The Kargah Buddha is an archaeological site located about 6 miles (9.7 km) outside of Gilgit, Pakistan.
Over the centuries, as the culture in Pakistan changed from Buddhist to Muslim, the peaceful and calming meaning of a common Buddhist carving in the side of a hill was lost. Over the many years the followed, the new residents created a terrifying legend to explain the imposing sculpture’s existence.
While I love this story as an innocent example of shifting cultures and the origins of legends. This story can also serve as a symbolic example of how one culture can misinterpret another culture, this ignorance and misunderstanding leads to fear and eventually racism and xenophobia.
As per the local tradition in Gilgit, Pakistan, it is called ‘Yatchani,’ which means female demon. A former British political agent D.L.R. Lorimer, stationed at Gilgit from 1920 AD to 1924 AD had collected and published this Yachani tale in his book: ‘Gilgit, Chitral, and the Yasin.’ Here is an excerpt from that story:
They say that in early times was a devil woman called Yachani. If two men went off from Gilgit to fetch wood, they say, she used to eat one and let one go, and if four men went off, she would eat two and let two go. In this way, she had eaten and finished off the people of the countryside.
The people took counsel among themselves saying “How can we kill her?” Or “How shall we bind her?” One amoung them said: “In Bagrot there is a man named Daiyal Khimito, he will bind her.” When they had fetched Daiyal from the Bagrot, he said to them: “Oh! You folk, this is nothing worry about. I will bind her for you and I give you this advice: After she has been bound, wherever I may go and die, bring my body back to that place and prepare a grave below the Yachani and bury me there. Then she will not come to life again.” Thus he counseled the people and they accepted his advice.
Then Daiyal Khimito, driving iron pegs into the face of the cliff, climbed up and arrived at the door of the Yatchani’s dwelling. On this, she came out of her house to the door. “Oh, Yatchani” said Khimito, alas your brother has died in Kashmir. When he said this the Yatchani pressed her open hand to her breast and Khimito drove an iron peg into it. Once again he said: “Alas your father has died in Baltistan.” The Yachini pressed her thigh with her other hand and Khimito drove a peg into her thigh and let it in.
The Yachini now was fixed to the spot. She said to Khamito “What am I to eat?” He replied, “Eat gravel of the Earth cliff above the basin.”
After binding the Yachini, Khimito came down again. Then the people said: “Now what is he goes off and dies, or goes off somewhere and doesn’t die, where are we to go and look for him?” Saying this, they killed Dayial Khimito there and buried him below in this place which he had pointed out.
Now that wasn’t nice after doing you a favor. LOL
– Government of Gilgit-Baltistan – Department of Archaeology
– Museum Gilgit
– The Supernatural in the Popular Belief of the Gilgit Region
Receive weekly travel news and special offers.