Kabul, Afghanistan -- There was universal outrage - even in the Muslim world - when the Taliban made good their threat to destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas in an act of religious piety on March 1 five years ago.
Just six months later, following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the US moved to topple the Taliban. But the damage wrought on the famous statues is permanent and, according to the UN cultural organisation UNESCO, there are currently no plans to rebuild them.
Buddhist monks carved the two statues standing 38 and 55 metres high out of the cliff face in the sixth century.
The niches cut out of the rock in which the huge Buddhas stood have been propped up to prevent collapse, remains of the statues have been collected and stored, and what was left of the wall paintings has been preserved.
There is little more that can be done, according to Afghanistan expert Christian Manhart of UNESCO's World Heritage Centre. "Reconstruction is not possible at this stage," he says.
There have been repeated proposals, mainly from Switzerland, to rebuild the statues. Permission from the Afghan government and the technical capability are lacking, but the main reason for the absence of progress is fund shortage, says Manhart. He estimates rebuilding to cost $30 million.
There is a cheaper alternative. Instead of carving the statues from stone as was done originally, they could be cast in concrete, but UNESCO has rejected this.
"Then we would be left with a kind of Bamiyan Disneyland, and not the original that was created by the efforts of the Buddhist monks," Manhart says.
James's comment: Personally I would like to see new statues built in concrete. I don't think that the original monks would be too concerned about starting over with the Buddhas since we Buddhists believe in rebirth and living in the present and not mourning too much for the past.
Besides I think that it would be a great symbol of the rebuilding, diversity and tolerance of the new Afghanistan.
That's my two cents worth anyway. :)
-Peace to all beings-
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Posted by They call him James Ure at 5:43 PM