Universiteit Leiden

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Destruction of Bamiyan Buddha: Taliban Iconoclasm and Hazara Response

Friday 10 May 2019
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden
Lipsius 227

In 2001, two great tragic events shocked the world: destruction of the World Trade Centre Towers in America, and detonation of the colossal Buddha statues of Bamiyan in present-day Afghanistan. The first event received maximum attention in International Media and marked an important point in the contemporary world history as it became the starting point for the so called “War against Terrorism”. The two towers did not reflect the American political and economic power only, but also represented the zenith of American constructional engineering in the past. Similarly, they had special position in memories of local inhabitants and many people visited them. Though the towers are collapsed, their memories and relics preserved as part of the Americans national heritage.

In contrast to the 9/11 event that broadcasted worldwide, the destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas in March 2001, received partial attention. The International Media interpreted the Taliban’s criminal action within the contexts of “Islamic Iconoclasm” and “Islamic Intolerance towards Representational Arts”. While, the Taliban’s action filled the air for a while, the Hazara inhabitants of Bamiyan were totally ignored. More importantly, the Hazara’s particular relation with the Buddhas, their feeling for them, and their reaction to the Taliban’s act remained untold.

In this presentation, I will argue that the Taliban’s action can’t be justified as an “Islamic iconoclastic act”, but a political drama perfumed under an archaic religious cover. Then, I will discuss the position of the Buddhas in the Hazara folklore, and their response to the Taliban’s action represented in their contemporary arts and literature. Finally, I will address the reasons of failure behind the campaign for restoration of Bamiyan Buddhas.

Please register for the lecture by sending an email to sthouseofwisdom@gmail.com.

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