Bamiyan Valley was at its height between the 1st and 13th centuries and is known for its Buddhist art and sanctuaries. There are eight sites in the valley, including the Kakrak Valley Caves, which is a collection of more than 100 caves. The Shahr-I Ghulghulah fortress was originally a settlement in this area that was along the Silk Road.
Today, it is threatened by the Taliban and some of the most important works of art in the valley have been destroyed. The biggest loss are the two large Buddha sculptures that were cut out of the rock.
The larger Buddha statue is thought to represent a Vairocana Buddha. Carbon dating of this statue gives evidence that it was created in the year 554.
Both of the Buddha statues were carved out of stone, with some of the finer details, such as the robes, were added on by rope and wood beam with plaster. The faces are thought to be chipped away in order to fit on a plaster-made mask.
The smaller Buddha is said to represent Mahayana Buddha, but some say it could also be representative of the Vairocana Buddha. This statue dates back to the year 507, making it older than the larger Buddha statue. The local people called these two statues “king mother,” as these statues are said to have had breasts.
Close to 1,000 caves total are in the valley that are man-made. These are where followers would congregate and come to worship. There are murals that the monks painted onto the walls. These caves vary in size, from very large sanctuaries and elaborate chapels, to plain cells for the monks.
World Heritage in Danger
Bamiyan Valley is in danger, and the Taliban has already done a great deal of damage by destroying the Buddhas in 2001. Today, however, parts of the cave murals have been able to be preserved as they were overlooked by the Taliban due to being covered by soot.
Parts of the Buddha statues remain, but chunks don’t exist anymore, having been blown to pieces. There is talk about working to restore the statues the best they can, which is a difficult task due to how badly they were damaged and the parts missing.
8 sites in this World Heritage
- Bamiyan Cliff including niches of the 38 meter Buddha, seated Buddhas, 55 meter Buddha and surrounding caves
- Kakrak Valley caves including the niche of the standing Buddha
- Qoul-I Akram Caves in the Fuladi Valley
- Kalai Ghamai Caves in the Fuladi Valley
- Qallay Kaphari A
- Qallay Kaphari B