The main reason to visit Tagtabazar is the Ekedeshik cave settlement in the sandstone hills north of the town. ‘Ekedeshik’ means ‘single entrance’.
The place is fascinating, with more than 40 visitable rooms, on two levels. Close to the entrance, the custodian will lift a metal plate from the floor to reveal a steep staircase descending to further, lower, levels, which are in too unsafe a state to be visited. From the entrance, a central barrel-vaulted passage, sloping gently upwards, heads into the hill for some 37m. Off this lead entrances to small rooms on either side. Many of these have circular ‘wells’ in little adjoining chambers. Cuttings in the walls would have once accommodated candles. One room off the main corridor seems to have had a particularly distinguished occupant or prestigious role, for its entrance is topped by a carved lintel, and its vaulted ceiling bears rectangular carved panels. Reeds have thoughtfully been laid along the floor of the central corridor, to keep down the dust.
Among the first people to map the caves was one Captain F de Laessoe, who included a sketch in an article carried in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society for 1885. De Laessoe’s investigations into the caves and ruins at Panjdeh were, however, brought to an early and sudden end by the Russian advance. There is an ongoing debate about the identity of the builders of the caves. Some scholars believe that they were constructed by early Christian communities. Others suggest that the complex might have been a Buddhist monastery. And of course there are many local legends about the place, including rumours of a subterranean passageway heading into Afghanistan.
There are several smaller cave complexes nearby, including one known as Bashdeshik (‘Five Entrances’), but these places, many of which have not been systematically explored, are of more specialist interest.