If the two Bamiyan Buddha statues
have a voice, they will simply utter the unutterable: we have seen it all and suffered it
all. But being the statues of the Buddha, they will simply and painfully smile and tell
the Taliban destroyers, "Sons, you do not know what you are doing."
The last person to vandalise was Genghis Khan who cut off the legs in
1221. He also killed all residents of the town on the Silk Route as a punishment for
living with two majestic Buddhas. It was the restoration work by Afghan and Indian experts
that attracted new migrants and hotels to cater to tourists. In due course, the very tall
statues one 150 feet tall and the other 30 feet shorter became world famous,
being declared a heritage of the entire humanity.
Dedicated sculptors, mostly from India, created the icons out of a
rock. In other words, the Buddhas were not built but carved out of a hillside very much
like the Elephanta Caves and Ajanta. Again, in other words, there was just a hilltop to
begin with and after the chistle and hammer work there stood two stunning figures
spreading benediction. Of course the creators used a finely ground paste of limestone to
produce the effect of folded robes and the contemplative expression. At one time there
were also much gold plating and jewels, now sadly missing.
There are some priceless Buddha statues in the Kabul museum. This is
after all the theft and pilferage by successive invaders. The first one was by an Iraqi
General, Yakub ibn Layeth who took away many Buddhist treasures from the rockcuts of
Bamiyan (some scholars spell it without the "y"). Chinese traveller Hsuen Tsang
has said that Bamiyan was a very important Buddhist centre and housed many monks. They all
lived in the caves cut out of the rocks. There need not be any greater evidence of Indian
influence than this.
One last word. Temple architecture is normally style-bound. Like the
tall spires of churches, domes and minarets of mosques. But in India it is bewilderingly
different, The tall spires of the Bodh Gaya temple is different from the gopurams of the
south. Humpi is a marvellous blending of the northern and southern architecture. The
marble Jain temples of Rajasthan and Gujarat are a breed apart as are the temples in
Khajuraho and Konarak. Then there are the exquisite designs of small temples in Himachal
Pradesh and the grand and richly endowed gurdwaras in Punjab. No doubt, Indias most
attractive exportable product in ancient times was religion and temple architecture and it