The Sacred Rocks of Hunza are one of the earliest sites of Petroglyphs along the ancient silk route.

Situated between the Hunza River and the Karakoram Higway, a short 5 minute drive from the UNESCO enlisted village of Ganish Hunza, and insite of Altit Fort, the Sacred Rocks of Hunza date back into millenium.

180 metres in length and 9 metres at their highest point, the Sacred Rocks of Hunza consist of four main boulders with two stages of rock engravings and carvings.  The name Haldeikish translate to ‘a place of many male Ibex’, with engravings of Ibex scattered along the rock faces, a message to all travellers that wild Ibex were plentiful in this area.

Haldeikish with its thousands of petroglyphs in Bactrian(1) , Sogdian(2), Kharoshti(3), Tibetan, Chinese and Brahmi(4) written by the Silk Routes  many travellers .  These petroglyphs show the diverse cultural exchange that once passed through the Hunza region and help us to understand the history of this entire region from the first millennium CE.(5)

(1)   Bactrian, Northern Afghanistan

(2)   Sogdian, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan.

(3)   Kharoshti, Believed to be first developed in northern areas Pakistan, between 4th and 3rd century BCE and possibly the root language of modern local dialects

(4)   Brahmi, India’s earliest script created around 6th Century BCE

(5)   CE, common era (AD), BCE, before common era (BC)


The boulders are sign posted from I to IV each with a brief description of its petroglyph engravings.  The rocks were once able to be approached by well-worn stone steps and contained a series of Buddhist cave shelters but with this mountainous areas extreme weather and the ravages of time they have fallen with only a few being preserved.

Rock I. Here the eastern side has been protected from the elements and many of its inscriptions are in Kharoshti with names of merchants and Buddhist pilgrims from as early as 83 CE. There is also a portrait of a Kushan(6) King in Central Asian Dress and the name Gondohernes(7) inscribed in Kharoshti.  Two preserved and readable travellers names written in Brahmi script, translate to ‘Rudra Dasa’ and ‘Buddha Rakshita’.  Each name is surrounded by carved Ibex from a much earlier time.

(6)     Kushan,  an empire of rule extending along the entire Karakoram and Hindu-Kush mountain ranges, encompassing all the areas from Afghanistan to China

(7)     Gondophernes, ruler of eastern Iran and north-western India, for a period of 26 years, 19CE to 45 CE

Rock II. Most of this rocks petroglyphs are at ground level, predominantly on its south wall and a boulder on its south western corner. Amongst the many Ibex and ancient Graffitti like names the possible symbols for Stupas(8) can be seen. On Rock IIs western side a large boulder bears in Brahmi the ancient Buddhist proper name, Budharaksita(9).  Careful inspection also reveals the Guptan(10) inscription for ‘Chandra Sri Vikramaditya conquers’  Considered to be the greatest of all Guptan Emperors(11)  Chandra Sri Vikamaditya(12) ruled in the early 5th century this inscription is thought to corresponds to the year 419CE.

(8)  Stupas. A hemispherical shape used by Buddhists to mark a place of mediation or shelter

(9)  Budharaksita. A Buddhist proper name for ‘protected by Buddha’

(10)  Guptan. Later adaption of Brahmi script from 3rd CE

(11)  Guptan Empire. The Guptan Empire 3rd century to 590CE is referred to by many historians as India’s Golden Age.

(12)  Chandra Sri Vikamaditya. The most powerful of Guptan Emperors and ruled from 380-415CE he ruled over most of India in this time



Rock III. Is the smallest of the four outcrops and is the first of what is considered to be the cultural petroglyphs.  On Rock III can be seen two inscriptions, one in Sogdian and one in Guptan script that talks of the poet Harisena(13). Harisena’s story tells of his Guptan general’s(14) overthrow of the then Hunza ruler in the 5th century CE and the establishment of Buddhism in the valley.

(13)  4th Century Sanskrit poet, panegyrist(a) and government minister of Guptan Emperor Samudragupta.

(a)  Deliverer or writer of a formal public speech or written verse of high praise, or non-critical Eulogy

(14)  Guptan ruler from 335 CE to 380 CE. Known as King of Poets and Up-rooter of Kings.

Rock IV.  This outcrop bears possibly the oldest of the complexes petroglyphs. This rocks surfaces are covered with engravings of simple Ibex and goats giving the collection of outcrops their name ‘Haldeikish’ ‘a place of many male Ibex’.  Here too can be seen groups of engravings set in a dream world with hunters surrounded by Ibex, horned human gods surrounded by playing Ibex. Many of these dream like engravings face the glaciers of the mighty Rakaposhi(15) and the Karakorum’s, where today the Ibex freely roam.  In Sharman times holy men would don the head of a male Ibex, fall into a deep trance then answer questions or tell fortunes of the future.  .   The Ibex continue to be highly revered by the people of the Hunza region, this Sharman ritual is still performed in modern times.

(15)  27th highest mountain, 12th highest in Pakistan, situated in the Karakoram mountains and locally translate to “Snow Covered”. Home to Ibex, Marco Polo Sheep, Snow Leopards, brown Bear and Wolves.