The Bamiyan Buddhas
Study for Bamiyan Buddha Exhibition 2003
The Buddhas of Bamyan were two monumental statues of standing Buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the
Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, situated 230 km (143 miles) northwest of Kabul at
an altitude of 2500 meters (8,202 ft). Built during the sixth century, the statues represented the classic
blended style of Indo-Greek art on the Silk Road between the East and the West.
The main bodies were hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs, but details were modeled in mud mixed with straw, coated with stucco.
This coating, practically all of which was worn 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 colors. The lower parts of the
statues' arms were constructed from the same mud-straw mix while supported on wooden armatures. It is believed that the upper parts
of their faces were made from great wooden masks or casts. The rows of holes that can be seen in photographs were spaces that held
wooden pegs which served to stabilize the outer stucco.
They were intentionally dynamited and destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban, on orders from leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, after the Taliban
government declared that they were "idols" (which are forbidden under Sharia law). International opinion strongly condemned the destruction
of the Buddhas, which was viewed as an example of the intolerance of the Taliban and of fundamentalist Islam. Japan and Switzerland, among
others, have pledged support for the rebuilding of the statues. The blueprint below projects a message of welcome to all travelers using the
metaphor of the city and the stairway. Symbols representing major world religions are scattered throughout this composition.