Cave City of Bela, Gondrani

A Buddhist ruin, located in Balochistan … though its existence is still a mystery …
This bygone site is known as, “The Cave City of Bela” or “Cave city of Gondrani”. It is located on the outskirts of the secluded town of Bela, where you have to go by a 4WD vehicle or walk across the river.

 

Till this date, we still don’t know the details and the exact history of what these ruins were or for what purpose they were built and from which era.
However, it is said that it is one of the remains of a Buddhist monastery from around the 8th century when it was a territory of a Buddhist kingdom.

 

The front side is a terrace and there is a room behind it.

 

A closer view. I had a strong sense of déjà vu when I first came here. It reminded me of a cave of Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan. The difference from the Bamiyan was that in Bamiyan the caves were with Buddha and some wall paintings and ceiling decorations, but here there were no decorations at all.

 

As you walk along the path created by the flow of water, the caverns would eventually become smaller and distorted. Some of the caves have hardly remained in shape due to weathering over many years.

 

I touched about the Buddhist cave in Afghanistan. This is a panoramic view of the majestic Bamiyan Caves. There are over 750 caves spread over 1300m long cliff. These caves started to build from the 5th century and are considered to have reached their peak in the 6th and 7th centuries and ended in the 8th and 10th centuries. Wall painting and decoration remains on the terrace of East Buddha, on the right side of the photo.

 

More like the Gondrani Caves than the Bamiyan Cave are the Foladi Caves in the Bamiyan valley.

 

Some people lived in the cave to take refuge during the recent war. There was also a cave with a black ceiling due to fire.

 

Unlike the Gondrani Caves, the Foladi Caves have beautiful ceiling decorations such as “Laternendecke”.
Above all, we hope that Gondrani (Bela) Cave city’s historical survey will be conducted soon. So that this uncharted place gets historically recognized throughout the world.

 

Photo: Mariko Sawada Text: Mariko SAWADA & Sarosh HADI
Visit: Nov 2018, Feb 2019 Cave city of Bela/Gondrani, Baluchistan :
Photographs of Bamiyan & Foladi Cave were taken from 2003-2012

Category : # Balochistan > ** Heritage site of Pakistan > - Ruin & Monument
Tag : , , , , , , , ,

Shimshal village in Autumn

This is the wonderful scenery of Shimshal village in late October, enveloped in the golden, yellow, red shades of Autumn. Livestock have returned from Pamir and the village is ready for a tough winter ahead.

 

The yaks who returned from Pamir were in the field. Large males and some females remain in the Pamir over winter. It is a tradition to survive the cold and tough winter with limited food.

 

A sunny day, good for washing! Shimshal village on a warm sunny day.

 

Karun Koh seen from the Shimshal valley. The altitude of Karun Koh peak is 6,977m, 7,164m, or 7,350m depending on the documents.

 

Just outside the Shimshal village, there are Molonguti Glacier and Disthagil Sar 7,885m.  From here we drive off the valley for 3 hours to reach the mighty Karakoram Highway near Passu.

Visit beautiful village of Shimshal – One step off from Karakoram Highway !

 

Photo : Mariko Sawada  Text: Mariko & Sarosh

Visit: Oct 2014, Shimshal, Gilgit-Baltistan

 

 

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > ** Mountains of Pakistan > - Shimshal
Tag : , , , , , ,

Shimshal in Autumn – At the suspension bridge on the Shimshal River/Autumn Kuch 4

Finally, the goats, sheep and villagers who have had spent the summer in Pamir safely arrived at Shimshal village. Most villagers go to Pamir temporarily to carry livestock, but some women take care of livestock and make dairy products during the summer.

Unfortunately, these traditions are slowly disappearing.

 

People waiting eagerly for livestock on the other side of the river.

 

Came back from Pamir: sheep, goats and villagers.

 

It’s soon towards the suspension bridge.

 

People waiting for the arrival of family and livestock.
I was engrossed in taking pictures of this beautiful scene.

 

A villager crossing the suspension bridge carrying a lamb that is still small and unable to walk.

 

Villagers, sheep and goats walk to the center of the village as they cross the bridge.

 

Collected in the village, goats and sheep just came back from Pamir.

 

The villagers confirm the goats and sheep that they have kept and return each of them to the respective home-owner.

On this day, what I witnessed …. the arrival of KUCH in Shimshal village …. It was such a beautiful tradition that villagers together cooperated and built, something unknown to the world outside.

One should experience the Kuch tradition for once in their lifetime!

 

Photo: Mariko SAWADA Text : Mariko & Sarosh

Visit : Oct 2014, Shimshal, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > ** Pakistan's domestic Animal > - Shimshal
Tag : , , , , , , , ,

Shimshal in Autumn – Yaks return to the village /Autumn Kuch -3

Finally, it is the day to return to Shimshal village with the yaks.
From Wuch Furzeen to Past Furzeen, there are steep climbs and sliding areas.

 

Yaks carefully descends the vertiginous slope.

 

I saw goats and sheep moving on a steep slope from the bottom. The right side curve was really scary and precipitous.

 

Goats and sheep rush to the village. Their pace is slower than that of yaks, so they will arrive to the village the day after the yak’s arrival.

 

Yaks and villagers strenuously climb the mountain slope.

 

View of the incredible Yazghil Glacier on the way to the village.

 

“The white horn of Shimshal”, Adver Sar (6,400m).

 

And it’s down Ghare Sar. When you get off here, it is Shimshal village.

 

Crossing the Shimshal River. The villagers protect the small yaks.

 

To the Shimshal village where the family awaits anxiously.

 

At last! The villagers and yaks have arrived at Shimshal village. It was really a good work. Cheers!

 

Photo : Mariko SAWADA Text : Mariko & Sarosh
Visit : Oct 2014, Shimshal, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > # Pakistan's Livestock & KUCH > - Shimshal > Yak
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shimshal in Autumn – Yak, goat and sheep return from the Pamir/Autumn Kuch -2

When we started to leave Arbab Parien camp, we received an information that the livestock had already been departed from Shuijerav. There, we decided to wait for “Kuch” at the pass near from Arbab Parien.

While waiting for “Kutch”, we saw a baby yak who was walking with the villagers towards to the village yesterday.  It ran away to get back to the Pamir where the mother yak remained. However, villagers caught the baby yak.

The female yaks are divided into two groups ; a group returning to the village and a group remaining in Pamir during the winter. The mother of this baby Yak didn’t  return to the village and spend the chilling winter in the high Pamir.

 

The very first arrival from Shuijerav is a small herd consisting of baby yaks and female yaks.

 

Then a herd of sheep and goats continue towards the pass.

 

Baby getting milk from mother sheep while walking.

 

Yaks crossing through the small gate of Parien Sar.

 

It’s a difficult and dangerous place down to Parien Ben. Yaks rushing down the slope raising the sand in the air.

 

Yaks going down the slope. Shimshali villagers rushing down at the same speed as of yaks, so we followed them vigorously. Indeed, this inclination is quite scary.

 

Subsequently, crossing over the river of Parien Ben.

 

What a wonderful view. Goats and sheep in a uniform row crossing the suspension bridge, aiming forward for today’s campsite, Wuch Furzeen.

 

Photo : Mariko SAWADA  Text:Mariko & Sarosh
Visit : Oct 2014, Shimshal, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > # Pakistan's Livestock & KUCH > - Shimshal > Yak
Tag : , , , , , , ,

Shimshal in Autumn – to the Shimshal Pamir / Autumn Kuch -1

KUCH, the traditions of Shimshal village
Kuch in Shimshal village is a large movement with livestock.  “Autumn Kuch” is the movement of  all the livestock who went to Shimshal Pamir in the summer in search of pastures come back together.

In October, I went to Shimshal village to greet the “Autumn Kuch” coming back from the Pamir.

 

Preparing for a trip to Shimshal Pamir

In the morning, yaks carrying luggage start gether in.
The way to Simshar Pamir is not easy …. it is steep. I have visited Shimshal Pamir twice so far, but when I got tired of walking, I started riding on the back of the yak and customized it to be comfortable.

Nevertheless, staying together with Yaks is a great thing, especially for animal lovers.

This is the Yak who can carry people on hardest trek of Shimshal Pamir.  He will be customized by attaching a Saddle and  a mat.

 

Departure from Shimshal village
When you leave Shimshar village towards Pamir, you have to cross the Shimshal river first. Some yaks can cross the suspension bridge, but most of them walk across the river.

 

A yak crossing the beautiful Shimshal river.

 

Climbing of Ghare Sar. The magnificent valley’s scenery carved by the Shimshal river spreads out to the horizon.

 

Arrived at Past Furzeen, today’s campsite. Yaks carrying the heavy load is also cheers for good work!

 

Photo : Mariko  Text : Mariko & Sarosh

Visit : Oct 2014, Shimshal Village to Past Furzeen, Gilgit-Baltistan

 

Category : ** Pakistan's domestic Animal > - Shimshal > Yak
Tag : , , , , , , ,

Black-winged Stilt – Soon Valley

A Black-winged Stilt observed at Uchhali lake in the Soon Valley. It was feeding on the underwater invertebrates in the shallow water.
Black-winged Stilt is a widely spread water bird; mainly found in Europe, Africa, and South Asia, and is characterized by its long red foot.
When it flies, its feet resemble the tail feathers.
In Pakistan, it travels as a summer bird in northern Punjab. Moreover, it is observed all year round in the waters of southern Punjab, Sindh and on the coast of Balochistan.

 

Uchhali Lake with black saltwater reflecting the exquisite scenery around the lake.

 

The lake is surrounded by lush green mountains and tranquil villages.

 

If there is no wind, the lake surface reflects the view as a clear mirror.

 

A beautiful and crystal-clear sight of Black-winged Stilt reflected on the surface of the lake, just like a mirror.

 

Photo: MARIKO  Text: MARIKO & SAROSH
Observation: end of March 2019, Uchhali Lake, Soon Valley, Punjab
Reference: Birds of Pakistan, Birds of the Indian Subcontinents (Helm Field Guides)

Category : # Punjab > ** Birds of Pakistan > - Black-winged Stilt > - Soon Valley
Tag : , , , ,

Stoat of Deosai Plateau

It is a Stoat, also known as a short-tailed weasel, which I observed at Deosai National Park, in October.
The morning and evening temperatures were below freezing point during this season. The Stoat was completely engulfed in white winter fur; protected from the predators and the harsh cold weather.

A Stoat is widely distributed in northern Eurasia continent and North America. In Pakistan, it is found in the northern mountainous areas.

There was no one where we stayed at Bara Pani campsite. A calm and peaceful place and only cold wind were blowing… Ultimately, a Stoat came quite close to us without any fear! Thus, we had the perfect opportunity to photograph it.

Photo: Mariko  Text: Mariko & Sarosh
Observation: Oct 2015, Deosai Plateau, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > - Deosai National park > - Stoat
Tag : , , , , , , , ,

Northern Pakistan’s autumn feature: meet the movement of livestock in Passu

This is one of the most highlighting feature of the northern Pakistan in autumn; the great movement of the livestock. In October, livestock such as goats, sheep, and yaks that spent the summer in high altitude pastures return to the village all at once.

 

When I was traveling north on the Karakorum Highway, villagers brought livestock appeared in the backdrop of Passu mountains.

 

Villagers with their livestock who spent the summers on the highland pastures.

 

Goats and sheep collected from various houses in the village are gathered together and moved together. Finally, when they arrive at the village, they are divided into their respective homes for winter preparation.

 

A very healthy herd of livestock passing by, extremely wonderful herd sheep & goats, with signature long and twisted horns directing towards the back.

 

Villagers moving with their livestock, the village is already near.

 

Photo : Mariko,  Text : Mariko & Sarosh

Visit: Oct 2014, Passu, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > # Pakistan's Livestock & KUCH > - Passu
Tag : , , , , , ,

Religion of Kalash Valley

The Kalash’s religion is considered to be closer to Vedic and Pre-Zoroastrian cultures, even though it has a valuable existence that retains the old form of the Indo-Aryan religion. There is a God of Creator “Dezau” and many gods. There are gods closely related to life and nature, such as “Balumain”, “Sajigor” and “Mahan Deva” which appear at the Chaumos Festival and the goddess “Jestak” who protects the house. The place of prayer is called Dewa, and in each village has small altar at temple of Jestak han and the outskirts of the village.

 

Temple of Jestak han

Jestak is a goddess who controls the family, housework, marriage and each clan has a temple, not every village.There is a sheep motif at the entrance, Laternendeke ceiling which is typical in Pamir architecture decorations. There is a wood carving on the back of the temple that shows “Balumain” and there is mural painting from the Chaumos Festival.


There are two clans living in Karakal village in Bomboret Valley, and Jastak han has two entrances for each clan in one building.
The picture is Jastak han of Anish village. Designs and decorations inspired by goats and sheep. Laternendeke ceilings of typical architectural styles specific to mountains of Pakistan, Tajikistan and the Wakhan Corridor area.

 

The Gandao – Wooden statue

A wooden image created to admire the memories of dead person, contributions, and achievements. The production and rituals of this Gandao are very expensive and require a lot of goats, cheese and ghee. Thus, it can only be created by the rich men who are influential. In Bomboret Valley, two sons made two Gandao for their father and uncle, who died more than 10 years ago in Brun village in 2008. (It can still be seen in the Brun village cemetery).
The Gandao is at the center of the ceremonial place. People dance around it and after the ritual is completed, the Gandao is transported to the graveyard.

 

Cemetery Mandawjaw

The original burial of Kalash was to only put body in a wooden coffin and place in a cemetery. But about 50 years ago, they started practicing burial like Muslims. At present, things that seem to be whitening are old things about 50 years ago. In the past, it was said that if not covering the coffin, it was easy for the soul to free and naturally weatherable.

 

“Pure” and “Impure” concept

The Kalasha has the strong concept for “Pure” and “Impure” in their life. Therefore, there are many rituals to purify the things that they believe are impure.
The representative one is Bashari. It is a hut where women during menstruation gather and live together. Delivery is also carried out here, and after the delivery it is possible to return to the house where the husband is eagerly waiting after the purification ceremony. There is one in each village, and women in Bashari who are under menstruation should not touch others. For example, to pass the things to other person, She can throw it but cannot hand it over.

In short, it’s not easy to understand just by talking. You must visit here and see it for yourself !

Photo : Mariko SAWADA Text :Mariko & Sarosh
※  The photo was taken during the visit between 2006 and 2014.

Category : # Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Kalash Valley
Tag : , , , , , , , ,