Ancient Buddhist Kingdom of Afghanistan (Video Included)

Buddhas of Bamyan.

The Buddhas of Bamiyan were two 6th century monumental statues of standing buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, situated 230 km (143 miles) northwest of Kabul at an altitude of 2500 meters (8,202 ft). Built in 507, the larger in 554, the statues represented the classic blended style of Gandhara art.

The main bodies were hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs, but details were modeled in mud mixed with straw, coated with stucco. This coating, practically all of which was worn away long ago, was painted to enhance the expressions of the faces, hands and folds of the robes; the larger one was painted carmine red and the smaller one was painted multiple colors.

The lower parts of the statues’ arms were constructed from the same mud-straw mix while supported on wooden armatures. It is believed that the upper parts of their faces were made from great wooden masks or casts. The rows of holes that can be seen in photographs were spaces that held wooden pegs which served to stabilize the outer stucco.


They were intentionally dynamited and destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban, on orders from leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, after the Taliban government declared that they were “idols” (which are forbidden under Sharia law). International opinion strongly condemned the destruction of the Buddhas.

Learn more from Wikipedia.

Presentation on Conservation of Bamyan Buddhas.

After the liberation of Afghanistan, Jansen was one of the first to go to the Bamyan Valley along with other experts to inspect the damage in the spring of 2002.

In the past few years, around $1.5 million was used to stabilise the rocks. Experts saved the rock fragments with the help of historic pictures a 3-D computer animation of both Buddha figures, which has been prepared at RWTH Aachen University.  

“We have the method to repair the Unesco World Heritage. However, the question is: Should the Buddha statues be rebuilt?” Jansen said.  According to him, the governor of Bamyan wants to rebuild the statues. Yet, the Afghan government disagrees.

Read the full story in “Khaleej Times”

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8 Responses to Ancient Buddhist Kingdom of Afghanistan (Video Included)

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  3. Jill says:

    Throughly enjoyed reading this. Of course I had heard of the Buddhas getting blown up, but I didn’t realize they saved some of the pieces and could put it back together, I wonder if it will ever happen? I really enjoyed both videos, and watched them all the way through, I didn’t know that the Buddhas was in a valley, it was all very interesting.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Jill,
      Yes it is rather a big place, a real tourist attraction I feel, it is a shame they blew up the Buddhas. I don’t know if they will ever be rebuilt, but you can never tell what the future my hold.

  4. EternalForms says:

    I read about these statues a number of years ago – I don’t know, perhaps in National Geographic? Anyway, I had not heard that they were blown up. How sad! My educational background is in the comparative studies of religion and philosophy of religion and although I don’t ascribe to any one particular system of beliefs, I have always fancied my philosophy to be more akin to that of Buddhism. As such, I have an affinity for Buddhist structures and practices. Needless to say, what a bummer! It looks like an empty sarcophagus now. 😦

    It will be interesting to see if they can put the Buddhas back together. Hopefully they can be rebuilt in their entirety – if not in Afghanistan, maybe elsewhere!

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi EternalForms,
      When the statues got blown up, it was actually in some of our newspapers here in Australia as well as on the news on TV. Very sad indeed.

      That is a very interesting thought, putting the Buddhas back together somewhere else, even in a Museum perhaps, at least that would be something.

      Thank You for visiting and your comment.

  5. travelrat says:

    I often wonder if this destruction was through spite, rather than religious zeal. It’s theoretically possible to put them back together again … Abu Simbel, among many other Egyptian temples, was dismantled, and re-assembled on higher ground (and they had nothing to do with Islam, either) … but I think the Afghan government has more pressing business on its hands right now.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi travelrat,
      Oh I’m sure it was spite, a lot of money can be made from tourism, and by doing this I feel they have not done themselves any favours.

      Abu Simbel is a little bit different in the sense that it was precisely cut and put back together, a bit like an enormous jigsaw puzzle. The technology and engineering behind Abu Simbel is amazing, you can take a special tour to go behind the monument and see how it is all done, it really is astonishing.

      Totally agree, Afghan has a lot more pressing business, but I would love to see these monuments put back, hopefully in the future.

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