Buddhas of Bamiyan are historical Buddhist statue in Bamyan city of Afghanistan. They are the largest Buddha carving in the world. Statues has built in the years 500s. Exact building date of the statue is unknown. However according to some sources it is highly likely that built in the first quarter of 6th century. The large statue is about 174 feet tall. Gautama Buddha pictured on those statues and they have made with mud, sandstone and wood. It is located in Hindi Kush mountains of Bamyan.
History of Statues
Bamyan region shares similar destiny with Nuristan Forest. Statues got several attacks for different reasons but it was generally based on Islam-Paganism idols conflicts.
In early years after the built of statues, the region was controlled by kingdoms/countries which were believe in Buddhism and Tengrism. Both religions were not aggressive to each other. So statues has been protected for a long time. Buddhism was a common religion of the region.
However, in the 8th century, Muslims started to appear in Central Asia history. Especially Abbasid victory against Tang Dynasty in Kazakhstan made Islam influence to grow up in the region. After the Battle of Talas many Turkic tribes accepted Islam as religion.
Afghanistan also effected by Islam and many inhabitants accepted Islam as their religion. Muslims fought hard against paganism just a few years ago and they were not tolerating against statues and idols. (Many Muslims still call statues as “idols” today.) Turks were one of those strong tribes in Central Asia in 8th-13th century. They were controlling Afghanistan. Balkh city was one of their main city to manage the region.Buddhas of Bamiyan got many attacks by Turks during those centuries. However they haven’t destroyes statues completely.
Another Turkic empire was ruling the region between 16th-18th centuries. It was Mughal Empire. The founder of Empire Babur has ordered that statues to destroyed. However soon after that he has lost his life. It is unknown that statues has attacked by Mughal Empire, however there is a written proof of Babur’s order about ruining statues. Another Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb also wanted to ruin Buddhas of Bamiyan with artillery fires. However he didn’t achieve success.
In 13th century, Genghis Khan attacked to Bamiyan region. He destroyed two cities. Remains of Gholghola City and Zahak are still existing in the region. If you will travel Bamyan, we also recommend you to see those ruins. It is said that Genghis Han soldiers alsp damaged statues but they couldn’t destroy it completely.
In 18th Century, Turkic Khaganates lost the control of Afghanistan. Persian influence increased in the region. Persian King Nader Shah Afshar tried destroy statues with cannon fires. However he couldn’t destroy Buddhas of Bamiyan at all. Still… He damaged them seriously… Despite of being Iranian Nader Shah was also a member of a Turkic tribe in the east of Iran.
Before the civil war in Afghanistan, Taliban regime had no aggressive stance for statues. However after civil war began, their attitude has changed. Especially ofter Bamyan city has occupied by current Afghan government. Taliban has destroyed the statues after attacks which took place for several weeks.
Destruction of Buddhas of Bamiyan
Northern Alliance was a military front which has built against Taliban regime. They have started to control the Bamyan region when the civil war started. However after Taliban took over the region in 13th September, 1998.
After Taliban took over the region, a commander of them ordered statues to be destroyed. But destruction of Buddhas of Bamiyan took several weeks. It was the last decisive attack on statues. Taliban tried destroy statues with tank fires first. However they failed to destroy it. Then they have attacked statues with old Soviet MIG 21 fires. After plane attacks half of statues has destroyed. However the other half of statues couldn’t destroyed with artillery, anti-tank, anti-aircraft fires. Taliban regime placed several explosives to destroy statues and they finally succeeded in 2 March 2001. Almost every countries has condemned this incident.
Buddhas of Bamiyan Paintings
After the destruction of statues, new historical paintings revealed in the caves which appeared after the construction. Scientists has found that the findings has painted between 5th and 9th century. During the scientific works in the region, archaeologists also found another statue of Buddha in the region.
How to Travel Buddhas of Bamiyan
The closest city to statues is Bamiyan at the moment and luckily it has an airport. You can travel to Bamiyan through a plane from large cities of Afghanistan. We recommend you to hire someone, taxi or driver in this region to travel it. We recommend you to take a look at our places to visit list for Bamiyan.
Alternatively, you can always find busses to Bamiyan from any city of Afghanistan. Kabul is also very close to the city. You can firstly visit Kabul and then go to this city.