Thursday, September 04, 2008

Where the Buddhas once stood

Two days before leaving Afghanistan, we took a very bumpy eight hour trip north of Kabul to Bamiyan, once home to enormous 1,400 year old Buddha statues that were blown up by the Taliban in 2001. The Taliban claimed the Buddhas were idols and forbidden under Islam. On the roads leading to Bamiyan are several ruins of towers and castles.

Barely visible here are more ruins, set atop a mountain in the center of this photo but in the shadow of other mountains in this photo.

A glimpse of the village of Bamiyan, its farmland and the niches where the Buddhas once stood. There is an eery feel about the place, all at once peaceful, yet overwhelmingly sad because of the Taliban destruction of the statues and murder of ethnic Hazara villagers in the region.

The bazaar on a street in front of the Buddha niches were destroyed when the Taliban raided the area.

A guide took us on a tour of the cave complexes around the Buddha statues. This is one passage way that leads into the rooms that once contained frescoes and statues.

The site has also been raided by looters involved in the illegal trafficking of Afghan artifacts, but there are still remnants of paint on the wall, giving a glimpse of how colorful and ornate the ceilings and walls once were.

Part of our walking tour takes us on a narrow path that would once have looked out over the Buddha's head.

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