Rock carvings Chilas

Rock carvings Chilas

Rock carvings Chilas is a small city of the Gilgit-Baltistan Province of Pakistan, situated three kilometers off the KKH to the right, out of sight of the road and on the left side of River Indus. It is linked to Islamabad in the South via Dassu, Mansehra, Abbottabad and Haripur. In the North, Chilas is connected to the Chinese cities of Kashgar and Tashkurgan via Gilgit, Aliabad, Hunza, Gulmit, Passu, Sust and the Khunjerab Pass.

Though only a small bazaar town, Chilas was an important junction on the ancient trade route. Today, it is also the capital of the Diamer administrative district, one of the three districts Gilgit-Baltistan is composed of. From here the jeep track leads over the Babusar Pass to the Kaghan Valley. At 4 173 meters, this route was in use exclusively by jeeps for many years but now, it has been asphalted and ordinary cars and buses use it daily . In fact, it has become an alternative to join Rawalpindi & Islamabad by passing over Babusar Pass, Kaghan Valley and Naran Valley. By using this wonderful alternative on your way to Chilas or coming from Chilas to Rawalpindi, you will gain at least 5 hours.

There are over 50 000 petroglyphs and 5000 inscriptions all along the Karakoram Highway, dating from the eighth millennium BC to the coming of Islam, since the 16th century AD. They were left by various travellers, invaders, merchants, pilgrims and artisans from different ages and cultures who used the legendary Silk Route and its branches to enter the region. The diversity of the rock carvings turned the area into one of the most important rendezvous of petroglyphs in the world. These engravings are mainly concentrated at ten major sites between Hunza and Shatial. Chilas is one such site, and hundreds of petroglyphs can be found along the Indus below the city. The two most interesting groups are down a jeep track before the Shangrila Hotel and down another jeep track leading to the bridge to Thalpan just after the petrol station. The best carvings face the river. On the north bank, across the Thalpan Bridge, a warrior with a huge knife slaughters a goat and a snow leopard attacks an ibex – both probably date from the first century BC. Later carvings depict Buddhas and Stupas of various types. On some rocks whole scenes are portrayed: drinking parties, a ruler with captives, a polo game, a ploughman and a royal couple.

About 300 meters up the hill from the petrol station, fifth-century Gupta inscriptions have been carved into a large rock, marking the entrance to the old town. The inscriptions refer to Chilas as Soma Nagar, or “Moon City”, and name the then-ruling king.

Rock carvings Chilas

The British left the Chilas area alone until the 1890s, when they built a new, shorter road from Chilas across the Babusar Pass directly to British India. Before this, the only route to Gilgit was long and difficult: from Srinagar across the Burzil Pass and through the Astor Gorge. In 1893 the hostile Chilas tribes rose against the small garrison of Kashmiri soldiers and British officers stationed there to protect the road, and a savage battle ensued. The latter only just managed to quell the uprising.

Opposite Chilas, on the north side of the river, a jeep track leads up the Thalpan Valley; from the valley’s end a footpath continues across the hills to Gilgit. Before attempting this hike it is essential to obtain authorization from the local authorities.

The weather in Chilas is rather hot and dry in summer, while it is dry and cold in winter.

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