The larger statue reappears as the malevolent giant Salsal in medieval Turkish tales.When Mahmud of Ghazni attacked Afghanistan and part of west India in the 11th century, the physical destruction of the Buddhas and frescoes were beyond his capability.The destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas became a symbol of oppression and a rallying point for the freedom of religious expression.

bamyan in afghanistan predating european oil painting by some six-24

The Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang passed through the area around 630 and described Bamyan as a flourishing Buddhist center “with more than ten monasteries and more than a thousand monks”.

He also noted that both Buddha figures were “decorated with gold and fine jewels” (Wriggins, 1995).

This coating, practically all of which was worn away long ago, was painted to enhance the expressions of the faces, hands and folds of the robes; the larger one was painted carmine red and the smaller one was painted multiple colors.

The lower parts of the statues’ arms were constructed from the same mud-straw mix while supported on wooden armatures.

The Taliban soon banned all forms of imagery, music and sports, including television, in accordance with what they considered a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Information and Culture Minister Qadratullah Jamal told Associated Press of a decision by 400 religious clerics from across Afghanistan declaring the Buddhist statues against the tenets of Islam.Since then, the statues had remained largely untouched.In July 1999, Mullah Mohammed Omar issued a decree in favor of the preservation of the Bamyan Buddha’s statue.The two most prominent statues were the giant standing Buddhas Vairocana and Sakyamuni, identified by the different mudras performed, measuring 55 and 37 metres (180 and 121 feet) high respectively, the largest examples of standing Buddha carvings in the world. The smaller of the statues was built in 507, the larger in 554.They are believed to have been built by the Kushans, with the guidance of local Buddhist monks, at the heyday of their empire.They were intentionally dynamited and destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban, on orders from leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, after the Taliban government declared that they were “idols” (which are forbidden under Sharia law).