Oversea

Destroyed by Taliban nine years ago, iconic “Jahanabad Buddha” is reborn

Update: 12/12/2016
Italian archaeologists have restored one of the most important pieces of Buddhist art in South Asia, nine years after it was bombed by the Taliban.
 

Destroyed by Taliban nine years ago, iconic “Jahanabad Buddha” is reborn

 

Nine years after its face was destroyed by Taliban\r\nmilitants, the famous Jahanabad Buddha has been restored. In six trips, each\r\nlasting a month, an Italian-led team of restorationists has given the Buddha\r\nits face back.

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The sculpture, a massive cliff-face carving, was\r\nwidely hailed as one of the most important important pieces of Buddhist art in\r\nthe region, second only to Afghanistan’s giant Bamiyan Buddhas. Those statues,\r\nwhich stood at 115 and 174 feet tall were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.\r\nMilitants destroyed the Jahanabada Buddha in broad daylight in 2007 by drilling\r\nexplosives into its face and shoulders.

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In 2012, the Italian Archeological Mission in\r\nPakistan undertook the project of restoring the sculpture, located in\r\nPakistan’s Swat Valley.

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The restoration took about six months of work over\r\nfour years, with dozens of workers. Advanced 3D scanning techniques, using\r\nequipment from the University of Padua, were used to model the sculpture.

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The sculpture was carved in the 6th or 7th century.\r\nAt the time, the Swat Valley was a hub of Buddhism. Padmasambhava, a seminal\r\nfigure in Tibetan Buddhism, is said to have been born in the valley shortly\r\nafter the construction of the statue. Vishakha Desai, former president of Asia\r\nSociety, visited the statue in 1995, and reported that it was “the pride and\r\njoy of local Muslims.”

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The Italian Archaeological Mission has worked in\r\nSwat Valley for 60 years. The archaeologists have documented evidence of a\r\nlarge Buddhist monastery at the bottom of the cliff, with a monumental\r\nstaircase leading up to the Buddha carving. On top of the cliff are the remains\r\nof a stupa, a rock carving of Avalokitesvara, meditation caves, and three\r\nmonumental Buddhist inscriptions.

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The carving of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of\r\ncompassion, was also destroyed in 2007. The Italian team recovered and\r\nreassembled the fragments of the carving, and it will go on display in the Swat\r\nMuseum next year.

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Representatives of the project said that they hope\r\nthe restoration will help preserve Pakistan’s cultural heritage and encourage\r\ntourism to the region.

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Last year, in a more ephemeral gesture, 3D experts\r\ntemporarily revivified the Bamiyan Buddhas as holograms. UNESCO also announced\r\na new cultural center for the Bamiyan Valley, to highlight the region’s culture\r\nand history.

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Sam LittleFair -\r\nLion's Roar

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