Horsemen of the Pir Panjals
The Horsemen of the Pir Panjal are a group of rock sculptures and reliefs found at similar locations at the foot of the “Galis” or on the main Gali itself. The sculptures are mostly of Horsemen along with some other reliefs of what seem to be local Gods and Devtas. And they usually have a natural water spring nearby and an accompanying pond. Few of the people who have studied these amazing sculptures agree that these were strategic locations on ancient Routes that connected different villages in the Pir Panjals. These probably served as resting areas after a particular Gali was crossed and the men as well as the horses could then refresh themselves. And they probably served a navigational purpose on the Routes that they are found on.
In the Jammu region these are found in the Ramban area of Jammu on the Sangaldan Gool road near Gool Village and also at Gadi Nalla and Nar area of Tehsil Gool and Sildhar area of district Reasi near Mahore. This area is also referred to as the Gool Gulabgarh area. This area 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. Out of these locations only the first one is accessible by a Road while the others require to hike up in the mountains to these long forgotten sculptures. The one near the Gool Village is called the “Ghora Gali” which is an obvious reference to these Horse sculptures. There are said to many other such locations which dot the mountain landscape but no one is really sure of how many locations.
The sculptures themselves show a great detail especially for the Horsemen.And these Horsemen came in different sizes even at the same site. There are sculptures in different sizes with one or two or even three people astride the horse. Interestingly all the Horsemen appear to be armed and carry different kinds of weapons as were prevalent in the day and age these were erected. They appear to be some kind of warriors of an Army on a campaign and these structures are representations of that. Also there are a a few reliefs showing local deities and geometrical figures but overall its the Horsemen who overwhelmingly dominate these sites.
As per the local folklore these Horsemen were sculpted by the Pandavas themselves during the time of their exile as they were purported to have spent some time in this area. That’s as far as the legend goes. These were sculpted by the local people themselves as per some sources. They seem to be more Bactrian inspired than Indic which is reflected in how the Horsemen are dressed and the styling of the arms they carry. Even the figures of the deities etched on the stone slabs have little resemblance to the contemporary deities. And the geometric figures just add another element of mystery. And then the whole mystery of when these great sculptures were created. The people who created these Sculptures reflect a very developed art of sculpting looking at the fine details that are shown in the Horsemen. Who exactly were these local people and under what influence were these created and why so many Horsemen ?
As per Indic traditions of that time it was usually a small Temple or sculpture of the contemporary Hindu Gods at that time that adorned such Mountain passes and along the tracks along the mountains. But the fact that these sites contain mostly these finely sculpted Horsemen should hold some significance. And no such Horsemen sculptures exist anywhere else in the Indian subcontinent except this region. Maybe it points to these being created by an Army of Horsemen from outside, from one of those cultures which held the Horsemen in great reverence, again a reference to a link to Central Asia. Maybe they came in settled here for a while on a campaign and then got assimilated in the local population or they just left and this is the only visible clue that they left behind.
At the Ghora Gali site itself I counted well over a 200 Horsemen in various sizes and conditions. Some still standing, some broken, some lying flat on the ground and still others which appeared to be buried. Further excavation of the site will probably reveal more of these Horsemen that have been completely buried over a period of time.
The lack of scientific research is the reason that all these questions mostly remain unanswered. On top of that these sites mostly lie neglected and many of the magnificent Horsemen sculptures have just fallen to the ground as the locations where they are at usually receive a lot of rain and snow. Astoundingly on the Ghora Gali site itself there was no board of the ASI and these sculptures are not even 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 and put on display at the Shri Pratap Singh Museum in Srinagar. While speaking to an official at the Museum about these Horsemen even he replied that these showed remarkable Bactrian/ Greek influence but more research has to go into these as to establish the facts.
As of today even the Ghora Gali site, which lies right on the Roadhead the picture is of neglect. More and more of these Horsemen are falling over and getting destroyed. Though it seems that now there is some work being done on fencing off the site to keep the grazing livestock off the site. There is also talk of the Tourism Department promoting the site as a Tourist spot in the coming time along with other tourist destinations in the area like the Hot Springs at Tatapani. Hopefully with more people coming to visit these wonderful sculptures would get the attention that they deserve. With the attention will come further research into these Sculptures and the sites associated with them and finally we might get definitive answers on the Horsemen of the Pir Panjals.
Original article here : https://www.livehistoryindia.com/cover-story/2018/03/18/the-mysterious-horsemen-of-the-pir-panjal