Bamiyan Buddhas of Afghanistan

Bamiyan Buddhas were two statues of Buddha standing, each carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan.
They stood in a valley that has witnessed many changes through the centuries. Apart from Buddhist monasteries, monks would live in carved out caves, carved out of big rocks. The Bamiyan Valley is full of these caves with many artistic works done, mostly devotional in nature of the walls which makes it a perfect example of The Land of Buddha.

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The construction of these two statues was started under the patronage of Emperor Kanishka in second century A.D and was finished around fifth century A.D. The height of smaller statue of Buddha was about 38m and that of larger one was of 55m.
It is learnt that the main bodies of the statue were made directly from the cliffs; other details were being modeled by stucco- a decorative coating used in sculptures.

This particular coating though wearied away long ago, was repainted to give expressions of face, hands etc. The larger statue was painted carmine red, while the smaller one was painted with multiple colors. The upper parts of their faces were made of wooden casts.
The lower part of the statues were made up of mud straw and supported by the wooden frames.

However the artistic and rich cultural heritage suffered a major setback in 2001 when Taliban leader Mullah Omar destroyed them in March 2001 as they were declared idols by then Taliban government.

When the Taliban government was thrown out of power in 2003, Bamiyan valley was declared as a world heritage site by the UNESCO and the archaeologists flocked it.

Now, a team of UNESCO and the other from International Council on Monuments and sites have joined hands together to restore the lost glory of Bamiyan valley.

Officials have also identified two-thirds of the statue from the debris which lies near the feet of the larger Buddha statue. It has been estimated however that the re-construction of one statue of Buddha would cost at least 30 million $.

Tons of metal have to be manufactured or imported for the reconstruction of the statue which would have to be transported along the rough terrains of Kabul region.

But last year UNESCO announced that it was no longer considering reconstruction of Buddha statue as there was not enough left of the reconstructing the larger statue, however rebuilding the smaller one is still possible.

Besides these two statues, an ancient passageway is cut into the cliff is lined up with many man-made caves, where once the followers of Buddha would come to worship. The cave walls were decorated and covered with colorful murals by the monks. But now about 80 percent of the cave paintings has been destroyed by the Taliban attack or have been stolen.

The cave paintings are believed to be the oldest oil paintings ever found as they depict the scenes from the ancient Buddhist mythology.

Now the monuments and archaeological remains of Bamiyan valley are public property, larger parts being in private ownership.

The archaeological remains of the Bamiyan valley represent the artistic developments which took place from 1st to 13th centuries.

Related Source: Buddhist Tour in India.

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