Bamian

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BAMYAN

Ancient Gandharan site; central Afghan province and city.

The modern province of Bamyan is located in the high mountains of central Afghanistan in Hazarajat. The population of 300,000 consists mostly of ethnic Hazara, a Persian-speaking ethnolinguistic group thought to be of Central Asian ancestry. The provincial capital is the city of Bamyan.

Bamyan was also an important Buddhist site of the Gandhara empire. In the Bamyan valley in central Bamyan Province there were several large statues of Buddha, the oldest dating from the second half of the third century, which were destroyed in 2001. During the rule of the Taliban government (19962001) the Bamyan valley became a major battlefield in the fighting between the Hazara political organization Hizb-e Wadat and Taliban forces. As the fighting spread north, thousands of refugees from other parts of Afghanistan took refuge in the valley. The Bamyan valley changed hands several times from September 1998 to the middle of May 1999. Taliban forces killed several hundred Hazaras citizens and many others starved to death.

In March 2001 the Taliban government declared that the Buddha statues were idolatrous and offensive to Islam, citing the Islamic stricture on representation of the human form. Despite condemnation from the international community, the Taliban government destroyed the statues with explosives on 8 and 9 March 2001.

see also hazara.


Bibliography

Dupree, Louis. Afghanistan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

Mousavi, Sayad Askar. The Hazaras of Afghanistan: An Historical, Cultural, Economic and Political Survey. New York: St. Martin's, 1997.

Grant Farr

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Bamian or Bamiyan (both: bəmyän´), town (1984 est. pop. 52,000), capital of Bamian prov., N central Afghanistan, on the Kunduz River. The population is predominantly Hazara. It was long a major caravan center on the route across the Hindu Kush between India and central Asia. By the 7th cent. the town was a center of Buddhism; the Chinese pilgrims Fa Hsien and Hsüan-tsang traveled through the town. Bamian was invaded by the Saffarids in 871. A Muslim fortress town from the 9th to the 12th cent., Bamian was sacked by Jenghiz Khan in 1221 and never regained its former prominence.

The Bamian valley is lined with cave dwellings cut out of the cliffs by Buddhist monks. Particularly interesting were two great figures (one 175 ft/53 m high, the other 120 ft/37 m) carved from rock and finished in fine plaster. The statues were destroyed, however, in 2001 by the Taliban, which considered them idolatrous. The area also has grottoes decorated with wall paintings in Greco-Buddhist styles.

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Bāmiyān. Buddhist holy place with carved and decorated caves, in Afghanistan. The caves served as caityas for the Buddhist monks who lived nearby.

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Bamian a city in central Afghanistan, near which were the remains of two colossal statues of Buddha. These were destroyed in 2001 by the ruling Taliban regime.