An Imaginary Sojourn to Bamiyan by Nalinaksha Mutsuddi SignUp
An Imaginary Sojourn to Bamiyan
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My purse is so thin I couldn’t afford a trip to Bamiyan by air. Perforce I opted to travel by imagination. But the sad fact – I have to admit – the imagination-fund too got terribly depleted due to age factor. With the meager hoarding left over I set out my journey with full zest and anticipation.   

This travel plan suited me well as I can go anywhere spatially and back and forth in time as well.


I landed at Bamiyan in the cool of the morning amid heavenly chanting of Buddham saranam gachhami emanating as if from the navel of the earth pervading throughout the expanding dome of the universe. Thousands of maroon robed Bhikkus roamed about freely with begging bowls, or delivering sermons or meditating in hundreds of caves dug into the various rocks surrounding the area. It was at this time under the benevolent patronage of Kushan emperor Kanishka a 55 meter high standing statue of Lord Buddha was carved out of the monolithic sandstone and another 37 meter statue a few meters away. It took nearly two centuries to give it a final shape.  It was an awe-inspiring marvel to look at and to adore. For many centuries the benign statue exuded reverence and compassion among the devotees and visitors of all kinds.


Buddhism was the dominant religion for over five hundred years after the Zoroastraniaism and Hindusim waned.  Ashokan Empire extended up to this and beyond. The area bears witness to his rock-cut moral edicts, exhorting the readers to follow a pious life, even now. However,  this land - sitting on the ancient silk route - has seen many rulers of all hues and climes setting their roots and getting uprooted like musical chairs before and after the Kushans and Mauryans.


The Bamiyan statue stood firm radiating peace and harmony on all around.

It was during the 7th century A.D. the Muslim zealots put thrust into Afghanistan causing widespread destruction of monasteries and statues and resorting to conversion of the population en masse. Fleeing to high in the mountains, Bamiyan clung on to its Buddhist traditions for another 400 years, until the ascendant Ghaznavids finally brought Islam to the valley for good by 11th century.

Islam thrived but peace vanished. Many invading dynasties of romantic names from far wide came and gone through this beautiful land.  The Mughals and Mongols also came and ravaged the country.

The Bamiyan Buddha kept on smiling compassionately.

The musical chairs of rulers continued unabated with despots and democrats of all denominations coming and going. As usual, it remained a boiling cauldron erupting into a long-drawn civil war. The big powers of the world got their fingers badly burnt without any solution in sight.

The Buddha of Bamiyan continued to shower on the innumerable tourists and pilgrims from all over the world with compassion and bliss.

On one fine morning the Talibans – claiming to be the purest of Muslims – thought it their moral duty to wipe out the last vestiges of infidels and idolatry and blasted the two thousand year old monumental Buddha off.

The roaring protest of the world conscience fell flat on the Talibans and the compassionate smile of the Bamiyan Buddha ceased to emanate for ever.  

I wept for a while brooding on human folly and began my journey back early in the morning amid sounds of ‘azaan’ Hayya ‘alas Salat; Hayya ‘alal Falah from the nearby Minaret, inviting the faithfuls for the Morning Prayer, with booming gunshots in the background.

And I found my watch still ticking.

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Comments on this Blog

Comment I have read the poem. The topic was dealt with exquisitely well.


07/31/2010 23:34 PM

Comment On March 23, 2001, I had written "Buddha" 
under poetry dealing with the same issue.

Rajender Krishan
07/31/2010 08:32 AM

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