- March 31, 2022
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
Subject: Art & Culture
Section: Ancient India
Context- The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has said it would protect the ancient Buddha statues in MesAynak, also the site of a copper mine where the Taliban are hoping for Chinese investment.
- The Taliban’s position is in marked contrast to the time they ruled Afghanistan earlier, when, in the face of global outrage, they brought down the centuries-old Buddha statues in Bamiyan using artillery, explosives, and rockets.
- The apparent change of heart over the MesAynak statues seems to be driven by economic interests, with the regime in desperate need of the income Chinese investment in the copper mines could generate.
- In their Roman draperies and with two different mudras, the Bamiyan Buddhas were great examples of a confluence of Gupta, Sassanian and Hellenistic artistic styles.
- They are said to date back to the 5th century AD and were once the tallest standing Buddhas in the world.
- Salsal and Shamama, as they were called by the locals, rose to heights of 55 and 38metres respectively, and were said to be male and female.
- Salsal means “the light shines through the universe”; Shamama is “Queen Mother”.
- The statues were set in niches on either end of a cliffside and hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs.
The significance of Bamiyan:
- The Bamiyan valley, in the Hindu Kush mountains in the central Highlands of afghanistan and along the river Bamiyan, was a key node of the early Silk Routes, emerging as a hub of both commercial and cultural exchange.
- When the Buddhist Kushan Empire spread, acting as a crucible of sorts, Bamiyan became a major trade, cultural and religious centre.
- As China, India and Rome sought passage through Bamiyan, the Kushans were able to develop a syncretic (mix) culture.
- In the rapid spread of Buddhism between the 1st to 5th centuries AD, Bamiyan’s landscape reflected the faith, especially its monastic qualities.
Taliban’s destruction of the Buddhas:
- The hardline Taliban movement, which emerged in the early 1990s, was in control of almost 90 per cent of Afghanistan by the end of the decade.
- The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas was part of this extremist culture.
- In February 2001, the Taliban declared its intention to destroy the statues, despite condemnation and protest from governments and cultural ambassadors’ world over.
The aftermath of the destruction:
- The Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas met with global criticism, many of whom saw it as a cultural crime not just against Afghanistan but also against the idea of global syncretism.
- India offered to arrange for a transfer and safeguarding of the artefacts.
- Following the fall, UNESCO included the remains in its list of world heritage sites in 2003, with subsequent efforts made to restore and reconstruct.