The mysterious stone carved horses with warriors seated on them are decaying in the Gool area of Ramban district in the Jammu division. The exact period of these sculptures has not been ascertained so far, but a large number of these are standing in an open ground in the area.
The authorities have not taken any steps to develop the archaeological site as a tourist destination. The state government has failed to take steps to preserve these ancient artefacts.
The treasure trove is said to belong to the 18th century while some relate it to the Mahabharata period. Several of these art pieces were buried under landslides during the devastating floods that J&K faced in 2014.
Very few sculptures chiselled out of a single rock are now found intact as many of these have been broken. Interestingly, the riders on these horses have been chiselled in the attire of Roman soldiers of that era. Some horses have two riders and few have three warriors seated on them. Each of these is sculpted out of a single rock.
There are several stories related to this beautifully sculptured treasure trove that is scattered at three places and as such the open valley leading to Gool is generally called Ghora Gali (Horse Pass). Some say these date back to the Mahabharata period and were a cursed army that turned into stone. Others claim these were warriors who lost their way in the inhospitable mountains while others relate these to the Pandavas who camped in the area.
The state government has neither properly preserved these sculptures nor has initiated the move to transfer the site to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). An officer of the ASI, after visiting the site, said that the sculptures were probably of the 18th century. He said besides these horses, there were beautifully carved waterfalls and ponds in the area.
The ASI had over the years excavated many historical sites around the area. A unit of the Rashtriya Rifles of the army in the area has taken some steps to protect these sculptures but the job requires professional skill to save them from further damage.
Residents of the area have been asking the government to preserve these artefacts as a heritage site and promote tourism there. The area has not been properly fenced and as such many sculptures have got damaged over the years.
Several of these artefacts were carried away by senior officers of police and bureaucracy to decorate their houses. However, residents of the village later realized the heritage value of these sculptures and did not allow influential people to carry these away.
Gool in the lap of the Pir Panjal mountain range is famous not only for these sculptures but the area has seen the worst type of terrorism as this was the infiltration route to the valley and other areas of Jammu. Terrorists virtually controlled the area for quite some time until army personnel were airdropped there to eliminate the ultras.
Reports of attempts being made to revive terrorism in the area are being received. Security forces recently arrested two terrorists.