Archaeological evidence of travelers
having passed through this area has been found in the form of
delicate glassware, bronze statues and beautifully crafted ivory
that unquestionably came from India. The valley has been mentioned
by another historian Hsuan Tsang two hundred years later. The
development in the interim period was the mushrooming of monasteries
in the valley. The historians have written about how the chanting by
the monks added to the beauty and serenity of the valley.
Buddhism in Afghanistan
The monastery was a result of the introduction of Buddhism into
Afghanistan. This happened in the third Century BC. And the ruler
who spearheaded the spread of Buddhism was none other that Ashoka
the Great, a king in medieval India. The Buddhist monks undoubtedly came along with the
trader’s caravans and spread their religion all along the route.
From here, Buddhism spread to China, Korea, Japan, Tibet and a few
other places. Afghanistan was one of the world’s major Buddhist
centers until Islam became more prominent in the ninth Century.
Buddhist architecture and the
masterpieces – the giant Buddhas
The period 1st Century to 3rd Century saw the building of many
Buddhist monasteries and stupas in Eastern Afghanistan. The art form
known as the Gandhara School was followed for construction and
decoration of these structures.
The masterpieces of this period are the
two giant Buddhas that measure 53 meters and 38 meters. The
Buddhas are believed to have been sculpted around the fourth and
fifth century. The Buddhas have been hewn out of rock and then
covered with a mud and straw mixture. This mixture enabled them
to model the finer features of the face, hand, etc. Once this
was done, the next step was to plaster them and paint them. The
38 meter Buddha was painted a striking blue that set off by
golden hands and face; as for the 53 meter Buddha, a bright red
was made more appealing with a golden face and hands to match.
The passage of time has obliterated the colors and the facial
features. The hand of iconoclasts in this also cannot be ruled
out. Both the Buddha's were surrounded by monk cells and various
frescoes had been painted onto the walls. These exquisite
paintings have been destroyed by invaders.
In 1997, the Buddhas escaped total
destruction by the timely intervention of a local Taliban leader.
However, the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.