Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Baba Ghundi: the Dragon-Slayer of Chapursan

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North of Hunza in the region of Gojal, Chapursan Valley stretches from the border post of Sost 60 km westward to end in a towering wall of rock and perpetual ice. Here, almost at the foot of the granite barrier sits the lonely and picturesque shrine of Baba Ghundi: the Old Man from Ghund (Wakhan).

Legend has it that there lurked in a lake in Chapursan a dragon that daily feasted on a human sacrifice from among the populace. One day as a young woman, her name having been drawn by lot, sat by the lake waiting to be taken by the monster, the pious Baba came upon her. Having heard her out, he told her to return home and tell the people that they need no longer fear the monster. And when the dragon emerged from the water, the pious man cut it to pieces with his sword.

Thereafter Baba Ghundi told the people that in the event of an adversity they could invoke his name and he would be their succour. Now, Chaprusan was a land of rich harvests of grain, fruit and livestock and this affluence had turned the people arrogant. One day, merely to test his veracity, they called out to the Baba and sure enough the saint appeared. But the pranksters only pelted the man with stones and dung.

As he fled this attack, the Baba was sheltered by an elderly woman (kumpere in Wakhi, the local language). She fed him milk and kept him in her home until the attackers dispersed. Baba Ghundi told the woman not to leave home for he was bringing down a violent flood of rocks and mud to destroy Chapursan and its conceited population. Only she, he assured her, and her home will miraculously remain unscathed. Shortly thereafter, there came thundering down the valley just such a torrent that obliterated every sign of life from the valley.

Only the old woman and her house where she had sheltered Baba Ghundi were preserved. To this day, a straight-sided rock not far from the village of Spinje in the heart of Chapursan is pointed out as the exact location of Kumpere Dyar – the Old Woman’s Home. And as if to lend credence to the story of the flood of rocks and mud, much of the upper and middle part of the valley is choked with boulders and cones of gravelly sand. There are, moreover, lumps of calciferous limestone to be found in the valley that locals believe are the dragon’s bones.

Long before humans came to populate Chapursan, the higher reach of the valley was clogged by the Ishkuk Glacier whose much shrunken form still drapes the north flanks of the towering icy pyramid to the south of Ishkuk village. About five hundred years or so ago, the lower part of the glacier melted away, and much like the Cheshire cat, left behind only its detritus of rocks, clay and sand.

And so it was that simple folk who could not explain the litter of glacial debris, wove the yarn around the malevolence of a holy man who may, or may not, have passed through the valley at some point in time.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 09:08,


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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days