Taliban threaten to blow up Buddha statue
aditya at smart1.net
aditya at smart1.net
Sun Apr 20 14:23:17 UTC 1997
GHORBAND VALLEY, April 17: The Taliban have warned that they will
demolish a massive and ancient statue of Buddha if they advance into
enemy territory in central Afghanistan.
Dubbing the famous cliff carving "unIslamic," a senior Taliban commander
on Wednesday issued a simple warning about the fate of the "Big Buddha":
"We will blow it up."
Frontline commander Abdul Wahid told journalists the spectacular 55
metre high image would be dynamited if they managed to break through a
rival faction's lines, 10 km from here. He said the carving - set in a
huge niche in a sheer cliff face - was unIslamic as it represented an
"infidel" religion. It also bears a human image, which is forbidden by
The commander also denied the site - which has been the focus of major
restoration and archaeological work - was of any scientific or
historical value, and appeared determined to destroy it. "Our religion
is a heavenly religion and we have no need of these things here," Wahid
The site - once a key post on the ancient Silk Road, a major trading
route - lies in the Hezb-i-Wahdat faction stronghold of Bamian province,
a mere 60 km west of current Taliban positions.
The huge white-stone statue was built in the third or fourth centuries
after Christ, possibly by King Kanishka head of the now obscure Buddhist
Kushan empire who came from nearby central Persia and conquered large
parts of south and central Asia, including Afghanistan, archaeologists
Early Buddhist pilgrims flocked to the site to pay homage to the statue
for about four hundred years until the seventh century when new invaders
brought Islam to the area long after the Kushans had faded away.
The statue was, according to legend, originally ornately decorated with
gold and precious stones which were looted after the statue fell into
Little appears to have been written about the Buddha for many years,
until it was partially preserved by French archaeologists in the 1920s
and 1930s. The "Big Buddha" then became one of the symbols of
Afghanistan when the country opened up to international tourism in the
1960s and 70s, before civil war tore the country apart.
In addition to the large statue, the site also boasts a slightly smaller
carving 38 meters high, and is hailed by scholars as Afghanistan's most
impressive archaeological treasure. A maze of caves and tunnels crammed
with other Buddhist carvings and paintings were also carved into the
cliff face following the initial third to forth century construction of
the figures. An unexploded rocket-propelled grenade is now embedded in
the chest of the large Buddha, reportedly fired by a pre-Taliban fighter
during the war against the Soviet. But successive Afghan regimes seem to
have been unconcerned about harbouring massive Buddhist relics in the
? DAWN Group of Newspapers, 1997
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