EMPIRE OF THE SPIRIT – PAKISTAN AND THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION
In June 2001, at 4,693 meters above sea level, I entered Pakistan from China.
Crossing the Karakoram Range near Gilgit, Pakistan
Working on the Silk Road near the Sino-Pakistani border
At one point, the road was completely washed out from a flood the day before, and I got out of the bus and helped the road workers construct cages of rocks in wire to temporarily repair the road so we could pass.
The Karakorum Hwy, the ancient Silk Road, washed out from a recent flood
The Khunjerab Pass
The Khunjerab Pass is the highest paved international border crossing in the world, and our ancient, rattling public bus creaked and groaned up to it through spectacular mountain scenery, around hairpin bends with terrifying drops for two days.
Khunjerab Pass, Sino-Pakistani border crossing, elevation, 4,693 m (15,397 ft)
The Hunza Valley
The first night in Pakistan, we arrived in the Hunza Valley, a high-mountain sanctuary fed by glacial streams and world-famous for the longevity of its people.
Hunza Valley, Gilgit–Baltistan region, Pakistan
The Junction Point of Three Greatest Mountain Ranges of the World
Following the Gilgit River from the Hunza Valley, we reached a place that geographers dream about – the junction point of the highest mountain ranges in the world.
In the photo below, the ranges are as follows: Himalayas (right), the Karakoram (distant center), and the Hindu Kush (left).
This was also my first glimpse of the Indus River (right) as it emerges from the Tibetan Plateau. The Gilgit River is on the left.
Junction point of three greatest mountain ranges of the world – Himalayas (right), Karakoram (center), and Hindu Kush (left)
The Indus River Valley
Traveling south from the Hunza Valley, I began to see what makes the Indus River Valley such a unique historical site, and why the entire subcontinent is named after it. This valley was the cradle of many great Indian cultures, not only Hindu, Jain and Buddhist, but also older and more mysterious cultures whose scripts remain undeciphered.
The Indus Valley civilizations have profoundly influenced the way people think throughout Asia and the world.
Harappa – Archaeological site visit
Beginning over five thousand years ago, the UNESCO-listed site of Harappa was once one of the world’s most important cities and cultural centers.
With the discovery and excavation of the site in 1921, it has been recognized as one of the oldest and most important civilizations and archaeological sites in the world.
UNESCO divides Harappa’s history into five key phases:
c. 3300-2800 BCE – Ravi
c. 2800-2600 BCE – Early Harappan
c. 2600-1900 BCE – Harappan
c. 1900-1800 BCE – Transitional
c. 1800-1300 BCE – Late Harappan
Archaeological work on the Ravi phase has revealed that these early inhabitants imported stone from what is now Afghanistan and western India, and shells from the Arabian Sea to make beads. They manufactured earthenware vessels and figurines of clay by hand.
Taxila – Archaeological site visit
As described on my Silk Road page, Taxila was one of the most ancient universities in the world, where people from all over Asia came to study medicine, religion, and science. Instruction was available in at least five different languages, and this multicultural environment contributed to the pre-eminence of Taxila as a center of learning by the 5th century BCE.
At the height of the Maurya Empire in 250 BCE, King Ashoka recognized the significance of Taxila as an international city at the crossroads of Persia, India, and China, and declared it the provincial capital of his empire.
Sir John Marshall (1876-1958)
Any account of the research into the Indus Valley Civilization sites of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, and the excavations at Taxila, would be incomplete without mentioning Sir John Marshall, the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India from 1902 to 1928. He was the first person in modern times to recognize the significance of these abandoned cities, and worked extensively to document, protect, and popularize these ancient mysterious sites.
Alongside his meticulous fieldwork, he founded the Taxila museum, which opened in 1918.
During my site visit at Taxila, I had the opportunity to personally interview the grandson of Basharai Khan, who was Sir John Marshal's personal assistant.
The works of Sir John Marshall in PDF
John Marshall’s outstanding work is now (as of March 2017) online and publicly available at: Archive.org.
Below, I have provided direct links to three relevant books from Sir John Marshall’s legacy.
- Marshall, J. (ed.) (1931). Mohenjo-Daro and the Indus Civilization. [30MB]
- Marshall, J. (1951). Taxila: An illustrated account of archaeological excavations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [65MB]
- Marshall, J. (1960). The Buddhist art of Gandhara: the story of the early school, its birth, growth and decline. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [65MB]
Gandhara Sculpture from Pakistan Museums
In 1960, a comprehensive exhibition of Gandharan sculpture was brought to America. Subsequently, sixty-five free-standing and relief sculptures dating from the 2nd -5th centuries A.D. were photographed, catalogued and published as Gandhara Sculpture from Pakistan Museums. The book visually represents the golden age of Gandhara, when the flourishing Buddhist colonies created some of the first representations of the Buddha in human form. Benjamin Rowland, Harvard University,1960
Below, photos taken on the drive beginning at the Khunjerab Pass on the Sino-Pakistani border crossing, ending at Faisal Mosque in Islamabad.
Khunjerab Pass (4,693 m) Sino-Pakistani border crossing
Khunjerab Pass (4,693 m) China-Pakistan border crossing
Rakaposhi, Hunza Valley, Gilgit–Baltistan region
Usman – driver and guide
The Hunza Valley, Gilgit–Baltistan region
Confluence of the Gilgit and Indus Rivers
Indus River in Gilgit-Baltistan region
Nanga Parabat – Killer Mountain – third highest peak in the world
Buddhist rock carvings above the Indus River near Chilas
Colorful Bedford Truck
Karakoram Highway sign showing the distance traveled from Beijing
Roadside snack - Corn cooked in dry salt
Friends made along the way
On the road in Pakistan
Arriving at Islamabad
Faisal Mosque, Islamabad
Tourist at Faisal Mosque, Islamabad
Mohenjo Daro 101 – National Geographic
Thank you for visiting my Pakistan Photo Journal page.
–Steven A. Martin