Shadow of the Colossus: The Bamiyaan Buddha

Bamiyan Buddhas were two 6th-century monumental statues of standing Buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamiyan valley in Afghanistan. These statues held the world record of being the tallest statues of standing Buddha, until they were demolished by the Taliban in 2001. 

Recently, the people of Bamiyan valley in Afghanistan saw something that they never imagined would be possible. On 14th June, a group of 3D Laser technicians projected the image of Bamiyan Buddha over the demolished cliff where it used to be. 

The Colossal Giants in 1832



FLASHBACK.

YEAR 507 AD


It has been over 2 centuries since the fall of the Kushan Empire in Afghanistan, and now it is ruled by the White Huns. Islam is yet to invade this land and several communities of different ethnicities reside here. Buddhism however is the most prevalent of all the religions right now. 

Located on the Silk Road, Bamiyan is a much travelled route, with several caravans of traders and monks passing through. The White Huns and many monks living here decide to pay a tribute to their god with their grand offering -- A colossal idol of their Lord; Buddha.

The first idol is carved in the year 507 AD, while an even bigger one is carved in the year 554 AD. And suddenly, this small valley becomes a pilgrimage for thousands of people traveling to pay their respects to Lord Buddha.

In 629 AD, Chinese traveller Xuanzang described Bamiyan as a bustling centre with tens of thousand of monks. Even an earlier Muslim visitor was impressed;
"The people of India [i.e. non-Muslims] go on pilgrimages to these two idols, bearing with them offerings, incense and fragrant woods.  If the eye should fall upon them from a distance, a man would be obliged to lower his eyes, overawed by them."

FAST FORWARD.

YEAR 2001 AD

The Giants in the back with the Bandits in the front.


February.

The Soviet Russia has fallen apart, and Taliban controls Afghanistan now. 9/11 is yet to happen in 7 months. According to Mullah Mohammad Omar, a group of historians approached him, proposing a grant to repair the Idols that were vandalised by an Afghan king Abdul Rahman Khan. When Omar asks them to use the money for other causes like feeding the poor, the group refused and left. 

Mullah Omar declares that the idols would be demolished as a protest to the outside world who neglect Afghanistan's humanitarian causes. The whole world tries to convince Omar to not go ahead with this. Where Japan is ready to pay as much as money, and India proposes to buy the idols and transport them into New Delhi, many other countries come up with a solution. But Taliban is not listening.

On March 2, 2001, Mullah Omar ordes the demolition of both idols. The idols are rigged with explosives, mines and fired upon by anti tank and aircraft guns. It took Taliban around a month to completely demolish the idols. As a Taliban leader stated;
"This work of destruction is not as simple as people might think. You can't knock down the statues by shelling as both are carved into a cliff; they are firmly attached to the mountain."
Nevertheless, the idols are gone and now Afghanistan is a target of a global outcry. Now Omar changes his stance and tells the world that the idols were demolished because they were anti islamic;
"Muslims should be proud of smashing idols. It has given praise to Allah that we have destroyed them. We are destroying the statues in accordance with Islamic law and it is purely a religious issue" 


Before and After.


BACK TO THE PRESENT.

YEAR 2015 
JUNE 14




A Chinese couple Janson and Liyan Hu take permission from the Afghanistan Government and UNESCO to use the site for a light and sound show ONLY FOR ONE NIGHT.

The event is not publicised yet around 150 people are gathered at the Bamiyan valley. The evening grows darker and the imported 3D Laser projector starts. The empty cave that housed the giant Buddha once suddenly lights up and people see the Colossal Buddha in his full glory. The event goes on for about an hour and people celebrate right at the spot.


THE SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS.

YEAR 2001 


March.

The dust from the explosion settled and the Talibans cheered with joy as the Buddhas were completely demolished. Their month long hard work had finally paid off. "Praise the all mighty Allah!" they all yelled in unison.

But there was something odd about those empty caves that housed the Buddhas. What was it? Or, what were those things?

Turned out, there were many hidden caves behind those idols inside the mountains. After counting, the number went over 50. 

Yes, over FIFTY ancient caves were discovered, thanks to that demolition. Explorers found beautiful wall paintings in those caves, dating back from 6th to 9th century. 

It is believed that they are the oldest known surviving examples of oil painting, predating oil painting in Europe by as much as six centuries. The discovery may lead to a reassessment of works in ancient ruins in Iran, China, Pakistan, Turkey and India.

The Hidden Treasure

The giants were hiding an even more valuable treasure behind them.

In those caves, the explorers also found the translation of the beginning section of the original Sanskrit Pratītyasamutpāda Sutra translated by Xuanzang that spelled out the basic belief of Buddhism and said all things are transient.

As if the Colossuses knew their fate.

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