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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In praise of … the Bamiyan Buddhas: The Guardian Editorial

In praise of … the Bamiyan Buddhas
These statues were a reminder of a more beguiling version of Afghanistan than Mullah Omar pressed upon his people

The Guardian, Thursday 10 March 2011
Article history
They stood 55 metres and 38 metres high, the colossal Buddhas of Bamiyan, and blowing up the bigger statue took 25 explosions and all the dynamite local commanders had. Afghanistan's Taliban demolished these two "shrines of the infidels" 10 years ago this month on the grounds that they were idolatrous. But the world's largest Buddhas, carved into the sandstone cliffs of Bamiyan in the sixth century AD, were also a reminder of a different and more beguiling version of Afghanistan than Mullah Mohammed Omar pressed upon his people. Bamiyan was a staging post on the Silk Road that carried goods and ideas all the way from China to Rome, and Buddhism came to Afghanistan as an export from the Indian subcontinent. Religious monuments have been regular victims of intolerance throughout history – but there was something peculiarly bloody minded about the destruction of these statues. It was done amid Afghanistan's worst drought in 30 years, while three million people faced starvation. Taliban commanders gave their orders as a show of defiance against the imposition of more UN sanctions, despite the pleadings of Kofi Annan and countless other world leaders. Almost as soon as the statues were reduced to rubble, repeated promises have been made to restore them. German scientists are now talking about putting the smaller Buddha back together again. But they also note "practical and political" obstacles to doing so – a phrase that seems to have the due combination of sadness and sobriety.


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