An Ancient Cave City
The Gondrani caves are famous for their mystery and promise more historical finds.
The geographical location of Pakistan has given it importance in the realm of ancient cultures. One only needs to look towards Balochistan, especially its coastal city of Las Bela, to get some idea of how old the cultural history of Pakistan is. Las Bela is close to the mysterious city of Shehr-e-Roghan, which is also called Gondrani.
Essentially a cave city, Gondrani has seen several archaeological diggings sponsored by international organizations. The locals have many mythical accounts of how the cave city was founded, its cultural as well as religious background and the evolution of the area after the arrival of the British.
Sitting in the middle of mountains, the cave city is home to a number of Buddhist monasteries. Although it has largely remained hidden from the media, the city is regularly frequented by archaeologists and tourists.
At present, there are almost 500 caves in Gondrani but according to the locals, there were close to 1500 caves here at one time. There is a lack of accurate information about the city and its caves but it is home to a real archaeological treasure. The city is said to have been built in the 7th century AD, and is located 18 kilometers to the north of Las Bela.
There are many theories surrounding the creation of these caves, as well as about the people who lived in them. The accounts have evolved and taken shape over the centuries by different historians. The general consensus is that the caves were built by the followers of the Buddhist ruler Somani, who ruled Sindh in 636 AD. British geographer Colonel Sir Thomas Hungerford Holdich is said to be among the first archaeologists to perform an extensive survey at this site.
Tourism opportunities in the area have been few due to the difficulties that lie in the way to the location as well as the political instability and poor law and order in Balochistan. It is mainly the locals who offer their services for a tour of the interconnected caves.
The overall structure of the caves presents a beautiful sight due to the intricacy with which it is built. The internal walkways are carved out in such a way that each is connected with a veranda spread out in front. The general belief is that the area is haunted by ghosts, particularly of the deceased local notables.
Although it gives the impression of an ominous, dark mountain at first, the many caves in the area become more highlighted as tourists make their way towards them. Walking towards the caves makes for an arduous journey but the beauty of the caves prove that the trek is worth the effort.
In the day, the caves are lit up from the inside and give off a very grand feeling of depth. There is a vast difference in the appearance of each cave and they remain well-preserved except some erosion that has occurred due to the weather.
A closer look at the caves reveal meticulously designed differences in the structures. A class-system is also visible to the trained eye, as some caves are ill-constructed and offer few comforts in terms of space, while others are very well-formed with intricately designed interiors.
Even in the absence of any kind of
facility and despite the rocky terrain, tourists are known to visit the place. Many use aids such as Google Maps to make their way towards Gondrani while others cover the distance through word-of-mouth directions.
Visitors are offered tours to the area through the Karachi-Quetta Highway, which was previously known as the RCD Highway. As the caves are located at a certain height, it is a difficult terrain to navigate for most amateurs. A dirt track exists a few kilometers to the north-west of the city of Bela that leads to the caves. The distance ranges from between 15 to 18 kilometers and while the scenery around the area is quite dramatic, the caves are difficult to locate.
There are several kinds of habitation in the area with a number of cave houses and huts among them. Since the construction and features of the Gondrani caves is quite distinctive, it becomes easier to spot them once you reach the place.
The Gondrani caves are soughtafter for their air of mystery and the promise of a further unveiling of history. The area can become a center of archaeological education and a great tourism site if the government takes some interest in its development. The Buddhist origin of the caves can also attract international attention. In fact, the cave city can become a permanent source of revenue for the local tourism industry.