It was the site of several Buddhist monasteries, and a thriving center for religion, philosophy, and Indian art.
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).
International opinion strongly condemned the destruction of the Buddhas, which was viewed as an example of the intolerance of the Taliban and of Islamism.
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 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 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.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).Japan and Switzerland, among others, have pledged support for the rebuilding of the statues.Bamyan lies on the Silk Road which lies in the Hindu Kush mountain region, in the Bamiyan Valley.All OIC states – including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, three countries that officially recognised the Taliban government – joined the protest to spare the monuments.Although India never recognised the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, New Delhi offered to arrange for the transfer of all the artifacts in question to India, “where they would be kept safely and preserved for all mankind.”, but these overtures were rejected by the Taliban.The destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas became a symbol of oppression and a rallying point for the freedom of religious expression.Despite the fact that most Afghans are now Muslim, they too had embraced their past and many were appalled by the destruction.