Kargha Buddha: Ancient Buddhist’s left their marks in G-B


Gilgit Baltistan is the northern part of Pakistan this area has importance all over the world. This region holds the Old Silk route, mighty mountain ranges, diverse highest peaks K-2, the world’s second-highest peak, and Nanga Parbat, 5100 glaciers, precious gemstones, economical minerals, rivers, the world’s second-highest plateaus, gorgeous valleys, the coldest desert, beautiful lakes and many faunas.

The ancient history of Gilgit Baltistan is different from today; Buddhism had long been an important religion in the region Gilgit Baltistan, having been introduced during the early Kushan period. The Kushan Empire controlled the region that now consists of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northern India and parts of China. It lasted from the 2nd century B.C.E. until the 3rd century C.E.

Buddhism spread, in part, because it was not location specific. Believers did not need to worship at a particular temple or at a particular site as part of their practice. Worship could take place anywhere and at any time. This freedom resulted in the emergence of Buddhist cave architecture throughout Asia.

Old Silk Road plays a major role in facilitating cultural interaction between East and West which include the transmission of Buddhism in different areas of the world The Silk Route began in north-central China in Xi’an. A caravan track stretched west along the Great Wall of China, across the Pamir’s, through Afghanistan, and into the Levant (Levant is the eastern Mediterranean area now covered by Israel, Lebanon, part of Syria, and western Jordan) and Anatolia. Its length was more than 6,400 km. There were four crucial centers of Buddhism in Central Asia: Khotan, Kucha, Turfan, Shan-Shan (Kroraina). Kashmir played a vital role to spread Buddhism in China. Numerous important places along the silk route such as Balkan, Kucha, Bamiyan, Khotan, Kashgar developed into important centers of Buddhism.

Buddhism is an Indian religion or philosophical tradition based on a series of original teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha. It originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. It is the world’s fourth-largest religion. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditionsbeliefs, and spiritual practices largely based on the Buddha’s teachings (born Siddhartha Gautama in the 5th or 4th century BCE) and resulting interpreted philosophies. Widely observed practices include meditation, observance of moral preceptsmonasticism, taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma(religious moral duties) and the Sangha (company), and the cultivation of the Paramitas (perfections, or virtues).

From the 3rd century to the 11th century, Gilgit Baltistan was a prominent center of early Buddhism. During this period, multiple powers compete for control of the region, including the Tibetan Empire, Palola Sahis, the Kashmiri Karkota Dynasty, and the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates. Kumarajiva (344-413 AD) was a great Buddhist scholar who broke political, geographical, cultural, and linguistic barriers for the propagation of Buddhism all around central Asia. Kumarajiva went to Kashmir with his mother and studied Buddhism for five years. On his return to Kucha, he stopped at Kashgar and studied the Mahayana (Mahayana, (Sanskrit: “Greater Vehicle”) movement that arose within Indian Buddhism around the beginning of the Common Era and became by the 9th century the dominant influence on the Buddhist cultures of Central and East Asia) texts. On his return from Kashmir to Kucha, many Kashmiri missionaries accompanied Kumarajiva to propagate Buddhism.

One of their left souvenirs includes Kargha Buddha. Kargha Buddha is located at the junction of two streams, the Kargha and Shukogah, about 6 miles (9.7 km) west of the city of Gilgit. Nearby locales include Barmas, Napur, and Rakaposhi Mountain. The Kargha is the name of the small hamlet on the outskirts of Gilgit city in the brown barren rock with lots of green trees at the base and a blue water stream gushing through the valley is a remarkable setting and the carving has been given the name of Buddha because according to the people of the region the carving was carved by the Buddhists in the seventh century and excavated in 1938-1939 by the archaeologist. The Buddha is hand-carved on a mountain cliff measured 50 ft. in height.

The colossal Buddha at Kargha is meant to represent Vairocana (also called shining Buddha) as the great Universal Buddha as well Vairocana’s early sambhogakāya (the celestial body of the Buddha to which contemplation can ascend)  aspect was also depicted through other forms of representation. It is a supreme Buddha from Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. In Barhmajala Sutra Vairocana is introducing as a personification of the dharmakaya (one of the three bodies of the Buddha) and illumination of wisdom.

According to local legend, once upon a time there lived an ogress called Yakhshini whom local people wanted to get rid of as it used to eat human flesh. The villagers asked a passing saint for help and the saint was said to have succeeded in pinning her to the rock. The series of whole making the boundary around the Buddha are actually believed pinhole holding ogress tight. Later the saint declared that she won’t bother them as long as the saint was alive. And if they buried the saint at the foothills of the rock, she would never be freed. The saint was said to have buried right below the Buddha statue but it is a mythical story.

Kargha Buddha is an archaeological site with historical and cultural artifacts with valuable information which connects us to our past and it provides historical information on past societies from which we have no written documents. This place attract tourists which help in raising the economy of a country and the common dissemination of historical inaccuracies by the tourism industry to make an archaeological site more interesting and coherent for the general public, this sculpture have amazed both Buddhist and non-Buddhist visitors for more than a thousand years. All across the world, from nations to ethnic groups to small communities, archaeological sites can unite people of common heritage in ways that nothing else can.

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