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200 Unique Medieval Horsemen Sculptures Found in the Himalayas


A combined Russian-Indian expedition that has been searching the Himalaya Mountain’s area bordering India and Pakistan for the past three years, has discovered 200 “Medieval Stone Horsemen” dating back to the 5th century AD.

Peculiar Medieval Sculptures Unearthed in the Himalayas

As the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported , Vyacheslav Molodin, deputy director of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the SB RAS, told journalists that the expedition launched in India in 2014, has been particularly productive this year.

Exploring hard to reach areas of ​​the Himalayas – on the border of India and Pakistan – researchers uncovered the unusual caches, “Two ritual complexes were discovered here, it is far and high in the mountains, where it is not easy to get there,” Molodin said as The Earth Chronicles report , pointing out how difficult it was for the archaeologists to explore this harsh and unwelcoming area of the mountain. According to Molodin’s statements, the sculptures portray anywhere from one to four people riding or sitting on a single horse, “About 200 stone horsemen were found in the sanctuary, and their specificity is that sometimes not one person sits on a horse, but two, three or four people,” he says.

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The stone statues discovered in the Himalayas vary from one to four riders and each appears uniquely decorated (Image: Science First Hand)

The Russian scientist also added that despite all sculptures being created in the same style, they appear to be different from each other.

Natalia Polosmak’s Role in the Discovery

According to the evaluation of Natalia Polosmak, the leader of this expedition, the sculptures date back to the 5 th century AD, a period of time we know as the early Middle Ages. This was quickly understood by the decoration of the horses and other details that revealed the age of the sculptures.

Natalia Polosmak, a Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and an expert in ancient Siberian cultures, has an illustrious record of incredible discoveries in icy temperatures. Almost 24 years ago, Polosmak was excavating on the Ukok Plateau when she uncovered what later became globally known as the “Ice Maiden.” As reported in a 2014 Ancient Origins article , Polosmak discovered the 2,500-year-old mummy of a woman found in 1993 in a kurgan (mound) of the Pazyryk culture in the Republic of Altai, Russia. It was considered to be among the most significant archaeological findings in Russia of the late 20th century.

‘The Icemaiden’ or Utok Princess was discovered by Polosmak in Russia 1993

The Ice Maiden, also known as the “Princess of Ukok” and the “Altai Princess of Ochi-Bala,” believed to be only 25-28 years old when she died. She was found to be intricately tattooed, while she was beautifully dressed with a black felt headdress which was found intact, and decorated with figures that indicated her high social status. She wore a necklace of wooden camels and high boots of leather. Her dress was of woven camel hair and sheep's wool with braided tassels and colored red with insect dye. More tattooed mummies were also extracted from the permafrost at the site.

While Polosmak and her team were excavating the site and defrosting the artifacts with water from a nearby lake heated with blow torches, rumors circulated among the indigenous Ukok people that disturbing the dead would have dire consequences. The engine of the helicopter that Polosmak used to fly the remains of the maiden to Russia failed, resulting in an emergency landing and some damage to the Ice Maiden for lack of refrigeration. This was taken as a sign that the maiden did not like being disturbed.

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Little is known about the origins of the ritual complexes ((Image: Science First Hand)

Questions Seeking an Answer

Back to the most recent discovery that Natalia Polosmak is involved in and there are many questions raised by the find. These are the only statues of their type to be found, with multiple riders and intricate decoration. Very little appears to be known at present about the two ritual complexes where the sculptures were found, while nothing is known yet about the people who carved them. Who carved these sculptures and why? Was this area the first to develop public transportation in the territory? “Some mysteries and myths that are yet to be read: all these sculptures are voluminous, richly decorated with carvings,“ Molodin says as The Earth Chronicles report . And adds, “But what kind of population is this is a big problem, because there was nothing like it in the iconography in India before, it’s some kind of population that suddenly appeared in the Himalayas, settled in hard-to-reach areas and left such a trace.”

Natalia Polosmak is now expected to stay there and explore for more artifacts and potential remains, in hope to give some answers to the many questions regarding the mysterious discovery.


The Horsemen of the Pir Panjals

The Horsemen of the Pir Panjal are a group of rock sculptures and reliefs found at similar locations at the foot of the “Galis” or on the main Gali itself. The sculptures are mostly of Horsemen along with some other reliefs of what seem to be local Gods and Devtas. And they usually have a natural water spring nearby and an accompanying pond. Few of the people who have studied these amazing sculptures agree that these were strategic locations on ancient Routes that connected different villages in the Pir Panjals. These probably served as resting areas after a particular Gali was crossed and the men as well as the horses could then refresh themselves. And they probably served a navigational purpose on the Routes that they are found on.

The Horsemen with reliefs of local gods in the background

In the Jammu region these are found in the Ramban area of Jammu on the Sangaldan Gool road near Gool Village and also at Gadi Nalla and Nar area of Tehsil Gool and Sildhar area of district Reasi near Mahore. This area is also referred to as the Gool Gulabgarh area. This area lies at the point where the Jammu Region gives way to the Kashmir region and as a consequence has a mixed population of Dogri, Gujri and Kashmiri speaking people. Out of these locations only the first one is accessible by a Road while the others require to hike up in the mountains to these long forgotten sculptures. The one near the Gool Village is called the “Ghora Gali” which is an obvious reference to these Horse sculptures. There are said to many other such locations which dot the mountain landscape but no one is really sure of how many locations.

At the top of Ghora Gali, overlooking the scenic Gool area

The sculptures themselves show a great detail especially for the Horsemen.And these Horsemen came in different sizes even at the same site. There are sculptures in different sizes with one or two or even three people astride the horse. Interestingly all the Horsemen appear to be armed and carry different kinds of weapons as were prevalent in the day and age these were erected. They appear to be some kind of warriors of an Army on a campaign and these structures are representations of that. Also there are a a few reliefs showing local deities and geometrical figures but overall its the Horsemen who overwhelmingly dominate these sites.

The Horsemen are in different sizes and configurations

As per the local folklore these Horsemen were sculpted by the Pandavas themselves during the time of their exile as they were purported to have spent some time in this area. That’s as far as the legend goes. These were sculpted by the local people themselves as per some sources. They seem to be more Bactrian inspired than Indic which is reflected in how the Horsemen are dressed and the styling of the arms they carry. Even the figures of the deities etched on the stone slabs have little resemblance to the contemporary deities. And the geometric figures just add another element of mystery. And then the whole mystery of when these great sculptures were created. The people who created these Sculptures reflect a very developed art of sculpting looking at the fine details that are shown in the Horsemen. Who exactly were these local people and under what influence were these created and why so many Horsemen ?

The reliefs of Horsemen can also be seen on the base

As per Indic traditions of that time it was usually a small Temple or sculpture of the contemporary Hindu Gods at that time that adorned such Mountain passes and along the tracks along the mountains. But the fact that these sites contain mostly these finely sculpted Horsemen should hold some significance. And no such Horsemen sculptures exist anywhere else in the Indian subcontinent except this region. Maybe it points to these being created by an Army of Horsemen from outside, from one of those cultures which held the Horsemen in great reverence, again a reference to a link to Central Asia. Maybe they came in settled here for a while on a campaign and then got assimilated in the local population or they just left and this is the only visible clue that they left behind.

Overview of the site from the Gool Sangaldan Road

At the Ghora Gali site itself I counted well over a 200 Horsemen in various sizes and conditions. Some still standing, some broken, some lying flat on the ground and still others which appeared to be buried. Further excavation of the site will probably reveal more of these Horsemen that have been completely buried over a period of time.

The specimen kept at the Shri Pratap Singh Museum, Srinagar

The lack of scientific research is the reason that all these questions mostly remain unanswered. On top of that these sites mostly lie neglected and many of the magnificent Horsemen sculptures have just fallen to the ground as the locations where they are at usually receive a lot of rain and snow. Astoundingly on the Ghora Gali site itself there was no board of the ASI and these sculptures are not even listed on the ASi site. The state Directorate of Archives, Archaeology and Museums had however listed this as a protected site in 1986. In fact three of these Horsemen were taken and put on display at the Shri Pratap Singh Museum in Srinagar. While speaking to an official at the Museum about these Horsemen even he replied that these showed remarkable Bactrian/ Greek influence but more research has to go into these as to establish the facts.

A semi frozen pond on the site fed by a natural spring

As of today even the Ghora Gali site, which lies right on the Roadhead the picture is of neglect. More and more of these Horsemen are falling over and getting destroyed. Though it seems that now there is some work being done on fencing off the site to keep the grazing livestock off the site. There is also talk of the Tourism Department promoting the site as a Tourist spot in the coming time along with other tourist destinations in the area like the Hot Springs at Tatapani. Hopefully with more people coming to visit these wonderful sculptures would get the attention that they deserve. With the attention will come further research into these Sculptures and the sites associated with them and finally we might get definitive answers on the Horsemen of the Pir Panjals.


200 Stone Horsemen of Uknown Origin Discovered in Kashmir

maybe the goats explain why the riders are so broken but not the heads. over hundreds or thousands of years maybe they really climbed on those portions in the region but generally stayed off the tall heads

Well *this* is interesting. I found a blog post from 2014 which has a lot of pictures and some details of a different site in the region.


Ghora Gali (The Horse Pass) sounds like the name of a specific place. But in Pir Panjal mountains of Jammu & Kashmir it is a generic term that indicates a fascinating feature that is a relic of a bygone time. Dotting the landscape in the most unexpected sites are countless (because nobody seems to have counted them so far!) striking sculptures of warhorses and horsemen that date back to an unknown age.

The horses are unfailingly found to be poised at some pass that lies on a foot or cart track. Fantastic stories about they being cursed creatures of some mythical age are told.The sculptures are also said to date back to Mahabharata period. However, I am personally not sure about their origin. Dispassionately thinking, one is inclined to conclude that they are no more that navigational landmarks for convoys of traders and warriors who used to pass over these inhospitable mountains regularly once upon a time.

Most of the horses now lie in a state of utter neglect. Many are lying broken into pieces. It is not uncommon to find, in a remote mountain village, a broken horse serving as a washing stone outside a hut.

The reasons for this are not far to seek. Firstly, advent of motorable roads has obscured these old routes of travel and thus rendered the horse sculptures obscure. Secondly, the population in this area has now turned almost entirely Muslim and these ‘Hindu’ artefacts are probably considered distasteful.

Horsemen near Jamsalan village along Gool – Mahore road. This place is not connected road and takes about an hour’s walk to reach. The blue tint is on account of the rainy mountain weather and also camera settings I forgot to change.

It appears that what the Russian team found were two possibly undocumented sites as this one appears to be well known.

Searching for "Ghora Gali" turned up some more info.


Stone sculptures at Ghora Gali are believed to have been personally sculpted by the Pandavas during the age of Mahabharata.

Ramban, located in the lap of Pir Panjal range of the mighty Himalayas, is a beautiful combination of magnificence, tranquility and a quiet retreat. Meadows, snow-capped Pir Panjal mountains and the gently rolling Basantadar ridge creates a breathtaking panoramic view.

Nature lovers get drawn to the pristine rustic charm Gool has to offer, and Ghora Gali is one major part of it. Ghora Gali is an ancient sculptural marvel situated in village Gool on Gool-Sangaldan road 50 km from district headquarter Ramban and 200 km from Jammu.

A treasure-trove of large stone sculptures spread in 4-5 kanals (area), the relics is houses are believed to be personally sculpted by the Pandavas during the age of Mahabharata. The art work on these stones is very fine and depicts a high form of artistic skill of the time. Even after thousands of years, the art on these sculptures remains absolutely explicit.

It is believed that wherever the Pandavas stayed in district Ramban or Reasi, they continued the work of stone engraving, which is why similar types of sculptures are found at Gadi Nalla and Nar area of Tehsil Gool and Sildhar area of district Reasi near Mahore. But to reach all these places, one has to undergo a trek through sloppy hills.


200 Stone Horsemen of Uknown Origin Discovered in Kashmir

An expedition led by Natalia Polosmak, the Russian archaeologist notable for having discovered the Siberian Ice Maiden, has made a spectacular find in Kashmir.

The find was announced on October 12th by the state-run news agency RIA Novosti. Details haven't filtered down to many English-language outlets yet, so I'll excerpt the article as translated by Google.


"It seems that everything has been known in India for a long time, but in fact, these things have been found for the first time." There is no publication on this, and the scientific community first learned about it. "The find shows that not everything is known to us on the planet. will have to be studied, "the scientist said.

Molodin said that according to the assessment of the head of the expedition Natalia Polosmak, the sculptures belong to the era of the early Middle Ages, that is, the beginning of our era. This is indicated by the decoration of horses and other details. "But what kind of population is this is a big problem, because there was nothing like it in the iconography in India before, it's some kind of population that suddenly appeared in the Himalayas, settled in hard-to-reach areas and left such a trace," expert.

The comments come from Vyacheslav Molodin, deputy director of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SB RAS). It's noted that at both sites, there are sources of water as well as accompanying stone structures for which no additional details are given.

They're identifying the sites as "ritual complexes" (of course) and dating them to 5th century CE based on decoration of the horses and "other details" which aren't mentioned. And here's where the "unknown origin" part of my title comes in:

Interestingly, the statues depict multiple riders per horse. From those I can see in the pictures, there appear to be three on each horse. Also worth noting is that many but not all are missing their heads. You can also make out parts of a wall and other structures in one of the pictures along with some large rectangular carved stones — one still standing and another on its side.

I can't access the link right now (network restrictions), but this looks really interesting.

It's hard to tell from the two images that you embedded, but am I the only one that gets a Mayan feel in the way that those horses are decorated?

What's your gut instinct here? The statues are in a temperate area and show very little sign of erosion or even discolouration. The setting looks theatrical and small enough to arrange on a stage.

I'm thinking of something more recent than Medieval times and maybe something along the lines of a folly?

Found another article in Nat Geo Russia (Google translated excerpt) which gives a possible hint to the civilization responsible for this stone army:


In the summer of 2017, the Russian-Indian expedition, with the participation of specialists from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the RAS, worked in the Small Himalayas. In the mountains of Pir-Panjal, scientists found about two hundred stone sculptures of horsemen, plates with images of people and animals, stone pedestals and stone basins lined with stone slabs. Unique monuments were located directly on the surface of the earth. The fact that they were not discovered earlier is due to their location at an altitude of two thousand meters.

Statues of horses with two, three, and sometimes four horsemen executed with great care. The costume of warriors, their weapons, ornaments, horse equipment and harnesses amaze with an abundance of details, but the riders' faces are devoid of individuality: in each of them a generalized image of the warrior is transferred.

Some details about the Hepthalite Empire from Wikipedia:


The Hephthalites (or Ephthalites) were a people of Central Asia who were militarily important circa 450-560. They were based in Bactria and expanded east to the Tarim Basin, west to Sogdia and south through Afghanistan to northern India. They were a tribal confederation and included both nomadic and urban, settled communities. They were part of the four major "Hunic" states known collectively as Xionites or "Hunas", being preceeded by the Kidarites, and succeeded by the Alchon Huns and lastly the Nezak Huns. The Sveta Huna or White Huns who invaded northern India are probably the Ephthalites, but the exact relation is not clear.

The stronghold of the Hephthalites was Tokharistan on the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush, in what is present-day northeastern Afghanistan. By 479, the Hephthalites had conquered Sogdia and driven the Kidarites westwards, and by 493 they had captured parts of present-day Dzungaria and the Tarim Basin in what is now Northwest China. They expanded into northwestern India as well.[6]

The sources for Hepthalite history are poor and historians' opinions differ. There is no king-list and historians are not sure how they arose or what language they spoke.

The origin of the name "Hephthalites" is unknown, but it may have come from a Khotanese word Hitala, itself borrowed from Uigur, meaning "Strong"


200 unique medieval sculptures discovered in the Himalayas

The Russian-Indian expedition led by Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Natalia Poslimak discovered two ritual complexes with unique unknown stone figures from the early Middle Ages in the Himalayas (Kashmir Province, India), Vyacheslav Molodin, deputy director of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the SB RAS, told journalists on Thursday.

He said that the expedition has been operating in India for three years, the last year has yielded “fantastic” results. This year, scientists worked in a complex area of ​​the Himalayas on the border of India and Pakistan with funding from the Institute, a grant from the Russian Science Foundation and the Henkel Foundation (Germany).

“Two ritual complexes were discovered here, it is far and high in the mountains, where it is not easy to get there.” About 200 stone horsemen were found in the sanctuary, and their specificity is that sometimes not one person sits on a horse, but two, three or four people. That is, it is the embodiment of some mysteries and myths that are yet to be read: all these sculptures are voluminous, richly decorated with carvings, “Molodin said.

He noted that all the sculptures, although executed in the same style, differ from each other. In the same place are the sources of water and stone structures associated with these figures.

“It seems that everything has been known in India for a long time, but in fact, these things have been found for the first time.” There is no publication on this, and the scientific community first learned about it. “The find shows that not everything is known to us on the planet. will have to be studied, “the scientist said.

Molodin said that according to the assessment of the head of the expedition Natalia Polosmak, the sculptures belong to the era of the early Middle Ages, that is, the beginning of our era. This is indicated by the decoration of horses and other details. “But what kind of population is this is a big problem, because there was nothing like it in the iconography in India before, it’s some kind of population that suddenly appeared in the Himalayas, settled in hard-to-reach areas and left such a trace,” expert.


The Mysterious Horsemen of the Pir Panjal

You must have heard of the 8000 plus strong Terracotta Army of Xian, in China, but have you heard about the mysterious Horsemen of the Pir Panjal? The Pir Panjal is a sub-range of the Great Himalayan mountain system that stretches from Murree in Pakistan to the Rohtang Pass in Himachal. Across the Pir Panjal, were ancient trade routes which were connected by passes locally known as Galis. Strewn along the old trade routes through the passes in this Himalayan range, between the Kashmir valley and Jammu, you will come across mysterious and spectacular sculptures of soldiers on horseback. Mostly unknown, outside the region, these ancient sentinels are only known to trekkers and locals who make their way through here.

The Horsemen of the Pir Panjal are found mostly at the foot of the Galis or on the main Gali itself and they usually have a natural water spring and accompanying pond nearby. There is no doubt that these sculptures mark important strategic points on ancient routes that connected different villages in the Pir Panjal. These were probably markers to mark milestones or resting places for weary horses and men. However, little is known about who built them and when.

The sculptures are mostly of horsemen along with some other reliefs of what seem to be local Gods and Devtas . This has led to a fair bit of speculation. Locals believe that the horsemen were put here by the Pandavas from the Indian Epic Mahabharata when they visited the place millennia back. Others point to the attire of the horsemen and the unique geometric shapes, as motifs, to say that these horsemen may have Bactrian origins.

In the Jammu region these are found in the Ramban area of Jammu on the Sangaldan Gool road near Gool Village and also at Gadi Nalla and Nar area of Tehsil Gool and Sildhar area of district Reasi in Jammu. This area is also referred to as the Gool Gulabgarh area and lies at the point where the Jammu region gives way to the Kashmir region and as a consequence has a mixed population of Dogri, Gujri and Kashmiri speaking people.

Out of these locations only the first one is accessible by a Road while the others require a hike up the mountains to these long forgotten sculptures. The one near the Gool Village is called the ‘Ghora Gali’ which is an obvious reference to these Horse sculptures. Locals claim that there are many other, off the road places where you can find such horsemen.

The sculptures are very detailed and these horsemen come in different sizes even at the same site. Many of the sculptures have two or even three people astride the horse. Interestingly all the horsemen appear to be armed and carry different kinds of weapons. They appear to be some kind of warriors of an army on a campaign and these structures are representations of that. Also there are a a few reliefs showing local deities and geometrical figures but overall its the horsemen who dominate these sites.

Take a first look at the horsemen and you will see that they seem to be more Bactrian inspired than Indic which is reflected in how the horsemen are dressed and the styling of the arms they carry. Even the figures of the deities etched on the stone slabs have little resemblance to contemporary deities. The geometric figures just add another element of mystique.

At the Ghora Gali site itself I counted well over a 200 horsemen in various sizes and conditions. Some still standing, some broken, some lying flat on the ground and still others which appeared to be buried. Further excavation of the site will probably reveal more of these Horsemen that have been completely buried over a period of time.

It is amazing that there is such little published material on these horsemen . Worse is the neglect. Many of the magnificent horsemen sculptures have just fallen to the ground as the locations where they are at usually receive a lot of rain and snow. Astoundingly on the Ghora Gali site itself there was no board of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and these sculptures are not even listed on the ASI site. The state Directorate of Archives, Archaeology and Museums had however listed this as a protected site in 1986. In fact three of these horsemen were taken and put on display at the Shri Pratap Singh Museum in Srinagar.

As of today even the Ghora Gali site, which lies right on the Road head is a picture of neglect. More and more of these Horsemen are falling over and getting destroyed. Though it seems that now there is some work being done on fencing off the site to keep the grazing livestock off the site. There is also talk of the Tourism Department promoting the site as a tourist spot in the coming time along with other tourist destinations in the area like the hot springs at Tatapani. Hopefully, with more people coming to visit, these wonderful sculptures will get the attention that they deserve and perhaps attention from scholars and researchers so that we can know more about these lost horsemen of the Pir Panjal.

Prashant Mathawan (Kiki) is a writer and a photographer who has spent his formative years in living amidst the Himalayas in the most beautiful Vale of Kashmir. For decades, he has explored the deepest parts of the Himalayas and is a passionate follower of the history and culture of the region.


A Long Lost, Previously Unknown Civilization?

It is unclear what civilization is behind this legacy, says Molodin because nothing like it has been seen in the history of the Indian arts.

“It would be a population that suddenly appeared in the Himalayas, settled in remote areas and left this trace behind,” suggests the researcher.

According to Molodin, the findings are surprising and fantastic.

“It would seem that we already know everything about India, but it is actually the first time the scientific community has heard of it. There is nothing published. The finding shows that we do not know everything about the planet “, concludes the scholar in statements published by RIA Novosti.

the expedition, led by Russian scholar Natalia Polosmak, has been in India for three years. During the last expedition, they carried out studies on the border between India and Pakistan under difficult conditions.

Their research is financed by the IEA with subsidies received from the Russian Science Fund and the Henkel Foundation of Germany.


Archaeologists have discovered in the Himalayas, a huge stone army (photo)

Archaeologists have discovered in the Himalayas, a huge stone army (photo)
In the mountains of the PIR and Prices the scientists found about two hundred stone sculptures of horsemen, plates with images of people and animals.

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Archaeology is primarily associated with the excavation, but sometimes a unique ancient monuments can be found directly on the surface of the earth, reports Rus.Media. Such a discovery was recently made in the Himalayas. Russian-Indian expedition worked in the mountains of the PIR and Prices. There the scientists found about two hundred stone sculptures of horsemen, plates with images of people and animals, stone bases and covered with stone tiles swimming pools.

Unique monuments were directly on the surface of the earth. The fact that they were not discovered earlier, due to their location at an altitude of two thousand meters. Statues of horses with two, three, and sometimes four horsemen is made with great care.

The costume of the soldiers, their weapons, jewelry, horse equipment and harness the striking abundance of detail, but the riders face, deprived of individuality: each of them transferred to a generalized image of a warrior. I wonder what more ancient warriors “terracotta army” have unique facial features.

Himalayan sculpture reminded archaeologists portraits, which are found on the coins of the Hephthalites: for this people’s distinctive large facial features, big long straight nose and flat cut neck.

The latter feature may be associated with the traditions of the deformation of skulls, adopted from a number of ancient tribes. Big round earrings in the ears of the riders also brought them together with some images of the new rulers minted on coins.

Possible age stone statues — 67 century A. E. How much time and effort you need to create a huge stone troops, scientists do not yet know. Among other issues facing archaeologists, the true meaning of the sculptures and the need to establish them as high in the mountains.

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Contents

Etymologists are divided over the derivation of the word hussar. [9] Several alternative theories are summarised below.

  • According to Webster's Dictionary, the word hussar stems from the Hungarian huszár, which in turn originates from the medieval Serbianhusar (Cyrillic: хусар, or gusar, Cyrillic: гусар), meaning brigand (because early hussars' shock troops tactics used against the Ottoman army resembled that of brigands in modern Serbian the meaning of gusar is limited to sea pirate), from the Medieval Latin cursarius (cf. the English word corsair). [10]
  • Another theory is that the term is an original Hungarian one, having nothing in common with the Serbian "gusar", the hussars' tactics and riding skills are characteristic of the early Hungarian warriors and in the ancient and early medieval ages was used by many ethnicities on the Eurasian steppe, like Huns, Avars, Pechenegs, Cumans and later by the Mongols and Tatars. This type of light cavalry was especially characteristic of the Hungarian armies, at first equipped with bows, arrows, spears, and sabers which was changed only later to rifles and carbines. [11]
  • The first written use of the word hussarones (in Latin, plural in Hungarian: huszár) is found in documents dating from 1432 in Southern Hungary (at the time the Ottoman military frontiers of the Hungarian Kingdom). [12] A type of irregular light horsemen was already well-established by the 15th century in medieval Hungary. [13]
  • Byzantinist scholars argue that the term originated in Roman military practice, and the cursarii (singular cursarius). [14] 10th-century Byzantine military manuals mention chonsarioi, light cavalry, recruited in the Balkans, especially Serbs, "ideal for scouting and raiding". [15] This word was subsequently reintroduced to Western European military practice after its original usage had been lost with the collapse of Rome in the west. [16]
  • A further premise notes that húsz means 'twenty' in Hungarian whilst ár is a unit of land measurement or acre. Accordingly, it is suggested that Hussars are so named as they were a form of military levy introduced after 1458 whereby any landowner with twenty acres was duty bound to provide a mounted and equipped soldier to the king's army at his own expense. [17]

Early Hungarian hussars Edit

The hussars reportedly originated in bands of mostly Serb warriors, [8] crossing into southern Hungary after the Ottoman conquest of Serbia in the late 14th century. Regent-Governor John Hunyadi created mounted units inspired by the Ottomans. His son, Matthias Corvinus, later king of Hungary, is unanimously accepted as the creator of these troops, commonly called Rác [ citation needed ] (a Hungarian exonym for Serbs). Initially, they fought in small bands, but were reorganised into larger, trained formations during the reign of King Matthias Corvinus. [18] [8] The Hussars arose in the Hungarian Kingdom as heavy cavalry and used a spear, sword, and shield in battle. The 16th and 17th centuries saw a major change and during the Thirty Years' War they fought as light cavalry and increasingly used firearms. [19]

The first hussar regiments comprised the light cavalry of the Black Army of Hungary. Under Corvinus' command, the hussars took part in the war against the Ottoman Empire in 1485 and proved successful against the sipahis (Ottoman cavalry) as well as against the Bohemians and Poles. After the king's death, in 1490, hussars became the standard form of cavalry in Hungary in addition to the heavy cavalry. The Habsburg emperors hired Hungarian hussars as mercenaries to serve against the Ottomans and on various battlefields throughout Western Europe.

Early hussars wore armor when they could afford it, as did the later Polish hussars. Hungarian hussars abandoned the use of shields and, at a later date, armor becoming entirely light cavalry in the first half of the 17th century. [20]

Polish hussars Edit

Initially the first units of Polish Hussars in the Kingdom of Poland were formed around 1500. [21]

The Polish heavy hussars of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were far more manoeuvrable than the heavily armoured lancers previously employed. The hussars proved vital to the Polish–Lithuanian victories at the Orsza (1514), the Obertyn (1531) and the Battle of Vienna (1683).

Over the course of the 16th century, hussars in Transylvania and Hungary became heavier in character: They had abandoned wooden shields and adopted plate-metal body armour. When Stephen Báthory, a Transylvanian-Hungarian prince, was elected King of Poland in 1576, he reorganised the Polish-Lithuanian Hussars of his Royal Guard along Hungarian lines, making them a heavy formation, equipped with a long lance as their main weapon. By the reign of King Stephen Báthory, the hussars had replaced medieval-style lancers in the Polish–Lithuanian army, and they now formed the bulk of the Polish cavalry. By the 1590s, most Polish–Lithuanian hussar units had been reformed along the same 'heavy', Hungarian model. Due to the same resemblance, the Polish heavy hussars came with their own style, the Polish winged hussars or Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth winged husaria.

In the Battle of Lubieszów, in 1577, the 'Golden Age' of the husaria began. Up to and including the Battle of Vienna in 1683, the Polish–Lithuanian hussars fought countless actions against a variety of enemies. In the battles of Byczyna (1588), Kokenhusen (1601), Kircholm (1605), Kłuszyn (1610), Trzciana (1629), Chocim (1673) and Lwów (1675), the Polish–Lithuanian hussars proved to be the decisive factor, often against overwhelming odds.

Until the 18th century, they were considered the elite of the Commonwealth's armed forces.

Croatian hussars Edit

Croatian hussar units, often designated simply as "Croats” (military unit), were raised from the Croatian-Slavonian Military Frontier and the Kingdom of Dalmatia, Croatia and Slavonia. [22] One notable captain and chief officer of hussars was Petar Keglević. [23] In 1578, Charles II took command of the Croatian and Slavonian Military Frontier and prepared written orders and rule of service for infantry (Haramije) and horsemen (hussars), using the Croatian language. [24] [25] The oldest written trace of the surname Husar in Croatia is from 1507 in Vinica where Petrus Hwzar (Petar Husar) was mentioned, in a document dated 1598 entitled "Regestum", mention was made of "hussar" at Lobor ("Castrum Lobor cum suis pertinentiis portiones magnificorum dominorum Joannis et Petri Keglyewich…“Blasius Hwszar, Inq(uilinus)”. A second reference to "hussar" appeared in 1613 from Krapina ("desertum Joannes Huszar de vinea cb – qr j”). [26]

Croatian hussars were irregular light horsemen characteristic of the Habsburg-Ottoman border area. Croatian units were not inevitably referred as "Croats" but it was the most commonly used name. In the Thirty Years' War other designations used were Wallachen, Uskocken, Raitzen, Granitscharen, Insulaner, Wenden, Polen, Türken i Zigeuner. Amongst the Croatian hussars could be found other ethno-political groups, such as Hungarians, Serbs, Albanians, Romanians, Poles, Vlachs and Cossacks. [27] Croatian hussars participated in the siege of Magdeburg which was led by Johann Tserclaes [28] as well as the sieges of Heidelberg, Frankenthal, Manheim, Breitenfeld, Lützen, Nördlingen, Wittstock and Breitenfeld. [29]

Between 1746 and 1750 four Grenz Hussar (border) regiments were established: the Karlovac, the Varaždin, the Slavonic and the Syrmia Regiments. The Croatian-Slavonic Grenz Hussars took part in the campaigns of 1793–94 against Revolutionary France [30] In 1751 Maria Theresa prescribed a distinctive hussar uniform. [31]

Hussars in the 18th century Edit

Hussars outside the Polish Kingdom followed a different line of development. During the early decades of the 17th century, hussars in Hungary ceased to wear metal body armour and, by 1640, most were light cavalry. It was hussars of this "light" pattern, rather than the Polish heavy hussar, that were later to be copied across Europe. These light hussars were ideal for reconnaissance and raiding sources of fodder and provisions in advance of the army.

In battle, they were used in such light cavalry roles as harassing enemy skirmishers, overrunning artillery positions, and pursuing fleeing troops. In many countries, the hussars and bosniaks actually retained their original Asiatic uniforms. In the late 17th and 18th centuries, many Hungarian hussars sought employment in other Central and Western European countries and became the core of similar light cavalry formations created there. Following their example, hussar regiments were introduced into at least twelve European armies by 1800. [32]

Bavaria raised its first hussar regiment in 1688 and a second one in about 1700. Prussia followed suit in 1721 when Frederick the Great used hussar units extensively during the War of the Austrian Succession. [33]

France established a number of hussar regiments from 1692 onward, recruiting originally from Hungary and Germany, then subsequently from German-speaking frontier regions within France itself. The first hussar regiment in the French army was the Hussars-Royaux (Royal Hussars), raised from Hungarian deserters in 1692. [34]

Spain disbanded its first hussars in 1747 and then raised new units of Húsares in 1795. The Húsares de Pavía were created in 1684 by the Count of Melgar to serve in Spanish possessions in Italy and were named after the Spanish victory over the French army at Pavia, south of Milan, Italy. During the battle, the King of France, Francis I, was captured by the Spanish Cavalry. The Húsares de Pavía fought in Italy during the War of Piedmont (1692–1695) and the War of Spanish Succession, it was transferred back to Spain. In 1719, the regiment was sent again to Italy until 1746.

Then, it served in campaigns against Algerian pirates and in the sieges of Oran and Algiers. During the Spanish War of Independence against Napoleon (1808–1814), the unit fought the Battles of Bailén, Tudela, Velez, Talavera and Ocaña and the actions of Baza, Cuellar, Murviedro and Alaquàs.

The Húsares de Pavía regiment also was involved in the Ten Years' War in Cuba, the Spanish–American War (1898), the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), and in the Campaign of Ifni (1958). Ifni was a Spanish colony in North Africa that was attacked by irregulars from Morocco. At present, this regiment is named Regimiento Acorazado de Caballería Pavía nr 4 (Cavalry armored regiment Pavia nr 4) and is garrisoned in Zaragoza (Spain).

Sweden had hussars from about 1756 and Denmark introduced this class of cavalry in 1762. Britain converted a number of light dragoon regiments to hussars in the early 19th century.

The Dutch Republic took a Bavarian regiment into service in 1745 (Regiment Frangipani). Several new regiments and corps were raised in 1747 and 1748, but eventually these existed only on paper. One regiment, the Statenhuzaren ('States' Hussars') remained, but was disbanded in 1752. In 1784, two free companies of hussars were raised, which were taken into service after 1787 and would become two full regiments. These would be united into one regiment in 1795, which would be the 2nd Regiment of the Kingdom of Holland in 1806, with a 3rd Hussars being raised that same year, as well as a Guard Hussars Regiment. The Guard Hussars would become the 2eme Regiment Chevaux-Legeres Lanciers of the Imperial Guard (The Red Lancers) after 1810 the 3rd was disbanded the 2nd being incorporated into the French line as the 11eme Regiment. After regaining independence, the new Royal Netherlands Army raised two hussar regiments (nrs. 6 and 8). They were disbanded (nr. 8 in 1830), or converted to lancers (nr. 6 in 1841). In 1867, all remaining cavalry regiments were transferred to hussar regiments. This tradition remains to this day, with the last surviving hussar regiment (Boreel's, 103rd and 104th reconnaissance squadrons) carrying on the tradition of all Dutch cavalry predecessors.

Russian Empire Edit

Russia relied on its native cossacks along with kalmyks and other nomads to provide irregular light cavalry until the mid 18th century. In 1707, Apostol Kigetsch, a Wallachian nobleman serving Russian Emperor Peter the Great, was given the task to form a khorugv ("banner" or "squadron") of 300 men to serve on the Ottoman-Russian border. The squadron consisted of Christians from Hungary, Serbia, Moldavia, and Wallachia. [35] In 1711, prior to the Pruth campaign, 6 regiments (4 khorugv's each) of hussars were formed, mainly from Wallachia. Two other 'khorugv', for guerilla warfare, were formed, one Polish and one Serbian, to battle the Ottomans. In 1723, Peter the Great formed a Hussar regiment exclusively from Serbian light cavalry serving in the Austrian army. On 14 October 1741, during the regency of Grand Duchess Anna Leopoldovna, four Hussar regiments, a Serbian (Serbskiy), a Moldavian (Moldavskiy), a Hungarian (Vengerskiy) and a Georgian (Gruzinskiy) were authorized. [35]

After the Russo-Turkish War (1735–39), these Hussar regiments were converted to regular service, voluntarily enlisted and not conscripted as the rest of the Russian army. They were on a level between regular and irregular cavalry. Hussars were recruited only from the nation indicated by the regiment's name, i.e., these regiments were national units in Russian service all troops (including officers) were national, and commands were given in the respective languages. Each regiment was supposed to have a fixed organization of 10 companies, each of about 100 men, but these regiments were recruited from different sources, so they were less than the indicated strength.

By 1741 the foreign hussars in Russian service had disbanded and reliance for light cavalry functions was again placed on the indigenous Cossack irregulars. In that year new hussar regiments were raised, now drawn from Orthodox Christian communities along the Turkish frontier. The newly raised Russian hussar units had increased to 12 regiments by the Seven Years' War. During the 1750s Serbian and Slovakian Orthodox communities and refugees, plus Poles and Hungarians, provided non-Russian recruits for the expanding hussars who evolved into a semi-regular corps of frontier light horse. [36] In 1759–60, three more Hussar regiments, were raised, the Yellow (Želtiy), the Macedonian (Makedonskiy) and the Bulgarian (Bolgarskiy).

Hussars of Frederick the Great Edit

During and after Rákóczi's War of Independence, many Hungarians served in the Habsburg army. Located in garrisons far away from Hungary, some deserted from the Austrian army and joined that of Prussia. The value of the Hungarian hussars as light cavalry was recognised and, in 1721, two Hussaren Corps were organised in the Prussian Army.

Frederick II (later called "The Great") recognised the value of hussars as light cavalry and encouraged their recruitment. In 1741, he established a further five regiments, largely from Polish deserters. Three more regiments were raised for Prussian service in 1744 and another in 1758. While the hussars were increasingly drawn from Prussian and other German cavalrymen, they continued to wear the traditional Hungarian uniform, richly decorated with braid and gold trim.

Possibly due to a daring and impudent surprise raid on his capital, Berlin, by the hussars of Hungarian general András Hadik, Frederick also recognised the national characteristics of his Hungarian recruits and, in 1759, issued a royal order which warned the Prussian officers never to offend the self-esteem of his hussars with insults and abuse. At the same time, he exempted the hussars from the usual disciplinary measures of the Prussian Army, such as physical punishments including cudgeling.

Frederick used his hussars for reconnaissance duties and for surprise attacks against the enemy's flanks and rear. A hussar regiment under the command of Colonel Sigismund Dabasi-Halász won the Battle of Hohenfriedberg at Striegau on May 4, 1745, by attacking the Austrian combat formation on its flank and capturing all of its artillery.

The effectiveness of the hussars in Frederick's army can be judged by the number of promotions and decorations awarded to their officers. Recipients included the Hungarian generals Pal Werner and Ferenc Kőszeghy, who received the highest Prussian military order, the "Pour le Merite" General Tivadar Ruesh was awarded the title of baron Mihály Székely was promoted from the rank of captain to general after less than fifteen years of service.

While Hungarian hussars served in the opposing armies of Frederick and Maria Theresa, there were no known instances of fratricidal clashes between them.

Hussar Verbunkos Edit

Verbunkos (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈvɛrbuŋkoʃ] other spellings are Verbounko, Verbunko, Verbunkas, Werbunkos, Werbunkosch, Verbunkoche) is an 18th-century Hungarian dance and music genre.

The name is derived from the German word werben that means, in particular, "to enroll in the army" verbunkos means recruiter. The corresponding music and dance were performed during military recruiting, which was a frequent event during this period, hence the character of the music. The verbunkos was an important component of the Hungarian hussar tradition. Potential recruits were dressed in items of hussar uniform, given wine to drink and invited to dance to this music.

Hussars of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars Edit

The hussars played a prominent role as cavalry in the Revolutionary Wars (1792–1802) and Napoleonic Wars (1803–15). As light cavalrymen mounted on fast horses, they would be used to fight skirmish battles and for scouting. Most of the great European powers raised hussar regiments. The armies of France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia had included hussar regiments since the mid-18th century. In the case of Britain, four light dragoon regiments were converted to hussars in 1806–1807.

The hussars of the period created the tradition of sabrage, the opening of a champagne bottle with a sabre. Moustaches were universally worn by Napoleonic-era hussars the British hussars were the only moustachioed troops in the British Army—leading to their being taunted as being "foreigners", at times. French hussars also wore cadenettes, braids of hair hanging on either side of the face, until the practice was officially proscribed when shorter hair became universal.

The uniform of the Napoleonic hussars included the pelisse, a short fur-edged jacket which was often worn slung over one shoulder in the style of a cape and was fastened with a cord. This garment was extensively adorned with braiding (often gold or silver for officers) and several rows of buttons. The dolman or tunic, which was also decorated in braid, was worn under it. The hussar's accoutrements included a Hungarian-style saddle covered by a shabraque, a decorated saddlecloth with long, pointed corners surmounted by a sheepskin.

On active service, the hussar normally wore reinforced breeches which had leather on the inside of the leg to prevent them from wearing due to the extensive time spent in the saddle. On the outside of such breeches, running up each outer side, was a row of buttons, and sometimes a stripe in a different colour. A shako or fur kolpac (busby) was worn as headwear. The colours of the dolman, pelisse and breeches varied greatly by regiment, even within the same army.

The French hussar of the Napoleonic period was armed with a brass-hilted sabre, a carbine and sometimes with a brace of pistols, although these were often unavailable. A famous military commander in Bonaparte's army who began his military career as a hussar was Marshal Ney, who, after being employed as a clerk in an iron works, joined the 5th Hussars in 1787. He rose through the ranks of the hussars in the wars of Belgium and the Rhineland (1794–1798), fighting against the forces of Austria and Prussia before receiving his marshal's baton in 1804, after the Emperor Napoleon's coronation.

In the British Army, hussar cavalry were introduced at a later date than in other major European armies. Towards the end of the 18th century, British light dragoon regiments began to adopt hussar style accoutrements such as laced jackets, pelisses and sabretaches. In 1805, four light dragoon regiments were permitted to use the "hussar" name, initially in parentheses after their regimental title, and adopted full hussar uniforms. British hussars were armed with, in addition to firearms, the highly regarded 1796-pattern light-cavalry sabre. [37]

There were several Russian regiments of hussars by the time of Napoleonic Wars and extensive use was made of them.


Who left these ancient sculptures of horsemen around the Pir Panjal range?

Horsemen of the Pir Panjal | Live History India

You must have heard of the 8,000-plus strong Terracotta Army of Xian, in China, but have you heard of the mysterious Horsemen of the Pir Panjal?

The Pir Panjal is a sub-range of the Great Himalayan mountain system that stretches from Murree in Pakistan to the Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh. Across the Pir Panjal were ancient trade routes connected by passes locally known as Galis. Strewn along these old trade routes through the passes, between the Kashmir Valley and Jammu, you will come across mysterious and spectacular sculptures of soldiers on horseback. Mostly unknown outside the region, these ancient sentinels are only known to trekkers and locals who make their way through here.

The horsemen and the manmade markers around the natural springs | Prashant Mathawan.

The Horsemen of the Pir Panjal are found mostly at the foot of the Galis or on the main Gali itself and they usually have a natural water spring and accompanying pond nearby. There is no doubt that these sculptures mark important strategic points on ancient routes that connected various villages in the Pir Panjal. These were probably markers to identify milestones or resting places for weary horses and men. However, little is known about who built them and when.

At the top of Ghora Gali, overlooking the scenic Gool area | Prashant Mathawan.

The sculptures are mostly of horsemen along with some other reliefs of what seem to be local Gods and Devtas. This has led to a fair bit of speculation. Locals believe that the horsemen were put here by the Pandavas from the Hindu epic Mahabharata when they visited the place millennia back. Others point to the attire of the horsemen and the unique geometric shapes, as motifs, to say that these horsemen may have Bactrian origins.

Reliefs of horsemen can also be seen on the base | Prashant Mathawan.

In the Jammu region these are found in the Ramban area of Jammu on the Sangaldan Gool road near Gool Village and also at Gadi Nalla and Nar area of Tehsil Gool and Sildhar area of district Reasi in Jammu. This area is also referred to as the Gool Gulabgarh area and lies at the point where the Jammu region gives way to the Kashmir region and as a consequence, has a mixed population of Dogri, Gujri and Kashmiri speaking people.

Out of these locations only the first is accessible by road, while the others require a hike up the mountains. The one near Gool Village is called Ghora Gali – an obvious reference to the horsemen sculptures. Locals claim that there are many other, off-the-road places where you can find such sculptures.

The horsemen come in different sizes and configurations | Prashant Mathawan.

The sculptures are very detailed and the horsemen come in different sizes even at the same site. Many of the sculptures have two or even three people astride the horse. Interestingly, all the horsemen appear to be armed and carry different kinds of weapons. They appear to be some kind of warriors of an army on a campaign and these structures are representations of that. Also, there are a few reliefs showing local deities and geometrical figures but overall, it’s the horsemen who dominate these sites.

Overview of the site from the Gool Sangaldan Road | Prashant Mathawan.

Take a look at the horsemen and you will see that they seem to be more Bactrian inspired than Indic, which is reflected in how the horsemen are dressed and the styling of the arms they carry. Even the figures of the deities etched on the stone slabs have little resemblance to contemporary deities. The geometric figures just add another element of mystique.

A semi-frozen pond on the site fed by a natural spring | Prashant Mathawan.

At the Ghora Gali site itself I counted well over 200 horsemen in various sizes and conditions. Some still standing, some broken, some lying flat on the ground and still others which appeared to be buried. Further excavation of the site will probably reveal more of these horsemen that have been completely buried over a period of time.

The horsemen with reliefs of local gods in the background | Prashant Mathawan.

It is amazing that there is such little published material on these horsemen. Worse is the neglect. Many of the magnificent horsemen sculptures have just fallen to the ground as their locations usually receive a lot of rain and snow. Astoundingly, at the Ghora Gali site, there was no board of the Archaeological Survey of India, and these sculptures are not even listed on the ASI website. The state Directorate of Archives, Archaeology and Museums had, however, listed this as a protected site in 1986. In fact, three of these horsemen were taken and put on display at the Shri Pratap Singh Museum in Srinagar.

The specimen kept at the Shri Pratap Singh Museum, Srinagar | Prashant Mathawan.

As of today, even the Ghora Gali site, which lies right on the road head, is a picture of neglect. More and more of these horsemen are falling over and getting destroyed. Though it seems there is something being done now to fence off the site to keep grazing livestock away. There is also talk of the Tourism Department promoting the site as a tourist spot along with other destinations in the area like the hot springs at Tatapani. Hopefully, with more visitors, these wonderful sculptures will get the attention they deserve from scholars and researchers, so that we can know more about these lost horsemen of the Pir Panjal.

This article first appeared on Live History India.


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