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J&K sanctions project to protect mysterious stone sculptures

The state administration has approved a Rs 77.25-lakh project to preserve the heritage stone carved horses left to decay in the remote area of Gool in the Ramban district of Jammu.

SP Sharma | Jammu |

Mysterious stone sculptures: Jammu and Kashmir has, finally, woken up to the need to protect the vanishing legacy. The state administration has approved a Rs 77.25-lakh project to preserve the heritage stone carved horses left to decay in the remote area of Gool in the Ramban district of Jammu.

A large number of enigmatic horses carved in stone with two and three warriors seated on them were lying in neglect on the roadside that has come to be known as GhoraGali (Horse Pass) in the lap of Peer Panjal mountain range.

Deputy Commissioner, Ramban, Mussarat Islam, on Tuesday tweeted that the government has released Rs 29.18 lakh for the project on which work will begin soon.

The government had recently sanctioned Rs.11 crore for the protection of 35 heritage sites across J&K, including the GhoraGali.

The exact period of the stone sculptures at Gool 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.

J&K sanctions project to protect mysterious stone sculptures
The mysterious stone sculptures

The treasure trove is believed to be of the 18th century while some relate it to the Mahabharta period. Several of these art pieces were buried under landslides during the devastating floods that J&K faced in 2014.

Very few sculptures richly chiseled out of a single rock are now found intact as many of these have been broken.

Interestingly, the riders on these horses have been chiseled in the attire of Roman soldiers of that era. Some horses have two riders and few three warriors seated on them. Each of these is sculptured out of a single rock.

There are several stories in circulation related to this beautifully sculptured treasure trove scattered at three places and as such the open valley leading to Gool is generally called GhoraGali. Some say these date back to the Mahabharta 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 and nor has initiated the move to transfer the site to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). An officer of the ASI, after visiting there, said that the sculptures were probably of 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 artifacts as a heritage site and promote tourism there. The area has not been properly fenced and as such many sculptures have been damaged over the years.

Several of these artifacts 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.