Syed Akbar Siddu
Last week during an official visit of Skardu, we across an awesome archeological rock having up to twenty three sculptured Budhas on it. A very fine art telling a self explanatory story about the ancient settlement of Budhists in Baltistan. The rock is situated in the town area of Skardu city – five minutes walk from the main road. There were different stories about the rock, differing from one person to the other, possibly reflecting the locals’ lack of awareness, or the absence of documented history of the rocks.
The school going children usually throw stones on it, “copying the practice of the ancient Budhists”, who are believed to practice the stone throwing as a part of their faith.
On top of the rock there is a square hole. Traditions say that the Budhist used to throw a stone into the hole, from some distance, to now whether their expected child will be a “son” or a “daughter”. If a lady was successful in putting a stone into the rock-top-hole, it meant that she would get a “son”. The opposite would mean the birth of a girl, the traditions narrate.
The school children are practicing it just for fun and they have damaged some parts of this rock. It is a bad news for our regional heritage. History tells us that in Gilgit-Baltistan people lived in diverse cultures and all religions enjoyed freedom of practicing their faith, while nowadays the Bhudists are not in Skardu city and this rock is just a showpiece, or “just a rock” to some people, but it entails an entire history for a historian.
Although the archeology department has fenced the rock, but there is alternate ways to get inside the fenced area. Children have written on the rock with paintand have also destroyed the faces of the small Budhas, carved at reachable heights.
While traveling in Baltistan I found many other historic resorts but there seems to be a general lack of awareness about their importance.
Another jewel in the crown of Baltistan, in particular and GB, in general, is the historic Kharpocho Fort, believed to have been completed in forty years! Historically, it is the last fort of Dogra Raj and Indian rule over this region. But, neither the government, nor the local people, have expressed much interest to prevent them from more damages.
Some historical buildings, like of the buildings revived by the Aga Khan Cultural Services Pakistan includes a Khanqah in Ghanche and the Shigar Fort in Skardu, but gems like the rock-of-many-Budhas are left at the mercy of time and elements of nature.
Neither am I an archaeologist and nor have I any expertise in the field, but to me the sculptures on the Budha Rock seemed to entail a tail of many centuries. There is also some text written on the rock, probably in Sansikrit, that might tell a story to those who can read it.
I spent thirty minutes with this historic rock and, I believe, it will attract many tourists from around the world, only if it is conserved and promoted.