Visual Heritage of Ganish Khun in Hunza valley
April 20, 2012
The historical buildings of Ganish, a beautiful village in Hunza valley in Gilgit-Baltistan, are famous for its rich history, splendid wooden mosques, impressive village guest house, imposing towers that mark the landscape. It is situated on the right bank of Hunza River and is one of the oldest settlements of the valley.
Ganish has been home to many tribes and caravans travelling through the ancient Silk route that stayed back captivated by the beautiful setting of the village.
There are many interpretations of the name Ganish. IftikharHussain, an oral historian, says there are three meanings: one, it denotes crossroads since it is located on the junction of Hunza and Nagar; second, it means gold that people in the past used to prospect from the waters of Hunza River; third, it means a place from where a road takes you somewhere. People who prospect the gold from river Hunza can still be found. They are locally called maruts. Maruts are also found along the Ghizar, Gilgit and Indus rivers. They camp on the bank of the rivers and prospect the gold.
Ganish is believed to have been founded by Shish Kin, a Chinese visitor. After him many other people and tribes namely the Shigri from Baltistan and Hamachiting settled down in Ganish. Then a number of prominent persons whose names survive made Ganish their home. Their descendants bear their names. The descendants of one Barcha are called Barchating. He had three sons Sukh after whom the Sukhkutz are named, Barah from whom sprang Brahkutz and Bak, after whom the Bakkutz are named. When they embraced Islam, some of the families of the Barchating, RaleyRamal and Shish Kin built mosques which carried their names. Some also built towers to keep an eye on the outsiders.
According to Mumtaz, a graduate from Quaid-i-Azam University, there were total 14 towers of which three survives, including Tamurkutz tower, Shaikutz tower, and Rupikutz tower. While the others namely Dodasen tower, Lutoting tower, are believed to have swept away the flood that inundated the Ganish village in 1958. The towers indicated the power of the each lineage that erected it. The tradition of erecting towers still continues in the Tribal valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan and Koshistan in Khaiber-Paktunkha. At present, in the valleys of Darel and Tangir in Diamer district, the height of the tower indicat the power that the builder wields in the village. The height of the tower even indicate the numbers of murders that the builder has committed because the more you have murdered the more height your tower gains. To give an example from Darel valley, Shah Zaman has committed more murders. His tower which is located in Yeshoot village is four storied building overlooking river that gushes down from the Midan, an amazing plateau in the Darel valley. Likewise, once, there were several watch towers dominating the village of KorangaBala in Tangir valley which were erected to control and give safe exist to caravans who extracted the iron ore from Satil, a communal pasture of Tangir.
From Satil two tracks originate one of which leads to the Phundar valley via Chachhinullah. Chachhinullah is replete with three pristine, serene lakes sandwiched between the nullahs. While the other tract leads toDahi Mal village in Gupis close to Yasinriver via BathretNullah. In order to go to Dahi Mal, one has to take PaiNullah to reach Chileli area from where one enters into BaroBathret which further leads to Dahi Mal village in Gupis of Ghizer district. There are two Nullahs by the name of Bathret, Baro (large) Bathret and Biyalo (small) Bathret. The junction of the both nullahs meets at Miro Das which is very charming and breathe taking place. Both Nullahs are home to many beautiful lakes. This route was used by pilgrims and invaders in the ancient times. Many traders and pilgrims also used this route to reach Yasin, Chitral and as far away as Afghanistan. These were the routes from where the Pathans and other tribes penetrated and went as far as to Hunza thus bringing the tradition of wood carving which still reflect in the mosques and towers of Ganish village.
There are total eight mosques carrying the names of the lineages which include Budinkutz, built by Budin, Shaikutz, built by Shai, Kuyokutz, built by Kuyo I, Kuyokutz II, Yarikutz, built by Yari, Mamorokutz, built by Mamoro and Rupikutz, built by Rupi and Balkhankutz, built by Balkhan. Except for Balkhankutz, all other mosques are one-chambered. Of these, however, the Mamorokutz, Rupikutz, Harikutz, and Shaikutz are noted for intricate carvings. The Mamorokutz, Rupikutz, Harikutz and Kuyokutz mosques are located at jataq in the Ganish Khun. The jataq is open space used for communal gatherings. Ritual congregations, dancing and singing festivities also take place in the jataq.
All these four mosques are located at the jatak. The Rupikutz mosque which was restored by AKCSP-P is noted for the floral and geometric designs. The designs of the lotus flower and swastika is found on the Rupikutz mosque. The swastika has been the favorite design of the artists in the Hunza valley. One finds the most impressive swastika designs on the pillars of the QirghizBhai house in Ghulkin, Gojal. The mosques at Altit and Baltit forts also bear swastika designs.
The mosques of Budinkutz, Kuyokutz II and Mamorokutz also bear the swastika designs. The door frame of the Budinkutz mosque also carries the swastika designs. The door frame and bracket volutes of the Kuyokutz II mosque’s pillars also contain swastika design.
Both Rupikutz and Mamorokutz bear stupa-like niches. The decoration on these two mosques is remarkable as compared to other mosques.
Apart from mosques, the other historical building that dots the landscape of the Ganish Khun is the Sawab-Ha (village guest house) which is believed to have been built by Oyumkutz family for the travelers. The travelers passing through the silk route were given food and accommodation free of cost in the village guest house. It is two story building located near the Pharee (pond). The carvings on the guest house indicate the aesthetic and taste of the builder. However, it has also been restored by the AKSCP.
The Writer is Research Anthropologist at Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Islamabad. He may be contacted at:firstname.lastname@example.org