My thesis is based on the colossal Buddha statues at Bamiyan, Afghanistan, which were destroyed by Taliban in March 2001. The Buddha statues at Bamiyan were of historical significance and were considered both as national and international heritage. I will provide in-depth information on those statues and their historical and cultural importance. There will be an introduction part in the thesis. I will then discuss step by step how these statues gained prominence on the global arena and the events leading to their destruction.
The origin, history and other related events surrounding the Buddha statues at Bamiyan will be discussed in this paper. The main focus will be to find out why these statues were so historic and the qualities they had to gain such significance. In the end, I will provide a well-observed conclusion on the significance of these statues to the world community. Introduction Preservation of historic monuments with cultural significance is not only the responsibility of the state, but also it is the responsibility of the world community.
Order custom essay Essay about Thesis Statement with free plagiarism report
However, the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan clearly indicated that the historical monuments are vulnerable to such attacks and are in real danger. The giant Buddhas of Bamiyan were considered as wonder monuments by people across the globe. They were carved into a mountainside at Bamiyan in the heart of the Hindu Kush Mountains. The Buddhas were among Asia's great archaeological treasures. A Brief Background “During the medieval period, modern-day Afghanistan was a breeding place for Buddhist culture and art. It was strategically placed from the Silk route that saw flourished trade between the Roman Empire, China and India.
Bamiyan was a cultural center both in ancient and medieval period” (Rowland, 1960: 56). It made the region central to Buddhist history. Buddhism came into Afghanistan in the third century BC during the reign of Mauryan emperor Ashoka. The religion flourished further under the patronage of Kushans. “According to Huan-Tsang, the Chinese traveler, Bamiyan was a flourishing Buddhist center with many hundreds of monks living in the caves built around the Buddha statues” (Rowland, 1960: 61). The rulers of Kushan dynasty expanded their empire from China to India and Afghanistan.
They were responsible for bringing Buddhism to the soil of Afghanistan. They carved these beautiful wonders of the ancient world. Colossal Buddhas The Buddhas of Bamiyan were located in the Bamiyan valley of central Afghanistan. They were believed to be built in the fourth or fifth centuries. They represented the classic style of Greco-Buddhist art. There were two giant statues. “The larger one stood at 53 meters (125 feet). It was considered as one of the most wonderful representations of the Buddha in the world. The other statue stood at 38 meters. Both the statues were painted in gold and were decorated with glittering ornaments.
The entire structure of Buddhas of Bamiyan was a mixture of Greek, Persian and Central and South Asian art” (Rowland, 1960: 81). The architecture of the two grand statues was unique, as it differed from the sculptural traditions. The cliffs that housed the two main Buddha statues were 1300 meters long and 150 meters high. The taller statue was located at the far west of the cliff and the other one was located at the far east. Historians are still clueless on why such colossal statues were built. “Some believe that they were built by the Kushan rulers to attract attention and to gain supremacy over other countries in the world.
It was also argued by some historians that the main reason could be to propagate Buddhism in other parts of the world by attracting people to witness the beauty of these giant statues” (Flood, 2002: 56). Description about the Statues “The smaller Buddha was sheltered in a forte. It was carved out of the mass of the rock on three sides and stood with the right hand in the gesture of protection and the left in the gesture of charity” (Rowland, 1960: 83). The statue was built in such a way that voyagers considered the gestures shown by the statue as an assurance of protection from the dangers of travel.
“Both the statues were made with mud-plaster over a coating of lime plaster. They used to give a sense of naturalism and realism. The attributes found in the statues belonged to the style of ancient Gandhara art. The heads and the bodies of the statues were carved out of the sandstone cliffs. Due to lack of proper care and maintenance, the portions of the faces of the statues were destroyed. The hands of the statues were mutilated by some religious bigots who invaded Afghanistan several times” (Rowland, 1960: 84).
“According to Huan-Tsang, the taller Buddha was adored with bright gold dye and precious ornaments. Although both the statues had same style, the larger one was much younger than the smaller one. There were several slots with well decorated walls and ceilings within the shrines of the statues” (Rowland, 1960: 61). External Influence The paintings were executed in a unique manner. “The walls and ceilings were covered with mud mixed with straw and lime plaster. In the forte of the smaller Buddha, the ceiling had the image of the Sun-God on a chariot with the Buddha located below him.
The inclusion of the image of the Sun-God was indicated that Bamiyan was a cross-cultural region that was located on a road that was leading to different directions” (Rowland, 1960: 84). The painting at Bamiyan represented three different styles of art: Greco-Roman, Indian and Central Asian. “The portrayal of deities clearly indicated the use of these styles of art. The ceiling of the forte that carried the larger Buddha carried damaged human and divine figures. Indian influence could be easily detected in the divine figures engaged in religious conversation” (Rowland, 1960: 84).
The convergence of people from different regions was the main reason behind the emergence of Bamiyan as a center for art and culture. The rock-cut paintings around the statues at Bamiyan exhibit recurring themes of the Buddha and scenes of his life. “A Bodhisattva image appeared in the northern part of the forte that carried the larger Buddha. The Boddhisattva sat with crossed ankles on his throne that was adorned with jewelry and embroidered clothing” (Rowland, 1960: 85). Many paintings around the Buddha statues were vandalized by fundamentalist forces, as they considered Buddhism an alien religion.
Despite the damage made to the place, the beauty of the art continued to attract visitors and scholars to Bamiyan. Some of the beautiful sculptures found around the statues were domes, garlands, lotuses, trees and musicians. Preservation of the Statues The Afghanistan government was aware of the significance of these statues to its culture and heritage. Hence, it took several measures to protect these monuments. “Between 1969 and 1978, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) worked closely with the Afghanistan government to conserve the site of Bamiyan.
Efforts were made towards preserving and repairing the small Buddha and its forte and shrines. A tubular scaffold was constructed to support the statue's structure. A missing portion of the dome roof of a shrine was restored. Chemical treatment was applied to preserve the paintings around the statues” (Buckley & Rick, 2003: 61). Destruction of the Statues Although the Buddhas of Bamiyan were spared during the conquest of Mahmud of Ghazni in the 12th century, invaders like Aurangzeb, Genghis Khan and Nadir Shah used heavy artillery and cannon fire to destroy the statues.
However, they could not succeed in inflicting heavy damage on the statues. “Between 1999 and 2001, there have been much debate and discussions on the protection of the colossal statues. Afghanistan's Islamic clerics began a campaign to crack down on non-Islamic structures, music, imagery and sports. In March 2001, a decree was passed to destroy all the statues in and around Afghanistan, which symbolized idol worship” (Buckley & Rick, 2003: 69). The issue was given a political color when Afghanistan's foreign minister stated that the destruction was retaliation against the international community for economic sanctions.
“According to some reports, then Taliban rulers of Afghanistan were outraged after a foreign delegation offered money to preserve the Buddha statues at Bamiyan while a million Afghans faced starvation” (Buckley & Rick, 2003: 69). The Islamic government of Afghanistan took a serious note of this offer. That could be the immediate provocation behind the decision to destroy the statues. It was not easy to destroy the statues, as they were strongly built and were firmly attached to the mountain. “The Taliban forces used dynamite and tank barrages to demolish the monuments.
The intense bombing of the Budhhas at Bamiyan lasted for almost a month until the statues were completely destroyed” (Buckley & Rick, 2003: 70). Conclusion There is no doubt that the colossal Buddha statues at Bamiyan were international treasures that should have been preserved at any cost. However, that did not happen. The destruction of such a world heritage illustrates the need for international laws for the maintenance of sites and strict punishment of violators. The world community must take a vow that they will never allow such destructions to occur again.
The significance of the statues can be realized from the fact that despite the destruction caused by missiles, tankers and bombs, Bamiyan still remains as a unique example of the cross-cultural nature of Buddhist art. Bibliography: Rowland Jr, Benjamin. Gandhara Sculpture from Pakistan Museums. New York: Asia Society, 1960. Buckley, Mary & Rick Fawn. Global Responses to Terrorism 9/11, Afghanistan and Beyond. New York: Routledge, 2003. Flood, Finbarr Barry. Between Cult and Culture: Bamiyan, Islamic Iconoclasm, and the Museum. The Art Bulletin. Volume: 84. Issue: 4, 2002.
Did you know that we have over 70,000 essays on 3,000 topics in our database?