12/13/06

Rebuild the Giant Buddhas?

In 2001 the Taliban destroyed Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

Now archaeologists are seriously looking at putting the pieces back together again.

As a rabbi I have to refrain from endorsing the rebuilding of massive idolatry. But as a professor of religion I know that some forms of Buddhism do not attribute any divinity to the Buddha. And I also like the symbolic statement that rebuilding this icon would make. The Taliban and their ilk will not prevail. If they destroy, we will rebuild.

Given how public this desecration was we have to ask why there has not been some form of restoration?

Here is the top of today's NPR story on this issue. You can hear the broadcast at the NPR site where there are some vivid photos too.
Morning Edition, December 13, 2006 · When the Taliban were driven from power in 2001, they left behind a broken country and an infamous act of destruction: reducing to rubble two monumental Buddhas that had stood for 1,500 years.

Five years later, it is still a shocking to look across the Bamiyan Valley and see two huge empty spaces where the Buddhas once stood. Nowadays, there is plenty of activity at the foot of the sandstone cliffs where Buddhists monks spent decades carving out the giant statues. The larger of the two statues was 12 stories high and nestled in a space nearly 20 stories high.
At the end of the broadcast the experts discuss written accounts that speak of a third giant Buddha at the site that was constructed in a sleeping or reclining position. That sculpture has not been found so far but the scholars are hopeful that they will find it.

1 comment:

bryce said...

You write "As a rabbi I have to refrain from endorsing the rebuilding of massive idolatry."

For me, I'd say, "As a Jew..." -- or, even better -- "As a sensible human being..."