surprised at its changes.

There are two routes from the capital Kabul to Bamiyan. One is the so-called ”northbound route over the Shibar Pass“ and the other is the ”southbound route over the Hajigak Pass“. Both routes lead to the Shahr-i-Zohak, which stands in front of the checkpoint at the entrance to the Bamiyan Valley.

Shahr-i-Zohak, located at the entrance of the Bamiyan Valley


Shahr-i-Zohak is the remains of a fortress located at the confluence of the Bamiyan and Kalu Rivers, 17 kilometers east of the town of Bamiyan. The present ruins of the fort are said to date back to the reign of the Shansabani kings in the 12th century (during the Genghis Khan invasion), but in fact it was used as a natural fortress from around the 6th century. It is said that remains from the Buddhist period were also found. It was also used in modern warfare during the civil war. In the evening sun, Shahr-i-Zohak glows red, giving it the nickname ”Red City.“ From the top of the fort, you can see the beautiful valley along the Kar River.

Bamiyan valley seen from Shahr-i-Zohak

Passing Shahr-i-Zohak, you can continue to Bamiyan. On your left, you will see the ruins of an old caravanserai, followed by the village of the Hazara people. Soon you will see a group of caves ahead. These are the Bamiyan Caves.

Bamiyan Caves

The Bamiyan Caves are comprised of approximately 750 caves built over a length of 1,300 m on the northern cliffs of the Bamiyan Valley. Located on the east and west sides of the caves are the Western Buddha (55 m high) and Eastern Buddha (38 m high), both of which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. In 2003, the site was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the ”Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley“. In the past, UNESCO and archaeologists from various countries were working to restore and preserve the site, but conservation work has been suspended since the new Taliban regime came to power.

Bamiyan West Buddha

As of 2024, visitors can walk from the West Buddha to the East Buddha and climb the stairs to the interior of the East Buddha. The caves with remaining murals are often locked to protect them from destruction by local tourists.

Bamiyan East Buddha
Part of the Buddha statue that was blown up and collapsed in March 2001
Mural paintings remaining on the terrace of the East Buddha

As you go up inside the East Buddha, you can see a view of the Bamiyan Valley from the terraced caves and the terrace near where the head of the Buddha used to be. The area between the Bamiyan Caves and the bazaar has been preserved without development as a UNESCO Scenic Area, but after the new Taliban regime, this has not been followed and new gas stations and stores have begun to be built.

Bamiyan Valley seen from the terrace of the East Buddha niche

The large hill at the edge of town is Shahr-i-Gholghola.



Shahr-i-Gholghola is the ruins of a fort, which was also known as the ”City of Screams“. 12th century Bamiyan was a prosperous city of the Shansabani dynasty, the successor to the Ghurid dynasty, but it was turned into a ghost town after Genghis Khan’s army attacked the city in 1221. The screams of those slaughtered at that time were the reason for the fort’s name. Although part of the ruins have been renovated and renewed with international aid, some people say that it has been cleaned up too much and was more impressive in the past. From the top of the fort, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Bamiyan Valley.

Bamiyan valley seen from Shahr-i-Gholghola

In addition to the famous Bamiyan Caves, there are two other cave complexes in Bamiyan: the Foladi Caves and the Kakrak Caves. Both caves are located by the river and are accessible by a short walk. Tourists who visited here before the Soviet invasion used to visit the Kakrak Caves in the evening and call the standing Buddha statue “Sunset Buddha,” because of the view when the setting sun shone on it.

Foladi Caves

This is a group of about 50 caves built along the Foladi River, which runs along the west side of the Bamiyan Valley. Although the caves are damaged because villagers continue to use them as livestock pens and dwellings, ceiling decorations such as those of the Laternendecke can still be seen. It is a peaceful place where visitors can see glimpses of village life.

People living near Foladi Caves
People have used the grottoes as livestock pens and dwellings.
Laternendecke ceiling decoration

Kakrak Caves

A group of caves built along the Kakrak River, which runs along the eastern side of the Valley. These caves are the site of the famous red-toned mural paintings that are kept in the Guimet Museum in France and the Kabul Museum. There was a 6.4-meter-high standing Buddha statue, but it was destroyed by the former Taliban regime in 2001, along with two Great Buddha statues. The ruins of an Islamic watchtower can be seen on top of the caves. Although nothing remains, visitors can enjoy a typical view of Bamiyan Valley while walking through the farmland.

Distant view of Kakrak Caves
A wall niche that once housed a standing Buddha, destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 along with two Great Buddha

Dragon Valley

The valley is located 9 km southwest of Bamiyan. According to legend, when a village girl was about to be sacrificed to a dragon, a brave man (Hazrat Ali) confronted the dragon and cut it in two. The dragon cried tears of regret. The dragon’s split back is the cleft in the rock, and the ”tears” still flow as a mineral spring. After the civil war, this valley, which had been empty, has grown into a new residential area.

The place that corresponds to the “dragon’s back
At the bottom is “Tears of the Dragon”, a mineral spring gushing out

This has been a brief introduction to the highlights of the Bamiyan Valley, but since the topic of our discussion is Afghanistan, some of you may be wondering whether there are still any remnants from the civil war. In Bamiyan and the surrounding area, mine clearing began at an early stage. For a while after the civil war, tanks were seen here and there on the road from Kabul to Bamiyan and in the valley, but they are long gone now.

Remaining tanks on the hill of Bamiyan
Remaining tanks on the hill of Bamiyan

This is surprising, isn’t it? It was painted by an Iranian artist.

Remaining self-propelled anti-aircraft gun on the Shibar Pass

Perhaps the best-preserved tank in the vicinity of Bamiyan is the one on top of Shibar Pass.
Here we have an everyday scene from the bazaar in Bamiyan.

Main Bazaar of Bamiyan

Bamiyan is famous for growing potatoes. Walking around the village, you will encounter many people.

A father and kids met in a potato field in Kakrak
at Kakrak potato field
Girls I met in Foradi

The valley of Bamiyan is photogenic and inspiring enough just for its scenery surrounded by the Hindu Kush mountains and the seasonal life of the Hazara people.


Photo & text : Mariko SAWADA

*Contact us, Indus Caravan for more information or to make arrangements for visiting Afghanistan. >> Our Afghanistan tour .

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Category : ◆Afghanistan > - Bamiyan & around
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Re-discovering Afghanistan: Band-e Amir

Band-e Amir is a group of lakes located 75 km west of Bamiyan at an altitude of approximately 3,000 meters. Band-e Amir is so beautiful that it is often referred to as the ”Pearl of the Desert,” and is the most picturesque site in Afghanistan, which has many spectacular views.

The road from Bamiyan to Band-e Amir crosses the beautiful valleys and passes of Shahidan. In summer, the road offers spectacular views of the green meadows, which feature beautiful alpine vegetation and pastures. The road before the lake is now paved, making it much easier to access.

Watchtower of the Ghurid dynasty

Departing from Bamiyan, shortly after passing the checkpoint for the Kotal Aqrabat Pass, a watchtower dating back to the Islamic period can be seen in front of you. The watchtowers, dating back to the Ghurid dynasty in the 12th century, remain along the roads around Bamiyan.

Near Shahidan Pass

As you ascend the Shahidan pass, you will see the snow-capped mountains of the Hindu Kush, smooth green meadows, and grazing livestock.

Near Shahidan Pass

Healthy goats and sheep blessed with abundant water and grass!

Ruins of medieval buildings Qala-i-Shahidahn

Ruins of a medieval castle (fortress) in the village of Shahidan. It is a proof that people have been passing through the area as part of the “Silk Road” for a long time. There is also a small bazaar.

Girls running to school

There was also a school, the Hazara girls were just heading to class.

A boy carrying grass for fuel

From Shahidan, drive along a scenic road through Shebartu and Qarghanatu, and finally enter the road to Band-e Amir. A large gate has recently been built. From here, the road is unpaved.

Band-e Zulfiqar

Driving slowly along the dirt road, you will see a beautiful lake in front of you. This is the first view of Band-e Amir. This is part of Band-e Zulfiqar. You will be surprised at how beautiful the color blue can be as it appears in the midst of the desolate landscape.

The ticket office is just ahead, and further along the road, the viewpoint of the main lake, Band-e Haibat, appears.

Band-e Haibat

Band-e Haibat has a first and second parking lot (and a third on weekends…), accommodations, chaikhana, and even an amusement park of sorts. Since the new Taliban regime, the number of tourists from urban areas (especially Pashtuns) who never used to come to this area has increased, and the area has become so crowded that if you can choose the day of your visit, you should avoid the weekend.

Band-e Haibat

For domestic tourists, boat rides are one of the must-do activities when visiting Bande Amir.

Band-e Haibat

This is the 12-meter-high natural dam at Band-e Haibat. The wall (a natural dam) separating the lakes of Band-e Amir is composed of a calcium carbonate called travertine. Mineral-rich water seeping through faults and fissures in the rocky terrain has deposited layers of travertine that have been solidified over time, creating this natural dam.

Band-e Haibat fish

This is a fish from Band-e Haibat, though we’re not sure of the species. Band-e Haibat is the deepest of the six lakes, about 150 meters deep, according to a survey by a New Zealand diving team.

Water overflowing from Band-e Haibat

There are a total of six lakes in Band-e Amir. Of these, Band-e Qambar is almost dry.

Band-e Zulfiqar   (Lake of the sword of Ali)

Band-e Haibat  (Lake of grandiose)

Band-e Gholaman (Lake of the slaves)

Band-e Qambar (Lake of Caliph Ali’s slave)

Band-e Panir  (Lake of cheese)

Band-e Pudina  (Lake of wild mint)

here is a shrine on the banks of Band-e Haibat that is considered sacred as the place where Hazrat Ali spent the night, and people have been making pilgrimages to the lake for a long time. In the past few years, the area has been transformed from a pilgrimage site to a major tourist destination.

Natural dam between Band-e Haibat and Band-e Panir

Natural dam (travertine deposits) between Band-e Haibat (left), Band-e Paneer (right), and Band-e Pudina (top center right).

Band-e Paneer, Band-e Pudina

This photo shows Band-e Paneer and Band-e Pudina about 10 years ago. Now the topography seems to have changed a bit. Also, facilities for tourists have been built.

Walkway between lakes

A boardwalk built between Band-e Paneer and Band-e Pudina. It continues to Band-e Zulfiqar

Band-e Pair

Picnic huts built around Bande Paneer. For domestic tourists, having a picnic in Band-e Amir is like a dream come true.

The truly beautiful Band-e Amir has become a major tourist attraction—one that is very crowded on weekends. However, we are very concerned about the water pollution caused by the garbage left by domestic tourists and the washing the leftover food.

By the way, on the way to Band-e Amir, you may encounter some very beautiful sights, such as the local Hazara people on the move.

A Hazara family traveling on donkeys. The red color stands out in the desolate landscape.
Transporting grass for fuel

We hope you enjoyed this showcase of the spectacular Band-e Amir and the Hazara people who live there. Afghanistan is always undergoing great changes, but we hope that all the ethnic groups living in Afghanistan can live in peace.


Photo & text : Mariko SAWADA

*Contact us, Indus Caravan for more information or to make arrangements for visiting Afghanistan, Bamiyan and Band-e Amir.

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Category : ◆Afghanistan > - Bamiyan & around
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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

*Contact us, Indus Caravan for more information or to make arrangements for visiting Afghanistan, Wakhan Corridor.

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Category : ◆Afghanistan > - Wakhan Corridor
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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

*Contact us, Indus Caravan for more information or to make arrangements for visiting Rock carving along the Indus river.

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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

*Contact us, Indus Caravan for more information or to make arrangements for visiting Afghanistan, Wakhan Corridor.

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Category : ◆Afghanistan > - Wakhan Corridor
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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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Category : - National & 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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