The Buddhas of Bamiyan were two 6th-century monumental Buddhist statues in the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan. Located 130 kilometres (81 mi) to the northwest of Kabul, at an elevation of 2,500 metres (8,200 ft), carbon dating of the structural components of the Buddhas has determined that the smaller 38 m (125 ft) "Eastern Buddha" was built around 570 CE, and the larger 55 m (180 ft) "Western Buddha" was built around 618 CE, which would date both to the time when the Hephthalites ruled the region. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site of historical Afghan Buddhism, it was a holy site for Buddhists on the Silk Road. However, in March 2001, both statues were destroyed by the Taliban following an order from their leader Mullah Muhammad Omar; the Taliban government of the Islamic Emirate had condemned the Bamiyan Buddhas as idols, invoking the Muslim concept of shirk. International and local opinion strongly condemned the destruction of the Buddhas.
|UNESCO World Heritage Site
|Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamyan Valley
|Cultural: i, ii, iii, iv, vi.
|2003 (27th Session)
The statues represented a later evolution of the classic blended style of Greco-Buddhist art at Gandhara. The larger statue was named "Salsal" ("the light shines through the universe") and was referred as a male. The smaller statue is called "Shah Mama" ("Queen Mother") and is identified as a female figure.
Technically, both were reliefs: at the rear, they each merged into the cliff wall. The main bodies were hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs, but details were modeled in mud mixed with straw, coated with stucco. This coating, the majority of which wore away long ago, was painted to enhance the expressions of the faces, hands, and folds of the robes; the larger one was painted carmine red, and the smaller one was painted multiple colours. The lower parts of the statues' arms were constructed from the same mud-straw mix, supported on wooden armatures. It is believed that the upper parts of their faces consisted of huge wooden masks. Rows of holes held wooden pegs that stabilized the outer stucco.
The Buddhas were surrounded by numerous caves and surfaces decorated with paintings. It is thought that these mostly dated from the 6th to 8th centuries CE and had come to an end with the Muslim conquests of Afghanistan. The smaller works of art are considered as an artistic synthesis of Buddhist art and Gupta art from ancient India, with influences from the Sasanian Empire and the Byzantine Empire, as well as the Tokhara Yabghus.
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