Bamiyan; the Holy Harem of the Ancient Buddhist World
Bamiyan; the Holy Harem of the Ancient Buddhist World
When the Great Emperor of the Koshani Family, Kineshka, adopted Buddhist religion around 120 A.D, a new civilization was born and was expanding in the ancient Afghanistan, which then was named as the Greeco Buddhist Civilization in our country. This civilization not only had had the artistic beauty of the ancient Greece but also had the characteristic of enfolding the Buddhist Spirituality in it. The most valuable aspect was that it had been emerged in the Afghan environment and turned into a unique civilization that the ancient world had ever had.
The Greeco Buddhist Civilization had rooted and grown in the ancient Afghanistan and transmitted to the neighboring regions and countries. Buddhism had been considered as an unmoving belief only confined in the boundaries of India before The Great Kineshka adopted it as a religion. The artists from ancient Greece also had specific problems with the inculcation of their artistic beauty into eastern imaginations. During the reign of Kineshka, such problems were solved and removed by Afghan artists and experts so that the Greek Art and the Indian Spirituality were inculcated into each other. This resulted in the emergence of an historical civilization, and movement and the structure of a new civilization started.
The Greeco Buddhist Civilization had shed its comprehensive influences on the ancient society of Afghanistan. These impacts were not limited to the boundaries of Afghanistan but also spread over the region from Japan, Korea, and China to Iran and Sistan, and from India and Sri Lanka to Sear River and Tajikistan. A large number of Buddhist monks, visitors and tourists from different parts of the world travelled to Afghanistan to visit the Buddhist shrines and temples, especially the holy places and sanctuaries of the Buddhist era in ancient Bamiyan.
The most ancient records still available about Bamiyan were written by Chinese Visitors. Fahyaan was the first Chinese visitor who had written about Bamiyan. He visited Bamiyan Valley in 400 A.D and wrote valuable information about the Great Statues. He wrote that Bamiyan Valley had been green and clean and the surroundings of the Great Statues had been washed every day. There had been a large number of Buddhist religious schools or Madrassas and visitors and traders had been travelling to the area. There had been special monasteries built for Buddhist priests and monks, and separate places for quadrupeds and animals.
Another Chinese visitor, following Fahyaan, was Hyuntsing who had travelled to Afghanistan and visited Bamiyan Valley in 600 A.D. According to his records, there had been more than ten monasteries with around thousand preachers appointed to preach Buddhist religion. There had been tens of Buddhist schools (Madrassas) with at least a thousand students in each school. Hyuntsing had seen various small and large statues. He also had seen a statue whose color turned golden with sunshine every morning and looked like it had been made of gold. After Hyuntsing, A Korean visitor has enough information about Bamiyan. He (The Korean visitor) travelled to Bamiyan in 727 A.D, and wrote about the existence of the followers of Buddhism.
After the citations of the mentioned visitors, there had been no trustful records written for about three hundred years. Some historians, namely Tebri, Yaqubi, and Alberoni, have mentioned the Great Statues of Bamiyan in their writings. The statues of Bamiyan were mentioned once again when the insurgents of Tamuchin (Chengiz) tried to reach their arrows to the tops of the Great Statues but failed to shoot the top of the statues. During the seventeenth century, Orangzib’s army destroyed the face of the Great Statue by firing cannons at it.
During the first Anglo-Afghan battle, Lady Sill had some publications about Bamiyan and the Buddhist Statues located there. In 1819 Brunce reached Bamiyan and wrote many articles about Buddhist Statues and other paintings in Bamayaan and published them in various publications. Charles Mason saw the Great Statues of Bamiyan in 1835 and ascertained the existence of a path in the middle of these statues through which the visitors reached the tops of them in the ancient times. Captain Metland travelled to Bamiyan during 1924 – 1922 and conducted researches on the structure and partitions of the Great Statues. These researches attracted the attention of many archeologists after they were published.
Since the start of the official researches and explorations (1922), the Great Statues of Bamiyan were first taken under research and exploration in 1922 by a French archeologist, Alfred Foch. He thinks these statues are similar to those Indian Raruti Statues. He has explained in his researches that two Buddhist Great Statues, called Sal Saal and Shamama, were sculpted in the fourth and fifth centuries. The scientific research and exploration were first started by the French archeologists. And later archeologists from other countries, such as Indians, Japanese, Chinese, and Afghans, also conducted researches on the Great Statues of Bamiyan.
The ancient monuments of Bamiyan are the valuable samples of the Grego Buddhist, especially of Gandhara, art. Unfortunately, these monuments have faced intentional and accidental losses and damages during the recent twenty years. In 1996, famous French weekly, L. Xpress, wrote about the great statues and other ancient monuments of Bamiyan: “in the lower part, the place where the feet are placed, of the Great Statues where a path is dug into other caves, are now placed Kalashnikovs, rocket launchers, and other various bullets and ammunition by different commanders. The holy harem of the ancient Buddhists was then being used as an unorganized military deposit which had the danger of explosion and the ancient monuments could be eradicated at any moment. The paintings and drawings placed around the statues for decoration were either completely destroyed or displaced by firings from their original locations. There are no steps taken to prevent the historical monuments from destruction but the only thing that can be seen at the site is the ugly and unfavorable writing which says: “Commander Din Mohammad and Commander Humayoun, Jowzjan Province, 1995”. Anyway, the protection of the ancient monuments in Bamiyan was ended with the start of the long tragedy. In 2001, Afghanistan lost two of the most valuable honors as a tremendous tragedy in the history of Afghanistan. The two Great Statues which had survived for about fifteen hundred years were finally exploded and destroyed by The Taliban as a result of the outsiders’ conspiracy.
Now that the Great Statues of Bamiyan have been destroyed, UNESCO has recognized and included the ancient site of Bamiyan as an international cultural heritage as well as undertaken some projects for the protection of the remaining ancient monuments