Tamgaly Tas

Travelling around Asia is often associated with visiting Buddhist sites or temples. It is amazing but in Kazakhstan there is a place where it is possible not only to spend an exciting holiday but also to discover ancient symbols and ruins. And everything is not far from Almaty in the Ile valley.

Ile runs from Kazakhstan to China and returns to the country from the east. After nearly 800 kilometers' way, the Ile inflows to Lake Balkhash. As for the name, it might mean ‘shining water’ or ‘eastern’ in different languages, but the exact origin is unknown. The river used to serve the road to caravans with silk and other goods transported from the east to the west and back. Thus, the remains of settlements can be found over its banks. So, this is really an unusual travel destination in Kazakhstan.

One of the mysterious artifacts of the area is the rocks called Tamgaly Tas. The most impressive fact is that among numerous carvings on the stones’ surface several Buddha images can be noted. Most of the petroglyphs are ancient, but the Buddhism inscriptions and images are rather new in historical sense.

They may be dated the 17th century. According to some researches the signs and images were made by local pagan nomads that could have worshiped Buddha as one of the spirits due to the contacts with other peoples of the East.

Another approach, a legend to be more exact, says, that a thousand years ago a Buddhism mission was passing along the Ile river when an earthquake happened. A piece of rock fell and was taken as a sign of the necessity to return to India because three images of Buddha were engraved on its surface. Moreover, there is a stone with ancient Turkic and runic inscriptions, supposedly dated from the 8th to 9th centuries AD. Nowadays, Tamgaly Tas is protected by the government of Kazakhstan as a cultural heritage object, namely as an open-sky Buddhist temple. The researches of the stones date back to the middle of the 19th century when a Kazakh traveler and ethnographer Chokan Valikhanov made several sketches of the location. Later more detailed descriptions were performed. A certain similarity with religious objects in India, Nepal, China and Kyrgyzstan has been proven. The history of this place together with the Buddhas sitting on lotus flowers and symbols make it one of the known ‘places of power’ for those who seek mystical experience and meetings with supernatural forces.

One of the images is recognized as Nagarjuna, a Buddhist philosopher. The texts on some other rocks are performed in Manchu scripts. Despite its scientific value, the monument has been damaged over the years. The visible ruptures include gunshots residues, chips made with hard tools and graffiti. Perhaps, such spoilage made the government to establish the state protection of Tamgaly Tas and to transfer the control of the whole area to a private company with the purpose of developing recreation and tourism.

By the way, it is easy to get to this place taking up the following route. From Almaty one must take A-3 road and leave it for A350 road after 70 kilometers (to the north). After another 14 kilometers' drive, there is a turn to Bakanas (to the left). Then it is necessary to pass the Rescue service’s training range and go down to the valley. The Ile will be to the right. The neighbourhood is full of other sites such as the ruins of thousand-year-old caravanserais. It is recommended to take a several days’ trip to the area, because except historical spots a great number of natural attractions are available. The stay here is also connected with pleasant opportunity to have active holiday, eat organic food, including fish immediately out of the river or lakes, boating, climbing, jeep safari and watching birds and animals.

The best time to visit is work days, as the weekends attract a plenty of people from cities willing to have picnics and adventures in these magnificent places. Holidaymakers try to have a good time singing, driving cars and motorcycles, going rafting and boating. The Ile valley is also known as a habitat for the extinct Caspian tiger, which was last seen here in 1948. Besides, this place was chosen as a set for the Kazakh epic film Nomad: the Warrior. By the time it became the most expensive Kazakh film ever. The movie sets were left there and can still be observed.

It should be mentioned that in Kazakhstan there is a similarly named place Tamgaly, that is actually a quite different point. Presently, it is the UNESCO world heritage object. Its petroglyphs date back to the Bronze and Iron Ages. The site is located 170 kilometers to the north-west of Almaty. 2020may1