Mysterious Horsemen of Jammu & Kashmir

You must have heard of the 8000 plus strong Terracotta Army of Xian, in China, but have you heard about the mysterious Horsemen of the Pir Panjal?

By Live History India

Live History India

The horsemen and the man made points around natural springs by Prashant MathawanLive History India

The
Pir Panjal is a sub-range of the Great Himalayan mountain system that stretches
from Murree in Pakistan to the Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh. Across the Pir
Panjal were ancient trade routes that were connected by passes locally known as
galis. Strewn along the old trade
routes through the passes in this Himalayan range, between the Kashmir valley
and Jammu, are mysterious and spectacular stone sculptures of soldiers on horseback. Mostly unknown
outside the region, these ancient sentinels are familiar only to trekkers and
locals who make their way through here.   

The stone horsemen

Man made points near the horsemen

The horsemen with reliefs of local gods in the background by Prashant MathawanLive History India

These stone horsemen are found mostly at the foot of the galis or on the main gali, and they usually have a natural water spring and accompanying pond nearby. There is no doubt that the locations of these sculptures mark important strategic points on ancient routes that connected different villages in the Pir Panjal. 

The stone horsemen

Reliefs of local gods near the horsemen

At the top of Ghora Gali, overlooking the scenic gool area by Prashant MathawanLive History India

In the Jammu region, these horsemen are found in the Ramban area on the Sangaldan Gool road near Gool village in Gadi Nalla and Nar area in Gool tehsil, and the Sildhar area in Reasi district in Jammu. This area is also referred to as the ‘Gool Gulabgarh’ area and lies at the point where the Jammu region gives way to the Kashmir region, and as a consequence has a mixed population of Dogri, Gujri and Kashmiri speaking people. 

The horsemen are in different sizes and configurations by Prashant MathawanLive History India

The sculptures are very detailed and are of varying sizes. Many of the sculptures have two or even three people astride each horse. Interestingly, all the horsemen appear to be armed and carry different kinds of weapons. They appear to warriors of an army on a campaign. Also, there are a few reliefs showing local deities and geometrical shapes but, overall, it’s the horsemen who dominate these sites.

Figures look like warriors on a campaign

Figures look like warriors on a campaign

The reliefs of horsemen can also be seen from the base by Prashant MathawanLive History India

Even a casual glace at the horsemen reveals that they seem to be more Bactrian-inspired than Indic, which is reflected in how they are dressed and the styling of the arms they carry. The deities etched on the stone slabs have little resemblance to contemporary Indian deities. The geometric figures simply add another element of mystique to the whole site.

The deities etched on the stone slabs have little resemblance to contemporary deities

The deities etched on the stone slabs have little resemblance to contemporary deities

Overview of the site from Gool Sangaldan Road by Prashant MathawanLive History India

At the Ghora Gali site alone, there are well over a 200 horsemen in various sizes and conditions. Some are still standing, some are broken, some lying flat on the ground and still others appear to be buried. Excavation of the site will probably reveal more of these horsemen that have been completely buried over time.

The specimen kept at Shri Pratap Singh Museum by Prashant MathawanLive History India

Amazingly, there is very little published material available on these sculptures.  Many of these magnificent statues have simply fallen to the ground as the sites where they are found receive plenty of rain and snow. Astoundingly, on the Ghora Gali site itself, there is no board bearing the name of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), neither are they listed on the ASI site. The state Directorate of Archives, Archaeology and Museums had however listed this as a protected site in 1986. In fact, three of these horsemen were taken away and put on display at the Shri Pratap Singh Museum in Srinagar.

A semi-frozen pond on the site fed by natural spring by Prashant MathawanLive History India

The Ghora
Gali site, which lies plum on the roadhead, is a picture of neglect. More and
more of these horsemen are falling over and getting damaged. There appears to
be some fencing work being done to keep grazing livestock away from these sculptures.



Hopefully,
with more people coming to visit, these wonderful sculptures will get the
attention they deserve, especially from scholars and researchers so that we can
learn more about these lost horsemen of the Pir Panjal.

The semi frozen pond

dedicated to unknown deities

Horsemen of Pir Panjal by Prashant MathawanLive History India

The mystery of the horsemen of the Pir Panjals is still unresolved

Who created them and why?

Credits: Story

Prashant Mathawan for Live History India

Credits: All media
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