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Buddhism in the News


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Little Hope for Bamiyan Buddhas of Afghanistan

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-

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Dharmasattva said...

I agree that the Bamiyan Buddhas should be rebuilt in concrete. The UNESCO gentleman's comment about the Buddhist monks seems to reflect a misunderstanding of Buddhist thought. Two of the core principles of Buddhism is transience and non-attachment. As Buddhists we recognize that everything in the world is transient, and for this reason we practice letting go (non-attachment). If the Buddhas were rebuilt in cast concrete, and someone got all bent out of shape about it ("Oh, they're just not like the originals, you know. The essence of the originals was that they were hand-wrought stone carvings..."), that wouldn't be a very Buddhist way to react.

Adam said...

Well, if the significance of the Buddhas were in their history, making new ones wouldn't have much point from that perspective.

Johnny Newt said...

Dharmasattva is right, an excellent lesson in impermanence, even the great stone Buddhas must relinquish, fade and crumble.
I discovered a small statue of Jizo in one of our outer gardens placed there by a patron long ago he is so weathered and eroded that now he is little more than a odd shaped lump of stone. it is almost as if one of the garden stones sat up one day to perform zazen and vowing to remain until nirvana is revealed. It's one of my favorite statues.

theycallmemac said...

Here is an interesting article over at the New York Post about human's inate nature for alturism. Interesting read, something I think many Buddhist's have already known. But again, it's nice to see science supporting the ideas.
Peace everyone,

theycallmemac said...

Oops, almost forgot the link! hehe.

"James" said...


I agree.


Yes, however, history is looking and clinging onto the past which isn't a Buddhist teaching. We are to adjust to and accept change thus a new statue would reflect the changing times of samsara.

Johnny Newt:

I love that story of that worn down Buddha.

Mac: Thanks for the link!

"James" said...


What a brilliant article!!

Mrunmayee said...

The journey to Bamiyan can look rough, yet it offers ultimate scenes of metallic relics, mountains, ledges & rocks of diverse colors. The Buddhas ofBamiyan are fascinating statues along with some caves to explore. To explore more, refer:

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