A mysterious Sphinx-shaped structure known as the Balochistan Sphinx looms over the desolate, rocky, landscape of the Makran coastline in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. The region of Balochistan lies between Iran and Afghanistan on the west and India on the east, with the Arabian Sea bordering the south. This arid region of desert and mountains is primarily populated by the ethnic Baloch people who converted to Islam after the Arab occupation of the region.
No-one really knew about the existence of the Balochistan Sphinx before the Makran Coastal Highway opened in 2004, linking the city of Karachi with the port town of Gwadar on the Makran coast. The structure lies right alongside the highway, in close proximity to a number of other structures resembling temples and buildings. It takes nearly four hours by car to reach the Balochistan Sphinx from Karachi (240 kms) along the Makran Coastal Highway which meanders through a surreal landscape. The Sphinx is located within the Hingol National Park, where people occasionally come for day visits from Karachi.
When I first saw pictures of the Balochistan Sphinx and the surrounding areas, it looked to me as being a rock-cut archaeological site of great antiquity. However, I was surprised to find that, the journalists who wrote about the Balochistan Sphinx, routinely referred to it as a natural formation, even though no there is no evidence of any archaeological survey being conducted at the site. This was very strange, to say the least. How can any person – with even a little bit of interest in history or archaeology - look at this place and not feel a desire to investigate further? Why have archaeological excavations not been conducted here? And, on what basis are journalists calling this a natural formation? Are they simply guessing or have they been instructed to refer to it that way?
I first wrote about the Balochistan Sphinx in a blog post in 2017, where I brought attention to the many peculiarities of the site, and since then more people have become interested in the place, even though an official survey has not yet been done. A cursory glance at the Sphinx shows that it has a well-defined jawline and discernible facial features such as eyes, nose and mouth. The Sphinx wears a head-dress that closely resembles the Nemes head-dress of the Egyptian pharaoh. The Nemes head-dress is a striped head cloth that covers the crown and back of the head. It has two large, conspicuous flaps which hangs down behind the ears and in front of the shoulders. The ear-flaps of the Nemes head-dress can be clearly seen on the Balochistan Sphinx. The Sphinx also has a horizontal groove across the forehead corresponding to the pharaonic head-band that holds the Nemes head-dress in place. We can even make out the contours of the reclining forelegs of the Sphinx, terminating in well-defined paws.
In other words, this is not just any other rock formation that bears somewhat of a resemblance to an animal. It is a very realistic rendition of the Sphinx – a well-known legendary animal that is found in the art and archaeology of many ancient cultures.
What is really intriguing about this site is not just Sphinx itself, but the surrounding structures, all of which give the impression of being carved by the hands of man. Let’s look at the elevated platform on top of which the Sphinx is located. One can easily make out pillars, niches and a symmetric crosshatch pattern carved on this platform, just as you would expect in any temple complex. There are a series of steps leading to site. The steps, and in fact the entire site, has been covered by sediment and heavily eroded.
Some people look at the Sphinx and associated structures and say it is “pareidolia.” In case you didn’t know, pareidolia is the phenomenon of seeing familiar objects and patterns where none exists. It is the easy way out for those who don’t want to do the hard work of surveys and excavations. If pareidolia was even a "thing" in archaeology, then none of the Mesoamerican pyramids - as well as many other archaeological structures from around the world - would have been discovered, for they had turned into mounds of earth, and were completely unrecognizable until the hands of man cleared away the mud. The only logical thing to do when you see a place like this is to conduct full-scale surveys and excavations. And that, unfortunately, has not yet been done here.
Now onto the surrounding structures. Very close to the Sphinx, situated on top of the same platform is a large temple-like structure, with a symmetrical spire. The Sphinx appears to be looking in the direction of the temple, and acting as its protector. Close by there are two more structures which look man-made. One resembles a small temple, resembling the typical rock-cut temples of India, and the other seems to be a megalithic building.
Let’s look at these structures a bit more closely. The structure closest to the Sphinx appears to be large temple with a flat-topped spire. I am calling it the Sphinx Temple, since the Sphinx appears to be looking in the direction of the temple, functioning as its protector. In sacred architecture, the Sphinx always performed a protective function. The Egypt, the Sphinx faces the eroded ruins of the Old Sphinx Temple which dates to the time when the Sphinx was built. The limestone blocks used to build the walls of the Old Sphinx Temple came from the ditch surrounding the Sphinx. When the Sphinx was being carved out of the bedrock, workmen hauled away the quarried blocks to construct the temple.
In India, the Sphinx appears in the early Hindu-Buddhist art of Central and North-west India from the 1st century BCE onwards. Its primary position was near the temple gateway, acting as a guardian of the sanctuary. However, figures of sphinxes were sculpted all over the temple premises including the entrance gates, halls and near the central shrine. In one of its forms, it crouches or stands in front of a miniaturized temple, indicating that it is a protector of the temple.
A closer look at the Sphinx Temple of Balochistan shows evidence of pillars carved on the walls. The temple entrance may be concealed behind a large pile-up of sediment in front. It seems there are one or more figures carved on the façade of the temple, above the entrance. These figures may have been intended as “dvarapalas” i.e. door guardians. In Hindu-Buddhist temples, dvarapalas are giant figures who stand guard in pairs on either side of the temple entrance. The Sphinx Temple of Balochistan actually looks similar to the flat-topped entrance towers, called gopurams, of the temples of Southern India.
Close to the Sphinx Temple, there is a smaller temple-like structure on top of the elevated platform. This temple has clearly defined pillars and a spire, and looks very similar to the rock-cut temples of ancient India. For anyone who is familiar with Indian architecture, it hard to believe that this is not man-made.
In addition to these two temples, there are a number of interesting structures in lying in close proximity to the Sphinx. Some of them resemble palaces, while other look like rectangular megalithic buildings. It is inconceivable how such symmetric structures can be produced through random processes of erosion. Here are a few such structures, which are routinely passed off as natural formations by journalists.
Right next door to the Balochistan Sphinx there is another prominent landmark of the Makran coast called the “Princess of Hope”. The name was coined by Angelina Jolie who had visited the Hingol National Park in 2002 as a UN Goodwill Ambassador. She thought that the structure resembles a crowned and skirted female figure looking toward the horizon. However, in my opinion, the structure looks more like a heavily eroded watchtower or temple spire. A drone view of surrounding landscape shows how surreal it is, with pillars and geometric patterns everywhere you look.
There are a few interesting YouTube videos made over the past few years which provide a good sense of what is going on that area. This video (click here) of a drive along the Makran Highway is an excellent place to start. As you cross the Buzi Pass, the scenery suddenly changes for a distance of around 2-3 kms (till 3:30 min in the video) when all kinds of surreal and apparently man-made structures start popping into view. It is almost as if this was an ancient city, with the Balochistan Sphinx located at its extremity. If this was solely the work of nature then why would be restricted to a specific area? Humans, on the other hand, tend to build their buildings in clusters. Some interesting drone footage of the Sphinx and Princess of Hope can be seen in this video (click here) shared by Juliette Jean, who also references my blog post. This video (click here) gives a good virtual tour of the Princess of Hope area where one can easily spot rock cut caves, balconies, and regularly spaced pillars.
Many people from Balochistan and Pakistan who have visited the Balochistan Sphinx site are of the opinion that the Sphinx is such an imposing and majestic structure, and looks so lifelike, that it is most likely man-made, in addition to all the other structures nearby. My opinion, based on all the images and videos I have seen online, is on similar lines. There was, probably, a large ancient city here, which was devastated by cataclysms and subsequently suffered extensive erosion.
Geologists have observed that the hills around the Makran coastline are covered with sea shells, which indicates that the place was once inundated by sea water. This is not surprising since the Makran coast of Balochistan is a seismically active zone, which frequently produces enormous tsunamis. It is reported that the earthquake of November 28, 1945, with its epicenter off the coast of Makran, caused a tsunami with waves reaching as high as 13 meters at some places. Moreover, a number of active mud volcanoes are strewn along Makran coastline, with a bunch of them concentrated within the Hingol National Park, near the delta of the Hingol River. Intense earthquake activity triggers the mud volcanoes to erupt, which can spew staggering amounts of mud drowning the surrounding landscape. Sometimes, mud volcano islands appear in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Makran, which are dissipated by wave action within a year.
This tells us that the Balochistan Sphinx complex may have been ravaged multiple times by powerful earthquakes and destructive tsunamis which dumped tons of sediments on the structures before the waters receded. Subsequently, wind and water erosion did its job. The actions of humans and nature appear to have combined to create this surreal landscape, which seems to be hiding a lost city of unknown antiquity.
The question is, if this site or ancient city is man-made, how old is it? We know that the Indus Valley Civilization extended along the Makran coastline and its westernmost archaeological site was Sutkagen Dor, situated near the Iranian border. Therefore, some of these structures could have been built thousands of years ago, during the Indus Period (c.3000 BCE). It could be even older than that, and may have been built by some pre-Indus culture. The site may have been constructed in phases, starting from a very remote period. Perhaps, it was on the mountains of the Makran coast that the Indus artisans honed and perfected their architectural and rock cutting skills, which were later transported to the Indian civilization.
During the historical period, the Makran region was regarded by the Arab chroniclers as the “frontier of al-Hind” i.e. the frontier of India. The sovereignty of parts of the region alternated between Indian and Persian kings from the early historical period. In the decades preceding the Muslim raids, Makran was under the dominion of a dynasty of Hindu kings, who had their capital at Alor in Sind.
When the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang visited Makran in the 7th century CE, he noted that the script which was in use in Makran was “much the same as India”, but the spoken language “differed a little from that of India”. Historian Andre Wink writes that:
“The same chiefdom of Armadil is referred to by Hiuen Tsang as O-tien-p’o-chi-lo’, located at the high road running through Makran, and he also describes it as predominantly Buddhist, thinly populated though it was, it had no less than 80 Buddhist convents with about 5000 monks. In effect at eighteen km north west of Las Bela at Gandakahar, near the ruins of an ancient town are the caves of Gondrani, and as their constructions show these caves were undoubtedly Buddhist. Traveling through the Kij valley further west (then under the government of Persia) Hiuen Tsang saw some 100 Buddhist monasteries and 6000 priests. He also saw several hundred Deva temples in this part of Makran, and in the town of Su-nu li-chi-shi-fa-lo - which is probably Qasrqand- he saw a temple of Maheshvara Deva, richly adorned and sculptured. There is thus very wide extension of Indian cultural forms in Makran in the seventh century, even in the period when it fell under Persian sovereignty. By comparison in more recent times the last place of Hindu pilgrimage in Makran was Hinglaj, 256 km west of present day Karachi in Las Bela.”
Thus, as per the accounts of Hiuen Tsang, even in the 7th century CE, the Makran coast was dotted with hundreds of Buddhist monasteries and caves, as well as several hundred Hindu Temples, including a richly sculpted temple of Lord Shiva. What happened to these caves, temples, and monasteries of the Makran coast? Were they all destroyed during the Arab raids? Or is it possible that some remnants of them have survived? And having become highly eroded and covered with sediment, they are being passed off as natural formations?
It is a mystery, therefore, why an official archaeological survey has not yet being conducted at this place, when the signs of human civilization are so obvious. Could it be due to a lack of funding? Balochistan is an impoverished place, and from the conversations I had with some academics of the region, there are no trained archaeologists in Balochistan to carry out a scientific survey. The onus is on Pakistan, and from what I have heard, archaeological explorations in Pakistan are heavily underfunded, with many known Indus sites still remaining unexcavated. However, funding cannot be a such big issue for a preliminary survey to be done here. Some people think that the Balochistan Sphinx is a dangerous place to visit because of the Baloch insurgency that has been going on for many years, which is why official surveys are risky. That is not really true, because people from Karachi routinely travel along the Makran highway, and they have told me that it is quite safe to travel to the Sphinx, since the insurgents are not active along this route. The other issue is that, this region falls under the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) and is under the control of the Pakistan army. However, I do not see why that should hinder an official survey, although it could be difficult for foreigners to roam around freely here.
So what is going on? Could it be that the people in authority are already aware that this is a very ancient site which could topple the chronology of civilization in South Asia, or in fact, the entire world, and are deliberately trying to cover it up? It’s a possibility that cannot be ruled out. Some recent contacts have told me that they are not being allowed by the army to walk up to the Sphinx and explore the surrounding ruins, with the excuse that it could “endanger” these natural formations. So, not only are official surveys not being conducted, ordinary people not being allowed to explore the site freely, and the media is being instructed to refer to these astonishing monuments as “natural formations”. All the signs of a deliberate cover-up seem to be in place. It is an unfortunate reality of our times that many people in power misuse their authority to hide and distort the truth. The only possible way this situation can be salvaged is if international attention can be drawn to these monuments, appropriate pressure is exerted on the government of Pakistan through petitions and other means, and international bodies like the UNESCO are alerted and convinced to conduct a much-need archaeological survey of the site, so that the truth can emerge.
 Allen Winston, "The Old and New Kingdom Sphinx Temples at Giza", http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/sphinx3.htm
 Sphinx in Indian Art <http://www.chidambaramhiddentreasure.com/sphinx-indian-art/>
 André Wink, Al-Hind: The slave kings and the Islamic conquest (BRILL, 1991) 132-133
 André Wink, Al-Hind: The slave kings and the Islamic conquest (BRILL, 1991) 135.