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Sunday, September 16, 2001

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Focus on the Bamiyan, again

It survived the test of time but collapsed in the face of human wrath. Nestled between the mountain ranges of the Hindu Kush and the Koh-i-baba in Afghanistan at an altitude of about 2,850 meters, is the Bamiyan Valley, an ancient Buddhist heritage site, dating back to the 3rd Century A.D. that recently witnessed the fanaticism of the fundamentalist Islamic outfit ``Taliban'' -- an encounter that erased its links with the corridors of history.

To celebrate the ancient heritage and also to spread awareness about the importance of the world heritage site which ``is not just the heritage of Afghanistan but belongs to all of us'', the Archaeological Survey of India in collaboration with the Himalayan Research Centre and Cultural Foundation has organised an exhibition titled ``Bamiyan: Challenge to World Heritage''. In addition, the Afghanistan Institution Basel, Switzerland, and the Ladakh Buddhist Association have also contributed to the exhibition.

Inaugurated at the India International Centre today, the six-day exhibition houses pictorial illustrations of the ancient Buddhist site as well as pictures depicting the extent of conservation work carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India team during 1969 - 77. On exhibit are also pictures of the two gigantic statues of the Buddha carved in the mountainside in the valley -- the pride of the ancient site -- that have now been reduced to dust by the Taliban during its latest assault on various centres of cultural heritage earlier this year.

Since the ascendancy of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the outfit has been involved in systematic destruction of cultural heritage centres across the country perceived as `un-Islamic' by them. The open air museum of Gandhara art forms at Hadda, the Kabul Museum and recently, the Bamiyan valley were targets of vandalism by the fundamentalist Islamic regime. The exhibition is an attempt to voice opinion against the ``reprehensible acts of religious bigotry by the Taliban which has destroyed artifacts of the past''.

The exhibition is a forerunner to a seminar ``Bamiyan: Challenge to World Heritage'' to be held later this month. The seminar has been organised by the Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation and the Ladakh Buddhist Association to ``articulate the response of the civilised world towards the destruction of the heritage of mankind''. Says the secretary of Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation, Mr. Ravinder Kaul,``The recent assault on America which reduced the World Trade Center towers to a pile of ashes was nothing less than the destruction of the Buddha statues in Bamiyan''.

By Anjali Malhotra

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