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2 Embedded in Stone—Early Buddhist Rock Art of Ladakh

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Chapter Summary

Prehistoric petroglyphs are found throughout Ladakh. The carvings are pecked or chiselled into the dark brown varnished surface of boulders scattered on riverbanks and valley terraces. Dani concludes that two things are evident: that the examples of rock art, spread all over the Western Himalaya/Karakoram region, are interrelated; and that there is a continuity in this rock art from early times up to the historic period in such a way that speaks of a language of cultural continuity from prehistory to the early mediaeval period. A study of the early Buddhist rock sculptures of Ladakh shows striking resemblances with Kashmiri bronzes. The special features of Kashmiri bronzes include tough bodies with large shoulders, strong breasts, and abdominal muscles very similar to the sculptures of the Alchi Sumtsek. The most impressive carving in Ladakh is situated in Kartse, on the way from Kargil to Zanskar.

Keywords: Alchi Sumtsek; Buddhist rock sculptures; Kashmiri bronzes; Ladakh; Zanskar



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