A World Without Heritage: Bamiyan Buddhas and Jam Minaret Of The Afghanistan

Humans are rapidly moving towards the future with their zeal to know about something new and somehow, they are ignoring and forgetting their past. The fast pace of industrial revolutions, population growth, and socio-religious conflicts have also damaged the past. Our shared heritage is deteriorating due to these factors. The architectural and natural heritage throughout the world is diminishing and in danger. The countries of southwest Asia are at grave risk due to extreme terrorism, natural calamities, etc. Afghanistan is the prime victim of these adverse effects. Here, Theculturemag talks about two endangered heritage points of Afghanistan.

Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan

First on our list is the Bamiyan valley of Afghanistan. Bamiyan is famous in the world for its huge Buddhist statues and ancient cave monasteries. The valley is located in central Afghanistan that is approximately eighty miles away from the central capital Kabul. These statues were built in the sixth century AD. These statues of Gautam Buddha were carved in the slanting straight surfaces of the cliffs. The two main statues are known as Eastern Buddha and Western Buddha. They were carved in the 6th and 7th century AD respectively.

Western Buddha, Fars News Agency, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From the iconographic aspect, these Buddhist statues signified a later advancement of Gandhara art. The locals of Bamiyan valley called them the male Salsal and the female Shamama. The process of making these statues is very interesting. First, the statues were carved out of the cliffs. Then, mud mixed with straw was applied to them. In the last phase of the process, a coating of stucco was applied. The coating was used to develop the facial expressions of different sculptures. The scientific evidence show the presence of the carmine red and other colours.

Till the 8th century, the Bamiyan valley had experienced its golden age under the influence of Buddhist and Gupta art, Tokharistan, Sasanian, and the Byzantine Realm. After the 8th century AD, with the invasions of Islam, the art and Buddhist populations were declined and monasteries were abandoned.

In the modern era, these abandoned heritage sites are continuously in danger because of the Taliban. Taliban had destroyed these Buddha statues in 2001, with the orders of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. Global and resident communities condemned the devastation of these statues in strong words. The Bamiyan valley is still in danger.

Minaret of Jam, Afghanistan

David C. Thomas (en:User:DavidThomas71), CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The 2nd in our list is also from Afghanistan. The Minaret of Jam is located in the Shahrak District of western Afghanistan. The UNESCO and ICESCO had given it the tag of World Heritage Site. It is located in a remote and nearly inaccessible region of the Hari River. This 65-meter-tall minaret was erected in the 12th century. Since then, no renewal or widespread renovation work has ever been done in the Jam. The Arabic inscriptions on this monument are quite unclear due to deterioration. The Minaret of Jam is one of the few buildings of Asia that represents the excellent inventive originality of architectural engineering of that era. It is usually referred to as the precursor or contemporary of the Indian Qutub Minar which was completed in the 14th century AD. The location might be the ancient city of Firuzkuh. That city was supposed to be the Ghurid rule’s summer capital.

david adamec, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 The minaret was built to memorialize the 1186’s Lahore conquest of the Ghiyas ud-Din over the Ghaznavids. But, as per Dr. R. P. Wilson, it was constructed to honor the win of Mu’izz ad-Din over Prithviraj Chauhan.

The minaret is made up of baked or fired bricks along with the presence of stucco and glazed tile. Anyone can notice the Quran’s verses in Kufic and Naskhi calligraphy on turquoise tiles in the outer portion of the minaret. The cylindrical minaret is octagonal from its bottom and comprises four storeys.  

david adamec, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The minaret is under grave danger of destruction for centuries. The Minaret of Jam is endangered due to natural calamities such as erosion, floods because of its nearby Hari and Jam rivers. Their preservation and conservation work has been not done properly. The British broadcasting corporation also featured this minaret in 2014. According to them, the minaret was at forthcoming risk of breakdown.

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